2010
11.12

Here’s part 2 of Grey Man’s Lands exclusive interview with Andy McNab: Zero Hour !

GML: Nick Stone’s 13th adventure will be published end of November. Please tell us what Zero Hour is about.

Andy: Quite a lot of it is based in Amsterdam, in North 5 [Noord 5 – gml], I know this area quite well since a friend used to live there.

GML: Finally Amsterdam for Nick Stone!

Andy: Yeah yeah Amsterdam. The story really sort off starts of in Moldova in the Odessa area. It’s about human trafficking and weapons – the money earners in the black economy. Nick is actually trying to find a girl that has been trafficked. People can be trafficked in many ways. There is a thing called ‘happy trafficking’ where people think they’re off for a job, so actually pay their own way to go to another country and then they’re lifted and taken. And in some cases, like in Moldova, people are working in the field and lads come along, beat them up and pull them in the back of a wagon. Nick is trying to find this girl and it’s based around a thing called a ‘kill switch’.
Pakistan at the moment have said they will no longer buy any American military equipment. Because what has been happening over the years is that technology is like a Trojan horse that’s being hidden in a laptop, there’s kill switches that’s been put in microprocessors. So the argument was that if then during any air campaign, you’re going up against missiles, actually you got the technology now to switch those weapons off.
Certainly when the Israelis bombed the processing plant in Syria two years ago they used kill switches because kill switches were in the old kit.
So it’s based on the efforts to get these Kill switches in Eastern block technology which places like Iran and Pakistan are buying getting ready for future conflict.
The way to do that is.. If Nick can get hold of this girl .. and in effect she becomes a hostage to the father who is in Moldova which is the big industrial plant for Russia at the moment.
He is actually then cohorts with the guy who makes the processors there to get the kill switches in, but obviously Nick doesn’t know that until later on. He’s all about trying to get this girl.
And of course Ann is there, from the last book, so she’s helping because she knows about that stuff.
Until they get to Amsterdam, where she stays on Schiphol, and then he’s off to Noord 5. It’s all based around that cause I got to know the area quite well and it’s a nice area to do this sort of stuff because the dock is virtually empty now, there’s an old silo there and you got the little ferry that’s going across. It’s based literally around there. It’s quite good.
There’s a big open air market there and there’s a big Muslim population there as well; lot’s of Turks and Iranians..it’s a good environment for story telling.

GML: Nick Stone ‘doesn’t want to play ball’ it says in the synopsis..

Andy: Yeah, Nick is really preparing now, getting to do other things. What’s he gonna do after this??
He could continuously work for the Intelligence Service …. but actually it would be quite interesting for him to do other things so I’m trying to get him up to a point now where he’s forced into a decision. Or not really forced.. he’s getting an offer and he thinks ‘yeah, that’s alright’.
He doesn’t need money now, in fact he’s doing it because he wants to do it. He’s trying to get more into the commercial world. In fact he’s now helping other people to make money, cause he doesn’t particularly need money himself.

GML: Nick Stone not needing money… there’s something new…

Andy: Exactly , at last he’s coming out alright. And from there… what are we gonna do now?? We’ve got to sort of move it on…
The next book may go back to October again… The release date end of November for Zero Hour is an experiment, we’re hoping to sell more books with the Christmas frenzy, with a big marketing campaign. It was great for me, I got more time to do it! [laughs] We’ll see how it works out.

GML: Zero Hour got a new cover?

Andy: Every single year there’s big debates, there are more chiefs than Indians on this subject.. It goes on and on and on… Obviously the retailers as well have a lot of input, if they don’t like it they say “we’re not going to put it on the shelves” sort of thing. So it’s trying to get this balance. I’m part of the process so I get emails with all the pictures.. but after a while I just lose interest, you know ‘whatever’ [laughs]. One thing they did do with the model who’s doing the pictures .. they transposed the picture so he became left handed! So I’d say ‘NO’ you can’t do that, you got to change it back. That’s the only input I had with this cover.
The ones I really liked where the X-Ray type. They were drawings! Amazing! It was nice quiet and simple. But the art people said “we got to do more”.. I just leave them to it.

GML: Did Nick Stone ‘grow’ with you over the years?

Andy: Yeah, I think he’s got to.
With any character you can only go one line.. either going up or down but always, in the end it has to go up otherwise there’s going to be an anticipation that he’s going up. And hopefully with earlier readers, they feel he’s growing with them as well. He’s got to think about things, gotta do things and obviously now he’s getting a relationship with Anna, I don’t even know where that’s gonna go, I haven’t got a clue. But yes, he’s got to grow.

GML: He might be settling down??

Andy: Well.. Nick has got to sort himself out and he’s very content at the moment, he’s got his flat and everything is alright. But actually he’s not thát content. He’s got all the goodies he wants, but actually it’s still not enough. He’s got to learn by it. And certainly in this book he does learn.

GML: He sort of grows along with you? With Remote Control, the first book, you were younger..

Andy: I certainly see a difference, you know, with dialogue and the way he’s thinking, absolutely. There’s got to be that growth. Otherwise he’s going to be quite static. If you’re gonna do a static character there must be consistency with that static thing and he hasn’t got that. There’s a difference.

GML: We felt in the later books Nick became more sensitive..

Andy: Yeah yeah..

GML: Is that because you thought he should be?

Andy: No, what happens is .. the process of the story it’s sort of pragmatic. The start of process of the story is the technical bit of the story.. Nick is here ..he goes there….he does that…why does he do that… What happens after that is the layer of emotion.. which comes with dialogue, what he’s telling us or what he’s thinking.
I sometimes change or cut dialogue and write it as action and think maybe people understand the reasons why he’s doing this or that, but not too much. So it’s what he thinks or what he says, as opposed to what he does. Then the practical side is done. The next layer is that sensitivity, trying to work out why he would do this or that. So certainly after the first draft, the sensitivity is all over the place. Because the first part of the story might be written in January and then in June and so on and then it’s trying to look over that and work out the best way of doing it and the best way of doing it is having Nick being confused about things…because that is easier to write. So he’s confused about it because I guess I am confused about it [laughs].

GML: So is Nick is more sensitive now because you allowed yourself to write that way?

Andy: Absolutely. The more I learn about the process.. I understand the readers need to have some emotional connection as well, more understanding. It’s with any character… you don’t have to like him, you just have to understand him. Once you got there and people understand , you can have him chopping heads off of old ladies. You might disagree with it, but you understand the reasons why.
If you can get him to do that and people understand and they still like him.. fantastic! But at that base level.. as long as they understand and then later on you can try and justify the reasons why.

Thanks Andy, we’re really looking forward to the book! Zero Hour is published on 25 November.

Go here to pre-order Zero Hour today on Amazon!