Noel Hynd is the author of twenty published books, mostly thrillers. He has millions of copies of his books in print worldwide.
The title is Midnight in Madrid. It’s part of a trilogy of thrillers, called The Russian Trilogy, that I’ve written for Zondervan. My heroine, U.S. Treasury agent Alexandra LaDuca ( who debuted in Conspiracy in Kiev) is back crisscrossing Europe. This time she’s in pursuit of an ancient relic stolen from a Madrid museum and the secrets behind its theft. The stolen artwork is a piece of ancient Christian sculpture, a small carving called The Pietà of Malta. Simple assignment? No way. The mysteries and legends surrounding the relic become increasingly complex with claims of supernatural power.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Dashiell Hammett so within this story there was a little homage to classic detective and suspense fiction like The Maltese Falcon. Anyway, I take the reader on a nonstop chase through a modern world of terrorists, art thieves, and cold-blooded killers. A lot of action, adventure and espionage with Christian philosophical themes woven in.
How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?
As I said, it’s part of a trilogy, the second book. The central story in the trilogy is Alex’s relationship with a Russian gangster named Yuri Federov. So there are important events here concerning him, too. No real “what if” moment. I was in Madrid several years ago and really liked the city. So I always wanted to use that as a backdrop. Spanish politics in the 20th Century have fascinated me, also. For better or worse, I can remember Franco quite well.
Tell us a little about your main character and how you developed him/her:
Got a few hours? I wanted to create an exciting female character who spoke several languages, can use a gun, use her femininity, use her brain and zip around the world as sort of a female Jason Bourne. (Robert Ludlum and I had the same editor and publisher many years ago and I had the occasion to meet and chat with RL many times.) Then, to some degree, I let Alex do what I can’t do. I went to school in Europe (Switzerland) for a while and always admired the way Europeans can slip in and out of another language almost in mid-syllable. I can speak French okay, and I’m working on my Spanish, but Alex puts me to shame. ;-)
What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Least?
Aside from getting paid to write it? ;-)
I suppose I enjoyed vicariously revisiting parts of the world ---- Switzerland, Italy, Spain --- where I haven’t been for a while. My characters from Conspiracy in Kiev emerged a bit more here, too. That was fun. The Zondervan folks always come up with cool jacket art, too. It’s always fun when that happens and you think, WOW, my struggling words have become a visual reality.
What made you start writing?
My father, Alan Hynd, was a true crime writer in the 1940’s and 1950’s. He was an expert on crooks and con men. He got poisoned once by some bad guys who didn’t like some stuff he wrote, threatened all the time, and infuriated a number of people with his theories of why the Lindberg kidnapping case (and some other high profile case) would never been solved. (Official corruption and/or incompetent police work were often the reasons) So I went into the family biz, so to speak, but figured it would be a little healthier to stick to fiction.
What does your writing space look like?
LOL. You wouldn’t want to see it. It’s a mess. Or it looks like a mess to anyone else. I know where everything is, or like to think I do, but there are papers all over, boxes of books, notes and print-outs of the current ms on my desk.
I live in Culver City, California, near Los Angeles, so the weather is good, but there’s a mental health clinic across the street which I look at from my window. Sometimes I think I should be over there. We (my very cool wife and I) have three cats, or more accurately, the three cats have us. Sometimes they wander in to distract me. I enclosed a shot of Wendy, looking skeptically at one of my books.
What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?
I either run or swim five days a week. I’m a sucker for baseball (The Yankees) and English soccer (Arsenal).
What's the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your novel journey)?
Frankly, in the past, dealing with publishers and some of the sneaky incompetent stunts they pull. I won’t bother to elaborate. The current people, Zondervan, are great, however, and not just because they just gave me a new contract for a second trilogy. After three decades of getting published, it’s a new experience to actually like one’s publishing house.
Do you put yourself into your books/characters?
Every author does, whether he/she is conscious of it or not. Likes, dislikes, skills, background. Sometimes an author reveals just a little too much. Oh, and then there are the personal stories people have told you that you just sorta-kinda work into your text. Got to be careful with that one.
What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?
I write to entertain people, to give them a good exciting fast-paced read, and a character they can feel good about and cheer along. I like to sprinkle that with some accurate history and world politics (how things work or why things don’t work) and throw in some spiritual stuff to think about also.
Alex is readily identifiable as a Christian (I’m a member of an Episcopalian church) and I think she reflects many of my views as well as view that readers of all faiths will be sympathetic took. I get nice e-mails (NH1212f@yahoo.com) from Islamic and Jewish readers as well as Christian, and also from people who might observe no religion at all. So I think I’m hitting certain themes of human decency…..but keeping the story cooking at the same time.
Briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision.
It’s a little like traveling from Moscow to Rome by crawling on your knees. I somehow torture a first draft out of myself, usually about 425 pages. It’s supposed to be 100,000 words and it would make my life easier if I could hit that mark, but I always seem to run past by about 15,000. This takes several months and that’s considered quick.
The first draft might get re-written 7 or 8 times in some spots. Then it goes to my editor for his first run at it, then back to me for more revisions, then back to him, then often back to me, then to a second editor who picks up all the stuff that we/I left dangling the first few times.
One is constantly revising…..Then sometimes you look at the final book and you think, uh, oh, should have revised some more.
What are a few of your favorite books (not written by you) and why are they favorites?
Just off the top of my head, The Great Gatsby, A Moveable Feast, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I also love a current series of French graphic novels called Djinn, written by a Belgian named Jean Dufaux and an absolutely fabulous Spanish artist named Ana Miralles. All of these works have wonderful atmosphere, character and story telling. Another lifelong favorite is The Year The Yankees Lost The Pennant, the novel that Damn Yankees! was based on.
What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?
From a business standpoint, I wish I’d known better how to handle that end of it better. Also, having a better view of where one is going in a book would have saved a lot of early revisions. But one never knows completely. It’s always a learning experience.
How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?
When my first novel (Revenge, 1976) was published, it was reviewed in 50 places. Newspaper and magazine book pages have disappeared over the years. Internet is hugely important now. In terms of what works for me, I try to respond to absolutely everything I receive from readers. Being an author is like running for mayor. You might or might not have a big ad budget but the person-to-person thing remains the most important.
Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on?
After finishing The Russian Trilogy with Countdown in Cairo, which Zondervan will publish in January of 2010, I’m down for a new “Cuban” trilogy which will take place in Cuba, Central America and the US. Same heroine, Alex, and plenty of new trouble for her.
Do you have any parting words of advice?
Rush to the Zondervan web site or Amazon.com and order one of my books. Do it now before your server crashes. Is that too self-serving? ;-)