Noel Hynd has been an accomplished writer for decades! Recently signing a three book contract with Zondervan, he entered the Christian market for the first time with his Russian Trilogy, featuring the fascinating and unique character, Special Agent Alex LaDuca.
It’s a treat to have Noel share a bit about his life journey here at Relz Reviewz.
Over to you, Noel:~
Your first book, Revenge, was published in 1974 and your latest this year. How do you stay passionate about writing?
Thanks for reminding me how long I’ve been doing this. I’m not sure that ‘passionate’ is the right word. “Obsessive,” maybe? I’m always thinking in terms of stories and plots and projects. I have more in my head than I’ll ever be able to write.
You have written political thrillers, supernatural novels, screenplays and non-fiction – do you have a preference?
Usually whatever I’m not working on at the time seems more attractive. One forgets the hassles of one while involved with the hassles of the other. Most of my novels are of a significant length. 100,000 words at least. William Styron once described writing a novel as travelling from Vladivostok to Madrid by crawling on your knees. That’s how it feels sometimes…..It just occurs to me that my next novel has Madrid in the title. (Midnight In Madrid.) Subconscious? Maybe.
You have written for the ABA market for over thirty years and now your new series is published by Zondervan in the CBA ~ please share how the change came about?
An agent I knew had been doing a lot of business with CBA publishers and had been impressed with their integrity and professionalism. So I got together a proposal for a series featuring a female character in an espionage series who was identifiable as a practicing Christian. I had a couple of near misses with a couple of other publishers and then, almost out of the blue one day, Zondervan sent me an e-mail and asked if the potential series was still available. It was, but only because the parent company of another CBA company couldn’t pull the trigger on a deal. So I came to a very happy agreement with Zondervan.
What are the differences, if any, you have found working with a Christian publisher?
I can only speak for the publisher I have, but my experience with Zondervan has been, so far, superior overall to any of the other “bigger” New York publishers that I had. And I‘m not just saying that. The editorial attention and quality of the editing is actually much better than what I got from most of my NY publishers and easily as good as the best I got. I’m not saying I didn’t have some fine editors in New York. I did. But I had a couple of blockheads, too…..Zondervan just seem to be a very good group of people who take care of their books and authors, sort of like what publishing used to be like (or aspire to be like) in NY in the 1950′s and ’60s when editors actually edited. For me, the NY situation always seemed to become adversarial in some way, not necessarily with the editors but with the marketing people or the legal department. I always felt as if I had to deal with at least one person at each company who was a psycho. I had four different publishers in NY and I ended up feeling cheated by two of them and the relationship ended up being concluded by lawyers. A noteworthy exception, btw, is Literary Guild which re-published 3 of my books within the last 5 years. They were great.
What project or book are you working on now?
Thank you for asking. The character I’ve created for Zondervan is a smart, multi-lingual federal investigator of financial crimes, based in Washington. But, of course, the financial stuff always dovetails into organized crime, mobsters, spies, killers and so on…..I’m American and thus so is she. I’ve just completed a trilogy of interrelated novels (Conspiracy in Kiev, Midnight in Madrid and Countdown in Cairo) in which I follow her from case to case. Each novel stands alone but there’s an overriding story arc to all three and, like real life, one case can have a bearing on another…… Zondervan seems pleased with the performance of the first book, so I’m working on a proposal for a second trilogy.
Have you ever thought of a career change?
I’d love to play for the New York Yankees (baseball) but I don’t think that’s going to happen.
Conspiracy in Kiev
Given that you are male and write espionage novels, I found it interesting your protagonist is female ~ what made you choose Alexandra as opposed to Alexander?!
Well, for starters, it’s no secret that more women read than men. But beyond that, it just sort of seemed right for the time and the place. Women as characters can get away with more than men and tend to have to be more clever in their approach to a confrontational situation. So, why not? I think of my main character as a female Jason Bourne.
What was your favourite scene to write in Conspiracy in Kiev?
I liked the whole sequence in Kiev that begins with a party at the embassy and runs through a cathedral service, a wreath laying and then a disastrous assassination attempt. Really, the rest of the trilogy follows from that sequence. (Chapters 27 through 44, if you’re keeping score.) There was much research to do and detail to Kiev and the communist past of Ukraine. There was a lot going on. A friend of mine was a US diplomat in the area for 5 years and helped me immensely. Also, in order to get the feel of the story I taught myself fluent Ukrainian in three weeks. Just kidding.
You are obviously an expert on Washington and the relevant Agencies – over the years what has been the best source of information?
Listening to people talk about their own experiences. And snooping.
You have had your books almost made into movies! If Conspiracy in Kiev makes it to the big screen, who would you cast?
My wish list? Rachel Weisz. Jennifer Garner. Kiera Knightly. I can dream, can’t I? Someone thirty or so, smart, tough, good-looking.
Please share about where you see Alex is in terms of her faith?
