To further celebrate the launch of the new Facebook group for lovers of action thriller fiction, The Ops Centre, I’m interviewing a whole bunch of great authors in the genre, the second of which is Stephen England.
Stephen England is the author of the bestselling Shadow Warriors thrillers, including Amazon’s #1 Bestselling Political Thriller, Pandora’s Grave, and its long-awaited sequels, Day of Reckoning and Embrace the Fire, forming a series hailed as “the perfect spy thrillers for our time–chaotic, cynical, with only a few good men keeping the barbarians from the gate.”
Drawing upon nearly a decade of research into the nature of Islam, the Middle East, espionage and counterterrorism operations, England’s work has drawn praise for breathing new life into the genre with the hard-edged, unsparing realism of his portrayal of the war on terror, the people who wage it, and the moral and psychological costs exacted of those who take the war to the enemy where he lives. “Soldiers without uniforms. Fighting a war without end. Shadow warriors.
GJ: Can you describe your journey to getting your first book published?
SE: It was a long road, haha. I started writing in my early teens and began a process of trial and error, writing manuscripts and throwing them away, that lasted the better part of a decade. I’ve tried to estimate, over the years, just how many pages I completely trashed during that period, but I’d say conservatively it was probably 600-700, total. I don’t regret any of that, looking back—it was a necessary part of my growth, working through the mechanics of the craft.
Eventually, I tried my hand at an online forum serial that gathered a decent following and became the first real public exposure/feedback for my work, eventually becoming published at the end of 2009 as Sword of Neamha. I had already been writing Shadow Warriors for several years at that point, but I had some reservations about independent publishing at that point and felt it best to test the waters with a stand-alone that was already proven. Ultimately, those reservations would be proven groundless, and I brought the first Shadow Warriors novel, Pandora’s Grave, out in mid-2011 after an extensive reworking of the series opening.
GJ: What inspires you to write about espionage and counter-terrorism?
SE: 9/11. Without question. The memories of that day are still as fresh for me, now twenty years on, as they were in the days and weeks following. I wasn’t there, I experienced it through my television, as many other Americans, but it was a watershed moment for all that, and the search for answers and understanding put me on a path that I remain on today.
GJ: If you weren’t a writer, what profession do you think you would be in?
SE: That’s a hard question, haha. I’ve done this for more than half my life now, and dreamed of it for longer. I’d be a researcher, though, most likely—I sometimes suspect that I write books as an excuse to do research. I cannot confirm or deny that such might have been the impetus behind my most recent release, The Lion’s Paw, which rebooted the Lion of God series into the present day and dropped readers into the nightmare of the Syrian Civil War. I’ve never felt so compelled by my research as I did, writing that book.
James Bond. Jack Reacher. Carrie Harris. Mitch Rapp. George Smiley. Eve Polastri. Jack Ryan. Alex Swan. Sydney Bristow. Ethan Hunt. Jack Bauer. Perry the Platypus. Jason Bourne.
If you’ve ever enjoyed reading about any of these characters then I’m setting up a new place you’ll love to hang out in.
The Ops Centre is a brand new Facebook group from some of the people behind The Written Undead. We aim to provide a place to talk spies, espionage and kick-ass moves, plus we’ll introduce you to new characters and authors, and no doubt drop free stuff.
If it sounds like your kind of thing, click the link and join in the conversation.
GJ: What do you find the hardest part of the writing process?
SE: Those days when you know where you want to go, but you don’t quite know how to get there. More research often helps, but sometimes you just find yourself stuck, and that’s a terrible feeling. You have to work through it, though—you’ll never get anywhere without persistence.
GJ: What is your favourite aspect of being an author?
SE: The process of creation. There’s something incredible about being able to create a world, and bring strangers into your world to experience it with you, and with each new book, it remains a feeling that never gets old.
GJ: If you were to have your life again with regards to writing, what would you change, if anything?
SE: I’d probably give my writing a few more years to mature, honestly. It’s a hard question, because it was exactly the right time to break into the market, and delays would have cost me, but I’m not as fond of my first few books as I’d like.
GJ: One for fellow authors out there. If you can give one piece of advice as to how you can get your books in front of readers, what would it be?
SE: The market is ever in flux, and it’s hard to give advice now that won’t be out-dated in a few weeks or months—even assuming I was right, haha. I think the best advice is to focus on what remains consistent—produce quality, both in product and presentation. That’s what your readers deserve from you, and will help whatever marketing efforts you do thereafter immeasurably. Once you have quality in hand, go hunt up whatever the current received wisdom is (ads, mailing lists, TikTok, whatever—I’m kidding, don’t do TikTok) and give it a shot.
GJ: Do you have a favourite character to write and why?
SE: That’s easy. It’s Nichols, the Shadow Warriors protagonist. I’ve been writing about him for about half as long as I’ve been alive, and he’s a part of me at this point. He’s a flawed, haunted man without a country, who almost invariably manages to rise to the occasion against all odds. But there’s a price to be paid for each victory, and one that he has paid many times.
GJ: What type of books do you like to read and what are you reading right now?
SE: Anything and everything, really, from philosophy and history to fiction of all kinds—thrillers, fantasy, SF. I’m currently working through my colleague Don Bentley’s masterful debut thriller, Without Sanction, and the writings of early church father Athanasius of Alexandria, having recently finished Arash Azizi’s biography of the late unlamented Qasem Soleimani, The Shadow Commander. Everything I read, I find, shapes and influences my own writing in some way and is an essential part of my routine as a writer.
GJ: What can your fans expect from you in the next couple of years?
SE: More books, if the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise. Life, and our world, are ever unpredictable, but the Shadow Warriors series should see its eleventh and twelfth titles, WILD CARD and Soon Dies the Day, drop early next year, and another Lion of God novel is in the pipeline following the recent release of The Lion’s Paw. There are also some other things floating about, both connected with Shadow Warriors and very distinctly not, but this isn’t the time or the place. . .
Thanks for hosting this interview, Gareth, best of luck with your own writing!
GJ: Thank you Stephen. You can find out more about Stephen’s work at his website, http://www.stephenwrites.com/
‘Unputdownable’ and totally original‘ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“The front cover intrigued me, a transcript and redacted, and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact it was on the ‘unputdownable’ category.
Very different and flows seamlessly following the conversation with added excitement is very original, hats off to the author.
I am sure to read other novels from GJ Stevens even if not my normal genre as they seem to be.”