When I sat down to write a spy thriller — the 21st Century equivalent of a James Bond adventure, I first did some careful planning. Very unlike me, but I wanted this book to be something special.
You see, there are two crucial elements in plotting any 007-style adventure (I'll tell you about them in another post). But before you even get to that, you first need something crucial.
I don't know when I arrived at my most important inspiration. But I do know it was vital to everything that followed, and it was really what liberated me and allowed me to write the book — and enjoy the process.
You see, James Bond is a glamorous, deadly-efficient spy. A fighting machine. A lady killer. Cold blooded, sleek and efficient.
But he is who he is. He may go undercover, or assume false identities for the duration of a mission. But he doesn't lead a double life.
Unlike, say, Superman.
Poor Superman is stuck with masquerading a Clark Kent. People think he is a nebbish. He has to swallow his anger and stay in character.
I don't think I was consciously aware of the Superman/Clark Kent parallel until much later.
But I knew I'd struck gold. I suddenly had a character who could travel the world battling with evil on its own terms, a resourceful action hero who might undergo the most hair-raising of adventures and emerge triumphant.
But then, when it's all over, he has to return to his cover identity. Working at an estate agents in Putney. Doing the 9 to 5 grind. Slaving in an office. Enduring the rush hour.
I found this enormously liberating. I could write a high octane espionage thriller while simultaneously tapping into the common experience we all have, of a terribly mundane world.
A world where you eat lunch at your desk and reflect on how much you dislike the person who works on the other side of the cubicle from you.
It gave me a world I could write about. It also provided a great opportunity for reader empathy.
Rupert Hood — estate agent or secret agent?
Both, of course.