editor's choice



Today, we’re delighted to welcome Canadian author Paul E. Hardisty to The Literary Lounge. Shortlisted for the CWA John Creasy Dagger award, Paul’s Claymore Straker series is critically acclaimed and has garnered fans such as Lee Child. Turbulent Wake, Paul’s latest book, is a beautifully penned standalone, examining love and loss. It is published by Orenda Books in May 2019.




LS: First of all, welcome, Paul – thanks so much for joining us.

You have a very successful and important career as an environmental scientist, an area you’ve worked in for more than 20 years, but have you always written?

PH: I wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first story on my dad’s old typewriter at five. The adventures of Paul and Tim. It got serious at 18 or so. I was absolutely in love with everything Hemingway had written. He was long dead by then, but he was my idol. I started keeping a notebook then. When I was about 20, I really gave it a shot, being a writer. But it was a disaster. I quickly realised I didn’t have anything to write about. So I decided to follow Hemingway’s advice and get out there and live and find out what I really cared about. A lifetime of travelling the world working on environmental issues gave me that. I wrote the whole way, all the time I could, collected thoughts and ideas and observations. Yes, I still work in science. As the CEO of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), I guess you could say I am at the frontline of the fight to save the world’s coral reefs at a critical time.


LS: It is a critical time, indeed, and we’re very grateful for the research you’re undertaking. Does your work, your life experience, inform you as a writer?

PH: My own experience of life, science, nature. … All of the settings in the Straker novels and in Turbulent Wake are places I have worked or lived in, places I know well. Many of the incidents actually happened. I guess, looking back, I’ve been to some pretty crazy places, seen some bad stuff. I never realised it at the time, it was just stuff that happened. But with distance comes perspective, and you can see them for what they were. At the time you are just reacting, doing your best, just watching it all unfold around you. …

Turbulent Wake is based pretty much entirely on direct personal experiences. … The stories were mined from my four decades of notebooks. Places I’ve been, things I’ve seen, people I’ve met, the disappointments and the glories. … Whatever additional research I need to do, I do it myself.


LS: Did you always intend to write thrillers? Do you have any favourite writers in this genre?

PH: Actually, I always thought I would write more literary fiction. And so now, with Turbulent Wake, I have. There is some mystery to it, but it’s definitely not a thriller, in the typical sense. Sure there’s conflict, a lot of it, and yeah, I love fighting in its various forms, so conflict is inside me. In my first four novels (the Claymore Straker series) that came out in writing thrillers. I like to think there is a lot more to those books, though – the wonder of existence, our place in the world, the fragility of life and the beauty and power of nature. So thrillers with depth – literary thrillers, perhaps?  In the thriller genre, I always liked Deighton, Le Carre, Gerald Seymour, Greene.


LS: All great writers.

I read somewhere that you first had the idea for Straker about 15 years before he made his first published appearance. How much did he change in that time as a character?  How much, if it all, is he based on you?

PH: I think there is always some of a writer in any lead character he writes. Sure, there is some of me in Straker. But he is definitely better looking, braver and stronger than me, and a hell of a lot more screwed up (I hope). But some of his other traits, sure. Of course, he’s wandering around in all these places I know so well, seeing and doing things I’ve experienced, so it’s inevitable. Of course it’s fictionalised, turbocharged, but the core is there, very close to me. Clay Straker didn’t change all that much over that ten years or so that I was thinking about and actually writing The Abrupt Physics of Dying.


LS:  The Abrupt Physics of Dying, that’s your first book. It was the first Orenda Books title, too. How did that come about?

PH:  I got my break with The Abrupt Physics of Dying from Gary Pulsifer at Arcadia Books. Karen [Sullivan] was working there at the time, but it was Gary who read it and loved it and wanted to publish it. Then Arcadia fell on some hard times and Karen decided to leave and asked Arcadia if she could take me with her, as her first title [for Orenda]. She called me, and I agreed, and I have never once regretted it. Karen has been fantastic, and of course getting shortlisted for the Creasy prize was amazing. She has stuck with me ever since, for which I am eternally grateful.


LS: Your latest book, Turbulent Wake, is a standalone and very different in tone and feel to the Straker thrillers, although it does feature foreign locales. How did it evolve?

PH: Turbulent Wake is something I have been working on for longer than The Abrupt Physics of Dying. One of the chapters, ‘The Chef’, came from a scrap of Addis Ababa hotel stationery that I found in one of my old notebooks. Just a few scribbles, but it brought back a whole episode of my life and my time in Ethiopia that I had completely forgotten. I was working there as the Eritrean rebels broke through and were closing in on Addis. I had all these stories I’d collected, these events, scattered over decades, and I started asking myself, is life a novel? Does it have a plot? Do events connect? Do one person’s stories affect another’s? That’s what the book is about, in the end, the wake each one of us leaves.


LS: Many of your books feature love and loss, but this is a very different, more literary exploration of these themes. What informed it?

