Interview with Clinton Smith

YOU'VE WON AWARDS FOR LITERARY FICTION. SO WHY THE THRILLER GENRE?
It's good fun. Meaty. Engaging. I find most "blockbuster" thrillers slow-moving and dreary, so take pains to write something fast-paced, quirky, absorbing. I'm trying to produce intelligent escapism.
YOUR DESCRIPTIONS ARE ALMOST FILMIC.
After a lifetime writing TV spots and docos, I'm conditioned to visualize.
I'M INTRIGUED BY YOUR CHARACTERS. THEY'RE FAR FROM THE STOCK TYPES YOU EXPECT. YOU HAVE AN UNUSUAL TAKE ON THE THRILLER.
Although thrillers are partly plot-driven, I prefer interesting characters. And despite particular sexual, religious, race or political orientations, people are just people.
HOW LONG DOES A BOOK TAKE YOU?
Up to three years in some cases. I don't have to knock out one a year. I'm self-funded, technically retired, can take the time to do it as well as I can.
FOR INSTANCE, A BOOK LIKE 'EXIT ALPHA' MUST HAVE BEEN QUITE A RESEARCH TASK.
It was. I had to find out about systems and survival in Antarctica, Catholic Church hierarchy and doctrine, Pakistan political life, C-130's, nuclear aircraft carriers, airships, weapons systems. Then there were arcane subjects such as electrocutions, poltergeists... It takes enormous checking and the help of many experts. You do your best to keep egg off your face - not to slip up too much.
WHY THE ESOTERIC EMPHASIS?
I'm interested in comparative religion and, of course, what interests you comes through.
YOUR FIRST THRILLER, 'THE FOURTH EYE' IS EXTREMELY DARK. AND YOUR SECOND, 'THE GODGAME', QUITE DISTURBING.
So is the evening news - which the networks have reduced to the level of distraction, entertainment. However life's often brutal. Should we ignore that? For instance, they've tried to attribute Titus Andronicus to everyone but Shakespeare but there's good evidence he wrote it and academics are stuck with that. 'The Fourth Eye' was mostly social commentary. But 'The Game' was a romp - described by the publisher as `a romance for men' and I agree with him.
HOW DO YOU WORK?
Patricia Highsmith said that writing a book is a process that should be interrupted only by sleep. Now I have a life organized for minimum distraction. Wife gone, children flown, pets dead. Freedom. Writing is rewriting and I endlessly rework.
WHAT'S IT LIKE ADAPTING YOUR OWN BOOK TO THE SCREEN?
Demanding - a distillation. For instance, a feature won't work unless you stick strictly to the three-act structure. And you have to throw away your novel, reinvent, start again. Bit of a wrench but you get over it.
WHY DO YOU WRITE?
It's a character flaw. Writers are compulsive and their excretions are their daydreams. Of course, there are kinder ways to put it. You write for the joy of constructing an imagined world that's concrete, meaningful, real.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR WOULD-BE WRITERS?
Find something sensible to do. It took me forty years to get a book up. I dumped three in the garbage one sad day. If you can be discouraged, you won't make it. If you can't, you won't either. And if you get published - equivalent to the chance of being struck by lightning - your book sits on a shelf a few weeks, then it's pulped. As for eBooks, someone once said that most will be read by fourteen people. In this post-literate age, writing may become an anachronism.
BACK TO 'EXIT ALPHA'. IT'S NOT YOUR TYPICAL AIRPORT PAPERBACK. IT IMPLIES A WORLD VIEW.
If you say so.
SO WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON THE WORLD?
It's in chaos. Obvious enough. The population explosion's made us locusts - stripping, denuding the planet. But we're so egocentric, we still see ourselves as separate to nature. We agree that the problems we have - destruction of biodiversity, global warming and so on - are unsustainable. That means we're unsustainable, that we're becoming the only resource. Soon we'll be farmed like cattle. You can see the indications now. Entrenched conglomerates disseminating misinformation to protect their franchises. The subversion of education by business. Drugs and the corporatization of crime. The corruption of professions, institutions, governments. We're victims of our own violence, inertia, mental slavery and greed. I'm not making anything up. These are hardly new ideas.
AND YOU'RE TRYING TO HIGHLIGHT THESE PROBLEMS?
