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Author Q&A For The Secret Bunker: The Four Quadrants
Q: This second book really ramps up the action, were did those new locations come from?
A: This is one of the reasons that I loved writing this book, it just expands massively from the claustrophobic and contained nature of book 1.
There's a wonderful freedom in being able to grow your ‘play area' as an author and when I was plotting the books, I wanted each one to become broader in scale and outlook.
So it was really exciting to do the research here and discover little known former nuclear bunkers around the world – it's surprising how many there are.
Because this is all a work of fiction, I don't need to visit the bunkers (though I'd love to!), I've completely made up how they look, even though a few core components are correct.
For instance, at Balaklava Bay, Crimea they did have the facility to launch submarines from that location.
It also suited the drama to have a facility in Beijing, I wanted all of the main super powers to be represented in the book to make the political backdrop credible.
Do take a look at the locations by the way, just like Scotland's Secret Bunker at Troywood in Fife, they look amazing:
Balaklava Bay, Crimea: More info here
Dixia Cheng, Beijing: More info here
White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia: More info here
Q: Why not just use Cheyenne Mountain like everybody else does?
A: I did use Cheyeene Mountain originally, but when I thought about it, I wanted to go off piste a bit.
We've all seen Cheyenne Mountain so many times on TV and in films, I really wanted some locations that were unfamiliar.
One of the most amazing things about Scotland's Secret Bunker is that it's in the middle of nowhere, they built this massive facility and nobody knew it was there.
So I wanted to go smaller and more parochial, to locations where the bunkers were hiding in plain sight.
In fact, that's a big theme of the book, things that are right in front of use and we can't even see them.
Q: This is where you got a bit creative with the real Secret Bunker I believe?
A: Yes, the real Secret Bunker doesn't have a lift.
It's like in book 1, I had to change the layout a bit for the main bunker doors, I needed Dan to be able to see Amy running towards him as they shut.
To be honest with yo, when I wrote the books, there were a few details that I just couldn't remember from my first visit to the bunker.
In the end, as this is fiction, it didn't really matter.
The key thing to capture was the mood of the place, the sense of threat and foreboding and the general layout.
You'd recognize Scotland's Secret Bunker entirely from the books, there are just a few key components I had to change to make things work dramatically.
In fact, on subsequent visits to the bunker in Fife, more than one person has told me about local rumours that there is a tunnel leading from the bunker (I wish I'd thought of that for when James leaves the bunker at the end of book 2!) and also that there are additional levels.
Who knows, maybe my trilogy is more of a premonition than a work of fiction 😉
Q: Was it intentional to be so cinematic about the books?
I love TV and films, this book is created directly as a result of my own love of dystopian sci-fi.
I read and watch stories like Divergent, The Hunger Games, Maze Runner and so on.
I can't turn the TV off when I'm in the middle of a series like Battlestar Galactica (the remake, though I was around for the original), Babylon 5 and Star Trek (all series except Voyager).
As a kid I went to see the original Star Wars film at the cinema and even then realised it was a game changer in terms of the realism of the effects.
Before that I'd read 2000AD comic (I had all the first editions, but threw them all out!), I watched Land of the Giants, The Fantastic Journey, the original Planet of the Apes and many, many more.
And I still remember watching the first Terminator film on VHS, and just like the Star Wars movie, realising that film-[based story telling had just taken a giant leap forwards.
So yes, this book was created by a mind that's been exposed to far too much of this stuff – but doesn't care anyway 🙂
I can't get enough of dystopian sci-fi and I love writing about it too.
Q: What inspired the new characters in this book?
A: I loved creating new characters for this book, and developing the familiar characters in from Darkness Falls.
Book 1 is very mysterious, we only really get a feel for Dan.
I loved writing book 2 because it becomes more of an ensemble piece, and although Dan is still the ‘heart' of the story, it's great that he gets new people to interact with.
Without getting too political about things, I wanted to have some really strong, kick-ass women in this story.
George R.R. Martin gave a great quote about this topic and I couldn't agree more!
I intentionally had no romance in this book and you shouldn't be able to differentiate the actions of the guys from the gals, other than via their names/gender identity.
I also made no reference to racial identity, these roles could be played by anybody in a film, because it's a story about normal people, in extraordinary circumstances.
Xiang: Super-clever scientist, passionately involved in her work and desperate to help Dan
Viktor: Shady character with a highly dubious past, is he on the side of good or evil … or both?
Magnus: More than a geek, he's also cool, calm and in control, but his soul is damaged from things that he agreed to in his past.
Amy: Passionate about her family and not scared to defend them at whatever cost. We know from her military past and previous accident that she has guts and resiliance.
Mike: Becomes super-cool in book 2. Kids see their parents as so ‘uncool' most of the time, yet often they were cooler than their own kids in their day. That's Mike in book 2, he comes into his own in this book.
Dr Pierce: Spoiler alert! I'm not saying anything until the book 3 Q&A 🙂
Nat: Same again!
Simon: We have more to learn about Simon, I wanted to leave readers unclear as to what he's up to.
Kate: Very few people in life are just ‘good' or evil' and with Kate I got to play around with this over books 1, 2 and 3.
James: All I can say to James is ‘Sorry James, but somebody had to be the fall guy for lots of the action in this book!'
This ensemble feel gets ever stronger in book 3, but you're never in any doubt that this is Dan's story.
Q: Why does each book end on a cliffhanger?
A: I like films and series to take my breath away.
At the end I want to be desperate for more, if a book/film/series does that, it's got my full attention.
I know cliffhangers are deadly, but I didn't want the books to fizzle out.
They're a trilogy, you need to read all three books, they were conceived that way.
However – and it's a big ‘however' – I also hate it when I don't get resolution when I'm following a series.
Think ‘X-Files', ‘The Sopranos' and ‘Dexter' … what the heck were they thinking with those endings?
The best ending I ever saw to a series was ‘Six Feet Under', now that's how you wrap up a series!
(This makes me cry every time I watch it, I went straight out and bought ‘Breathe me' by Sia)
Watch the video here.
When I finished book 3 I was thinking of that ending, I wanted to give readers who'd followed Dan's journey the same sense of resolution and satisfaction that the writers of ‘Six Feet Under' did.
More on this in the next Q&A, but I hope I did this, certainly from my point of view as a writer I felt like I tidied up all of the loose ends.
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