PH:  Yeah those themes are really important to me. Loving someone means losing them, eventually, one way or another. The second you feel that first flutter and realise you’re hooked, you sign on to the fact that one day you’ll feel the pain of losing her. Find a place you love, so beautiful it aches, that special beach, that walk through the woods to the sea, that coral reef, and then realise that the way things are going now, that there is a better than even chance that it will be wrecked, cut down, dug up, paved over, polluted, changed beyond all imagining. That is what is happening to the world’s coral reefs today. Love and loss. It ignites me. It gets me up in the morning, working, writing. Anything you love is worth fighting for, going through hell for, because in the end, nothing else matters. Turbulent Wake explores this.


LS: Beautifully put.

In terms of protagonists, how different is Ethan Schofield, in Turbulent Wake, from Clay Straker?

PH:  Ethan is nothing like Straker, and very different from me. From that perspective, he was harder to write. It took me a while to find his voice. It’s his voice, his perspective that connects the novel, binds it all together.


LS: If Ethan was more difficult to write, did this book take longer to complete than your others? How long does it typically (if there is such a thing) take you to write a novel?

PH: It all depends on whether I am working full time or not, and how hard. If I am writing full time (as I was for a big chunk of Turbulent Wake), it can go as quickly as eight months or so (not including editing and revision). It’s longer if I am doing a tough job. My current role is pretty demanding and I care deeply about what we are trying to do right now – it’s important – so I’m not getting much writing done right now.


LS: Understandably.

Your books are very filmic. In your ‘Field of Dreams’ film adaptation, who would play Ethan/or Straker?

PH:  I really like Jake Gyllenhaal. I think he’d be great in either role.


LS: And if Turbulent Wake had a soundtrack, what would be on it? – Is music important to your writing experience?

PH:  I always write to music. Each novel has its playlist. It’s really important for me. It sets the mood, propels me forward.

For Turbulent Wake:

Finding My Way’ – Rush (actually mentioned in the novel)

Running in Dreams‘ – Iain Archer

Long Way Down‘ – Pete Yorn

Do Ya‘ – Electric Light Orchestra

Underground Lovers‘ – The Conde Nast Trap

They Don’t Own Me‘ – Richard Ashcroft

Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane‘ – Gang of Youths

‘Almost Cut My Hair‘ – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Single Handed Sailor‘ – Dire Straits


LS: We do love a good playlist. Thanks so much. We’ll have to read the book again with this playing.

Finally, as Turbulent Wake‘s being published this month, what’s next for you writing-wise? Another series? Another Straker? Or more standalones?

PH:  I’m working on finishing up a novel right now, set in the not too distant future. It follows a small group of people fighting to survive in a world devastated by self-inflicted ecological disaster. So, fiction, or scientific prediction?


LS: Ah, many favourite writers do both, the late John Wyndham among them. We look forward to it.

Paul, it’s been a pleasure. Huge thanks for spending time with us, particularly when you are so busy and were in transit. We wish you every success with the book. We also wish you well in your very important work. God knows, we need it.





Paul E. Hardisty | Turbulent Wake | Orenda Books | 16 May 2019 | paperback original | £8.99 | ebook available £5.99 |

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For more information about The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and its very important work, please visit the website.





Acknowledgements: This Q&A is published as part of the virtual book tour arranged by Anne Cater of Random Things Tours. Many thanks to the author for making time to answer these questions and to the publisher for a digital proof. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved. Photo: Paul E. Hardisty; author’s copyright.


Also of interest: ‘Robert Macfarlane’s wonderful Underland’;‘Absolution – the return of Claymore Straker’; ‘The Way of All Flesh, historical crime-fiction at its best’; ‘Fallen Angel – aka where’s Niamh Temple?’; ‘Call Me Star Girl’;Falling from the Floating World’; ‘Blood Orange’; Beton Rouge’; ‘Gallowstree Lane’; The Lost Man’; ‘Delia Owen’s Where the Crawdad’s Sing’; ‘Lilja Sigurðardóttir’s Trap, #ReykjavikNoirTrilogyBook2’; The Story Keeper, Anna Mazzola’s Gothic novel‘; ‘Midland’; ‘A Greater God‘; ‘Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, Dialogue’s brilliant debut’; ‘We should all be feminists’; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’;RW Kwon’s The Incendiaries’; ‘Beautiful words – The Language of Secrets’; ‘Beauty in translation – Roxanne Bouchard’s French Canadian noir’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”’; ‘Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime’ (book covers we love).


Select Q&As/interviews: ‘Lilja Sigurðardóttir’; ‘Tom Cox’; ‘Vanda Symon; ‘Gunnar Staalesen’; Some like it hot – the joy of Carole Mortimer, award-winning novelist‘; Gina Kirkham;John Fairfax’; ‘Ian Ridley’; ‘David Stuart Davies’.


This Q&A is © 2019 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.


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