Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Interview with Author Charlie Flowers

Charlie Flowers

3 Links:

Give us a quick introduction on yourself and your book.

Hello, I'm Charlie and I write the Rizwan Sabir Mysteries thriller series.

What inspired you to write your first book?

Several years of hanging around with unusual people in the worlds of counter-terrorism!

Do you have a specific writing style?

I suppose so- first-person narrative? Stephen King's style has been described as "K-Mart Realism", maybe that would apply!

How did you come up with the title?

I think it was subconscious. I was looking for an everyman name for my main character, and it turns out one of my relation's husband's name is Rizwan.

Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp?

In the first novel, I think the message is "Sometimes the love of your life is right beside you without you knowing". In the second novel, it's the debate on how far you can or should go in fighting evil, without becoming what you fight.

How much of the books are realistic?

I'm told by people in the field that they're very realistic indeed. Mind you, every time I tried to inject something surreal, like a bizarre prison escape plan, or a weird computer virus, it would happen in real life a few months later! I can't win.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Yes. Pretty much all of the operations in the books have their basis in real life.

What books have most influenced your life most?

Writing style- maybe the Andy McNab books. Also worth a mention are: Red Army by Ralph Peters, which reads like Tolstoy doing a technothriller; The Dying Place by David Maurer; and The Short-Timers by Gustav Hasford. Oh, and all the Sven Hassel books. I read them all as a kid!

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I don't have to choose as I do actually have one: Tom Cain, author of the Sam Carver series. He's been a massive help.

What book are you reading now?

I'm re-reading Tom Cain's drafts of his forthcoming novel "Ostland"; and  a draft of Teresa DiMeola's novel "Ground Zero".

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

Teresa DiMeola, Saira Viola.

What are your current projects?

The next three "Riz" novels: Blood Honeymoon, Barrio Ends, and finally, Murder Most Rural which I'm itching to get started.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

I'll have to nominate my Constant Readers' Circle on Facebook- a small army of language experts.

Do you see writing as a career?
A calling, I reckon. Fortunately I do have a real-world job.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Hah. I did actually get the opportunity to change one tiny, arcane aviation fact in the week it went to print. Only a pilot or airplane enthusiast would have spotted the mistake, but it literally kept me awake at night. I am a complete airplane and weapon anorak, to my detriment but at least the reader knows that I sweat bullets for accuracy.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

From the age of about three I always had my head stuck in a book. Started with the Narnia Chronicles and then anything I could lay my hands on. I also trained as a journalist, back in the Nineties. Even did a local crime beat for a bit!

Can you share a little of your current work with us?


My eyes were shut. I steeled myself for another sojourn in my other half's Loony World. I opened my eyes.
I looked around. A misty street. People in Victorian clothes bustled past.
'Ooops; hang on a sec-'
I turned to see Bang-Bang, or rather her Fox Princess incarnation, twitching her whiskers and black nose and fussing with some dials. 'Sorry babe, wrong era. Hold on-'
The surroundings blurred and swooshed. 'OK. Heyy, take a look now!'
I looked around again. And drew breath. It was uncanny. Perfect. Like a moving snapshot of Commercial Road taken not one second ago. People walked by. Traffic flowed past, stopped at lights, moved away. 'Holy shit. It works.'
I looked back at her. 'Hang on a minute - isn't the Fox Princess out there on their screens? How come you're.?'
I tailed off.
'I know. And here too. Every time I log into anything virtual I look like this. I can't turn it off.' She looked nonplussed. 'Aaaanyway.'
She took my arm and flicked her other hand, and some PDFs and a black command screen came up. 'Watch from the left to the right, here's what I loaded into the mix earlier today. Hopefully we can get some results. Firstly, population data and attack data from HOLMES2. Secondly, Rossmo's model of criminal buffer zones. And lastly, a population-based bees algorithm.'
She tapped the command screen. 'The algorithm needs a number of parameters to be set, namely: number of scout bees (n), number of sites selected out of n visited sites (m), number of best sites out of m selected sites (e), number of bees recruited for best e sites (nep), number of bees recruited for the other (m-e) selected sites (nsp), initial size of patches (ngh) which includes site and its neighbourhood and stopping criterion.'
Code flew on the little black screen.