She’s serious about her faith but not pushy about it. She’s tolerant of others and respectful of other people’s faiths. Her Christianity is an internal moral compass that she tries to obey. But she’s in an imperfect world and, like all of us, is an imperfect person. She’s smart and realizes this and constantly has to make decisions on where she’s going next in terms of action and assignment. I’ve always thought that the concept of forgiveness is one of the most difficult to master as a Christian. Can we really forgive people when they have done heinous things to us? This is a big issue for Alex because she tries to be true to her faith and it’s one of the things I’m writing about, that’s lurking beneath the surface, of these first three books for Zondervan.
From his first scene on the basketball court, Ben stood out to me, even more so as his character developed. Will he feature in the later stories?
Yes. I’ve tried to create a universe for Alex, with recurrent friends on a personal level as well as her own little nest of spies and operatives. Ben will be a recurrent character, as will several people. They will come in and out of her life the same way people do in ours in real life…………That’s an interesting point, actually. I taught novel writing for a few years in California and I’m always telling aspiring writers to re-examine the potential of characters you have already created. There’s almost always something more you can do with them.
The sequel Midnight in Madrid releases in March, 2009 and continues Alex’s story (can’t wait!). When can we expect the third book to release?
The third in ‘The Russian Trilogy’ is currently set to appear in January of 2010. But your question does allow me to sneak in a reference to Midnight in Madrid. I’ve always been a huge Dashiell Hammett fan, particularly The Maltese Falcon. ‘Madrid’ is, I think, a pretty good mystery in its own right but it’s also a literary riff on ‘Falcon.’ In my novel I have a stolen artefact called “The Pieta of Malta,” a piece of early religious art that was once in the possession of St. Francis of Assisi. The disappearance of that item from a Madrid museum keeps Alex in business for 400 zippy pages.
Hemingway, Fitzgerald, LeCarre, (a late friend) Laurie Colwin. Dashiell Hammett. I always liked David Halberstam’s work. James Ellroy, too. I’m also in love with a series of French graphic novels (I went to school in Switzerland for a year) called Djinn by Jean Dufaux and illustrated by a fabulous Spanish illustrator named Ana Miralles. There’s another graphic series I dig called Blacksad which follow this anthropomorphic cat through New York in the 1950′s. I’ll stop now before I sound too weird.
What are you reading at the moment?
Paris in the Fifties by Stanley Karnow.
Favourite movie and favourite line from a movie?
Chinatown……. “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”
You father, Alan Hynd, was a writer – how did that impact your early choice to pursue the same profession?
Actually, when he got older he started turning over some of his magazine assignments to me. I was still in university at the time. At age 20 I was writing, getting published and getting paid. It seemed like a better deal than a real job.
Who inspires you?
Many people, living and dead, in ways large and small. As part of a medical mission organized by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, I visit Honduras every year with a team of doctors and nurses. I’m just a grunt who works in the pharmacy. But, inspiration? The doctors and nurses go there at their own expense and take time off from their own careers. In one village, there is no electricity but one can’t help but be charmed by the simple human dignity of the people there. Another example, my wife’s mother worked at the World Trade Center in New York and was blinded during the attacks of September 11, 2001. How she has put her life back together and continued cheerfully on is something I’m not sure I could do. Inspiration is everywhere if you are receptive to it.
Please share some of your faith journey…
In some ways, that’s the most demanding question here because it can go so far in so many directions. But I’ll share an incident with you……..About 10 years ago I had moved from New York to Los Angeles and was alone on Christmas Eve. I had always gone to a big wonderful church in New York City (St. James on Madison Avenue and 81st Street) and was very much missing the Christmas service. I had no idea where to go in LA. I tried calling a few churches to see if they had Christmas Eve services open to non-members. Several places didn’t even call me back. I eventually inquired at All Saints Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills. They invited me to join them for services that evening. The church was a perfect fit, as it turned out, and I felt as if I’d come home the moment I came in their door. Eventually my wife (who was born Catholic) became a member with me, and we were married there. Now I go with their medical mission to Honduras every February and I can’t count how many friends I’ve made there. And strangely enough, a woman who has eventually become pastor at All Saints used to be at St. James in New York. Not only that, but her dean at divinity school was the father of one of my best friends in boarding school in Connecticut. Examine all that and try to tell me that there wasn’t a hand guiding my fate someway.
Some essential Aussie questions…
Your character, Alex, travels the world – do you think she will make it to Australia one day?!
I’m sure she’ll get there.
Would you be brave enough to try Vegemite?
I had some Aussie friends in NY. I’ve tried the stuff. It’s not bad at all. Why does everyone make fun of it. Someone must like it or they wouldn’t sell so much of it.
What would you like to see most:
a) Barrier Reef or Uluru (Ayers Rock)?
b) Kangaroo or Koala?
c) Game of cricket or Australian Rules Football?
Barrier Reef. I’ve seen ‘roos and I lived in Cambridge, England for a time and have seen cricket played. I almost understand it.
Any last words….
Not really, other than thanks, and I love to hear from readers. I answer everything I receive, questions about writing, questions about books I’ve written. I have a dedicated e-mail account for reader mail. NH1212f@yahoo.com
Thanks Noel It has been a real pleasure!
Relz Reviewz Extras
Review of Conspiracy in Kiev