Finally the long awaited follow-up to global bestseller I am Pilgrim is here. Good Reading chatted with TERRY HAYES about the second book, The Year of the Locust and to find out what makes a compelling villain.
ABOUT THE BOOK
If, like Kane, you’re a Denied Access Area spy for the CIA, then boundaries have no meaning. Your function is to go in, do whatever is required, and get out again – by whatever means necessary. You know when to run, when to hide – and when to shoot.
But some places don’t play by the rules. Some places are too dangerous, even for a man of Kane’s experience. The badlands where the borders of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan meet are such a place. A place where violence is the only way to survive.
Kane travels there to exfiltrate a man with vital information for the safety of the West. But instead he meets an adversary who will take the world to the brink of extinction. A frightening, clever, vicious man with blood on his hands and vengeance in his heart …
Q&A WITH TERRY HAYES
Your debut novel I Am Pilgrim was published in 2013. When did your urge to write fiction begin and what prompted the inspiration of your first book?
I wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember! I was a migrant kid and I was quite lonely and confused about arriving as a five year old in a strange and very different country. My dad was an avid reader and, influenced by him, I soon started reading everything I could find. It seemed natural because I was spending all my time reading other people’s stories, that I would start to create and write my own. My poor parents having to listen and read that stuff! I had always loved spy stories – the really good ones, at least. It seemed to me that the landscape of adventure was really interesting. Exotic places, dangerous situations, huge stakes. It also provided the opportunity for a lot of morally complex decisions. Having the opportunity to create a hero with whom the audience could identify also seemed a huge advantage. So – considering all of those things – I naturally gravitated to creating a story in that vein.
How did the process of writing The Year of the Locust compare to that of your debut?
It was little different – unfortunately! They are both long, sort of epic stories that required an enormous amount of research and very complex plotting. It is very time consuming – and, at times, extremely frustrating. With both of them I got to the point of continually asking myself: Why did I ever start this?! Of course by then I was so deep in the tunnel I had no choice but to keep going and hope that I would sooner or later see some light. That, in both cases I did, still seems like a miracle to me.
The Year of the Locust has been described as a follow up to your first novel – what can you tell us about it?
The Year of the Locust is the story of what is known in the secret world as a ‘Denied Access Area’ spy. They are men and women who specialise in crossing borders into the most dangerous and forbidden parts of the world. Places like Iran and North Korea, Russia and parts of China. Our spy is swept into an epic mission that means he is the only person able to save the world from wholesale destruction. His code name is Kane, he hunts a mysterious man whose back is dominated by a tattoo of a black locust, and he is pushed beyond the limits of what he believes he can endure or survive. A lot of terrible situations, strange and dangerous places and – hopefully – nail-biting escapes in other words.
What kind of research did you undertake to capture covert operations and agents?
The research is enormous, of course, because I never grew up in that world so I had to learn about it all. I have done that for many years and – luckily – I started my career as a journalist and I did quite a few stories on the intelligence world so I had a bit of a head start. It also taught me how to research and then the internet transformed everything. It is always amazing to me how much information is available if you are patient, follow the leads and are willing to keep diving deeper.
Can you tell us about some of the challenges Kane will face in this story?
Staying alive far, far behind enemy lines – alone and being hunted – is probably the greatest challenge. He only has his training, his courage and his ingenuity to keep him alive. He almost dies of thirst but finds a way to find water, he is captured, he escapes, he almost drowns, he is shot, he ends up in a cage! The poor guy! It is pretty relentless and he is in some form of jeopardy for most if the story. No wonder I am exhausted.
What makes a compelling villain?
Intelligence mostly. If the villain is really dumb, it doesn’t take much for the hero to outwit and defeat him. It is one of the problems with many Hollywood movies. The hero can only ever be as good as the villain. In Locust, Kane had to really rise to the occasion to deal with a villain who had long been thought to be dead but comes back to life. So he has a lot of history and a frightening plan.
What was the most enjoyable part of writing The Year of the Locust?
Writing ‘The End’! I never thought I would see the day so it was a very special moment. I think anyone who writes a novel ends up going on a journey and they often don’t know quite how long it will take or where it will lead them. Everyone who finishes it has that same feeling of relief and achievement. Of course it is quickly swamped by anxiety and fear that people will dislike or disparage it but for a few wonderful days you can enjoy the fact that it is finished and you created something unique.
Fans of your first novel are still calling for it to be made into a film or TV series. Is that something that is still in the works? Any thoughts on actors to assume your characters?
Yes, I get asked that by people a lot. I am certain Pilgrim will be made. It has taken a long time but that is often the way in Hollywood- all the stars have to align. Just two weeks ago I spent several hours on a Zoom call with a very well-known movie star and he is extraordinarily keen to play the lead role. I think he would be great! I am sworn to secrecy so all I can say is – watch this space!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Terry Hayes is a former journalist and screen-writer. Born in Sussex, England, he migrated to Australia as a child and trained as a journalist at the country’s leading broadsheet. At 21 he was appointed North American correspondent, based in New York, and after two years returned to Sydney to become an investigative reporter, political correspondent and columnist.
He resigned to produce a prominent current affairs radio program and a short time later, with George Miller, wrote the screenplay for Road Warrior/Mad Max 2. He also co-produced and wrote Dead Calm, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and TV movies and mini-series – including Bodyline and Bangkok Hilton.
After moving to Los Angeles he worked as a screen-writer on major studio productions. His credits include Payback with Mel Gibson, From Hell, starring Johnny Depp, and Vertical Limit with Chris O’Donnell. He has also done un-credited writing on a host of other movies including Reign of Fire, Cliffhangerand Flightplan, starring Jodie Foster.
The Year of the Locust is Terry Hayes’ second novel. His first, I Am Pilgrim was an international bestseller. He and his American wife – Kristen – have four children and live in Switzerland.