I'm not trying to ignore them. It's interesting that factual books are now becoming partly fiction. You recall the biography of Regan that interposed a purely fictional narrator? And fiction is promoting fact - sometimes even posing as fact. Some forms of corruption are too dangerous to tackle directly and fiction, being at one remove, can lift these into awareness. There are brilliant examples through the years. For instance '1984' is with us. The only mistake Orwell made was imagining it would be overt rather than covert. Popular fiction's often predicted the future correctly. And it probably has a better strike-rate than most economists, futurists, historians. It can also have a devastating critical punch. For instance, 'The Good Soldier Schweick'.
BUT SURELY WE'VE HAD IT GOOD IN THE LAST HUNDRED YEARS? THE GENERAL STANDARD OF LIVING IN WESTERN DEMOCRACIES IS..
Democracy's had a grand run. Despite its twin foes, communism and capitalism, it's still being kept afloat by advances in science and technology - but notice how each new solution spawns a dozen new problems? Progress is a myth. We're moving in circles. Everything becomes its own opposite.
CAN YOU GIVE AN ILLUSTRATION?
Which century would you like? The religion of love spawning the inquisition and the crusades? The war to end all wars? Communism reverting to hierarchy and decimating the masses? There are examples on all scales. Antibiotics cause more resistant bugs. Claims exploitation makes the cost of insurance prohibitive. Cane toads. But people cling to this notion of progress - because the alternative is despair.
ARE YOU SAYING THERE ARE NO SOLUTIONS?
No. I'm saying direct means don't work. Violence is generally ignorance - provokes the equal and opposite reaction. We think we can do something but we're symptoms, not the cause. Real doing is self-change. But that's almost impossible. Real change isn't on the level of general life at all
I DON'T QUITE GET THAT. CAN YOU EXPLAIN?
We need to transform our values. Nothing less will make any difference. That begins with a new kind of wish and a new direction and refinement of attention. But we're so unbalanced, ignorant, destructive, we've no inkling of our inner potential. We're atomized, in pieces - hearts, bodies, minds disconnected. If we could move toward an inner unity, the inner would transform the outer. And that would be real action. Not reaction but response.
Published 2014-12-13.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Romantic Stories from Women's Magazines
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 22,020. Language: English. Published: December 9, 2014 by Buzzword Books. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Short stories, Fiction » Women's fiction » General
Top short women's fiction from periodicals such as WOMEN'S WEEKLY, CLEO, WOMAN'S DAY, ARGOSY UK and ABC Books. And it's not all boy meets girl. These tales range from the heartwarming to the humorous. There's one about a man who outwits his shrewish wife. And you'll be challenged by a trip into the future - and one to the distant past. And the award winning "The Sandman" will make you cry.
Vicious Tales from Men's Magazines
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 23,430. Language: English. Published: December 9, 2014 by Buzzword Books. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller, Fiction » Horror » Crime
Shock, crime, horror! Nine tough, thrilling, chilling tales - most published in leading men's magazines. Stories from 'Man', 'Man Junior', 'Pocket Man', 'Squire' and other male mags If you like strong plots and raw action, you've found it. Mafiosos. Escaping cons. Child murderers. Two-timing wives. Whores. Professional killers. Spare, tight nighttmare generating tales
Songs of a Second World
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 33,370. Language: English. Published: November 10, 2014 by Buzzword Books. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author, Fiction » Literary collections » Australian & Oceanian
This anthology of brilliant Australian short stories has won ten literary awards. Most have been published in magazines or journals and the full collection is presented here for the first time. The theme of these tales is the world behind what we take as reality. The interlocking stories are set in and around the elegant provincial city of Ballarat, Victoria.
The Game
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 106,280. Language: English. Published: May 9, 2013 by Buzzword Books. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Psychological thriller, Fiction » Horror » Crime
Four unrelated guests are enticed to a private island off the coast of New Zealand. They think it's a holiday resort. But this is no playground. It's a battleground. Here, they are faced with an escalating series of trials that will eventually see all but one of them killed and the winner gain a fortune. This psychological thriller really twists the knife. Optioned for film.
The Fourth Eye
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 89,820. Language: English. Published: May 9, 2013 by Buzzword Books. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Action & suspense, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Spies & espionage
An engine that runs on water. And an oil cartel ready to kill anyone who happens to find out. One man faces the surveillance society. His only weapon - total recall. This close-to-the-headlines thriller never lets up. And everything from communications to weapons systems is meticulously researched. From best selling thriller writer, Clinton Smith. Optioned for film.