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Sunday 6 June 2021

H N Wake interviewed by Jill Amadio

Two Blazing Hot Series Heat Up
H N Wake’s Writings

 With a career in the U.S. State Department overseas in exotic locales it’s not surprising that spies, intrigue, sabotage, conspiracy, murder, and mystery become gripping, action-packed staples for an author’s work. H.N. Wake’s years with the diplomatic corps in Africa, Asia, and the United Kingdom has provided her with plenty of raw material for her books.

 One of the most exciting of the 21st century thriller writers her books and novellas plunge readers into South-East Asian settings including Macau, Borneo, Hong Kong and other international environments that are far more chilling than those encountered by the casual tourist.


Wake’s two gripping, tension-filled series are built upon her personal experiences. The Mac Ambrose books star a 20-year CIA veteran while the Domini Walker series features an FBI Special Agent. Both are females.
“Those main characters are a part of me, and I draw a lot of traits from very smart, committed, strong and career-oriented girlfriends. My sister is a big proponent of morals and ethics being what you do in the dark when no one is looking. That mantra is absolutely at the core of my characters”.  Although the Dom books are set in America Wake brings a dash of foreign flavor into them. “Sound of a Furious Sky,” for instance, takes place in the New York metropolitan area, Wake’s hometown, but with a Honduran undertone.

Leaning heavily on personal experiences Wake agrees that parts of her crime-solving sleuths and other characters come from her, her friends, and undoubtedly her former work colleagues.

Wake’s first attempt at writing was a screenplay influenced by Hollywood writers and directors she met along the way, finding their creative work fascinating.
“It was so different from my early background in the State Department. I have always carried around some demons from my past that I wanted to exorcise and in listening to them I wondered if writing that story would help. One night I downloaded Scrivener [a writer’s outliner aid] and started typing”.
The screenplay was completed in a month and sent to a friend who stayed up all night to read it, phoning to tell Wake, ‘You have a voice. You can’t stop writing”.

 After the call Wake took her dog for a long walk and had a quiet cry.
“I think I’d found something I didn’t know I owned. Or the freedom”, she said. “Or the joy of sharing. Maybe all of it swirling in some miasmic fog. At that moment I knew I could never go back”.

Wake’s need to relieve her psyche and perhaps banish bad memories of her real-life secrets and events has resulted, happily for fans, in turning to writing thrillers after years of reading them. And finding them easier to write than mysteries.

“In a thriller the protagonist has an agency moving the story forward. In a mystery the protagonist is discovering new clues or evidence and piecing it together. It’s a backward-looking story. I like both aspects and try to combine them in my novels”.

To create her character’s, she fleshes them out in her mind first then allows them to address the plot junctures on their own, asking herself, what would Mac or Dom do in this situation? The author characterizes Dom, the FBI agent, as ballsy and action-oriented but also filled with insecurity, which helps to define her decisions. Wake’s other sleuth, Mac, is super-ethical, making writing her decisions, she said, audacious and easy.  Research is a

necessity for mystery writers and Wake is no exception.
“I’m a Google queen. It’s amazing what you can discover in an hour.  For example, I’d never held a gun in my life but I found out all I needed to know about a Glock. Thriller readers are a picky and smart bunch. I had some folks reach out to me to correct some of the stuff I tried to make up. It’s awesome. I absolutely appreciate that kind of engagement”.

While she finds Google maps a game-changer Wake also taps a couple of what she calls “sneaky insiders in the FBI and military that I can ping questions to”. The most difficult part of writing thrillers?

“The number one challenge is making everything realistic. I demand that as a reader so I have to get that right as a writer. The second challenge is the subplots. I have always loved a book that has twisty subplots that come together in a crashing bang. They are fun to write but they can also be tricky. You have to line up the timing and the ‘Aha!’ moments so that you bring the reader along. Scrivener is a godsend for this type of writing as you can move color coded chapters around willy-nilly with the stickers on a wall so that it hits the beats as the story progresses”. She may stand staring at that wall for a month before sitting down and typing.

A few of the books in her series are novellas.
“I wrote my first novella because I wanted to clear my head, like a lime sorbet between meal courses. Novellas are actually more work than you’d imagine. It is a whole different way of plotting. It has to be so tight. And only one subplot. I love novellas! But I also get absolutely jazzed when I finish a full-length novel.”

Wake still has her day job, waking up at 5 a.m. to write for two hours.
“I love getting into that flow zone when you lose your sense of time. It’s said that it helps you perform well the rest of the day, something about brain muscles. For me, that’s true. The days I hit it when I’m writing can be really productive day-job-wise. A win-win”.

 She suffered from writer’s block last year.
“2020 was an absolute bitch. I found it very difficult to write. I’m so glad that chapter is coming to a close”.

As for Wake’s publishing history she first attempted the arduous and unnerving journey to find an agent for her screenplay. Simultaneously, she said she sniffed around at going indie.
“It changed my life’s trajectory. I decided to write novels so that I could eventually be my own boss and have my own business. I have editors, proof readers, beta readers. I have a virtual assistant that helps with marketing. I’ve set up a separate LLC and have an awesome ten-year strategy. I have total freedom. Everyone’s mileage may vary but for me, right now, indie is the best way”. 

Advice to fellow writers?
“Run, don’t walk to the Facebook group, an amazing open, warm community. Also, download Scrivener.”

With unbounded enthusiasm Wake has now turned her writing skills to science fiction under the pen name, Isla Molina.
“It’s super fun! The world-building is a blast, but I’m keeping the strong female protagonist voice ‘cause, well, that’s just who I am”.

 No denying that as her books demonstrate loud and clear.
Here is a list of
  Books by H N Wake

FBI Agent Domini Walker

  Sound of a Furious Sky
Hidden in the Silence
Secrets of the Angels

Mac Ambrose

A Spy Came Home
Ghosts in Macau
Deceits of Borneo

Eye of the Tempest
Serpents in the City

 Jill Amadio hails from Cornwall, U.K, like the character in her crime series, Jill was a reporter in Spain,   Colombia, Thailand, and the U.S. She is a true crime author, ghosted a thriller, writes a column for Mystery People ezine, and freelances for My Cornwall magazine.  She lives in America.  Her most recent book is   Digging up the Dead

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