'1: Initialize the population of solutions xi,j
2: Evaluate the population
3: cycle=1
4: repeat
5: Produce new solutions (food source positions) υi,j in the neighbourhood of xi,j for the employed bees using the formula υi,j = xi,j + Φij(xi,j - xk,j) (k is a solution in the neighbourhood of i, Φ is a random number in the range [-1,1] )and evaluate them
6: Apply the greedy selection process between xi and υi
7: Calculate the probability values Pi for the solutions xi by means of their fitness.'
'OK that seems to be working. and now we drop in the programming I was working my little fox-like butt off in in Second Life.'
Two swarms of shimmering darts appeared in the air before us. One set was blue, one red. Below them, some smaller swarms of white dots materialised.
Bang-Bang returned to her virtual panels. 'While that's setting up, we factor in the section of the population our killer is looking for. Dark-haired females. and the time of day.'
The crowd flow adjusted around us.
'. and then we factor it back out, as crowd levels affect how the killer might behave. Weight of traffic.' She looked sideways at me and twitched her nose. 'Get me?'
'I get ya.'
I was watching the blue and red darts. They were swooping on and devouring the white dots in graceful arcs among the road traffic. The swarms shrank, grew. The white dots were all gone.
She nudged me. 'They're beautiful, aren't they, Riz babe. They come from a thing called Boid Particle Systems. Punch in a few algorithms and nature is easy to simulate.'
Suddenly the blue swarm seemed to become aware of the red swarm. A looping engagement began. The blue swarm prevailed, subsumed it. It zipped around us, performed aerobatics, divided into two.
'Yayyy!' said Bang-Bang. 'The blue swarms are ready. Triumph of the fittest.'
The blue swarms hung and glittered in the dank, simulated air.
Designations lit above the two swarms. The symbols for Alpha and Beta. She folded her hands and looked at me. 'Let's see where they go.'
We followed swarm Alpha down the road, dodging round stickily slow traffic.
'I'm guessing you've added infomorph coding?'
'Yep. Although these are infomorphs, who learn as they go, you won't find them going off on a tangent. These are swarm infomorphs... that hunt like serial killers.'
'Ya Allah.'

APRIL 2013

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Thriller and crime plots are like Jenga, all the pieces have to slot together. Get one bit out of whack and the whole plot crashes down. So, continuity is the hardest part for me.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I don't have any one favourite, but I re-read the aforementioned "Red Army" twice a year.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

I do like to go, as far as possible, to the locales I'm writing about. For the Afghan section of the second book, though, I interviewed soldiers who had returned from tours there. For the forthcoming book I'm running around Whitechapel taking photos. It makes a difference.

Who designed the covers?

A combination of people: I'm trying to commission a different artist every time. The first book was painted by Dan Rawlins; the second by myself and Jason Atomic. The third is by Dan Kitchener and Tee Sutherland.

What was the hardest part of writing your books?

As stated above, making sure it all hangs together coherently. Mind you, having said that, in one of my favourite spy novels, The IPCRESS File, its author Len Deighton deliberately mixed up the chapters chronologically so you felt the same way as the narrator - confused. In my first book, if you read it very closely, I've done the same thing- placed one chapter out of bonk. Strangely, it seems to work as it gives the impression that people are doing things around the narrator without him finding out till later.

Did you learn anything from writing your books and what was it?

That it's quicker and more fun than I thought, but you damn well have to get other people to proofread the manuscript, as there WILL be errors.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Just do it.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Watchout for short girls with tattoos J . That's an in-joke.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

Research-wise, not too much of a problem as almost anything can be found online, and the rest by face-t0-face interviews. Experts are usually happy to talk to you: I've got a great bloke called Roy Tyzack helping me with the police procedural stuff for the new book.
Psychologically- I follow Lee Child's advice which is, Don't fall in love with your characters. They should be entertaining and readable, but they can have flaws, and do reprehensible things.
Logistically- getting a manuscript converted to Kindle format is an absolute son of a gun. I recommend hiring an expert to do it for you.

Nice talking to you Justin and thanks for the interview!