Someone asked me the other day, writing the GMJ Books, does that affect me in any way? It is a good question, actually. I dislike, intensely, to read my non-fiction autobiography books simply because they do affect me. I go back to the mode I was in during that time period and I become what I tried hard for two decades now not to be. You must also remember; the GMJ stories are based on reality so it takes something from me – more in what to leave out to protect people. Having said that, the GMJ Books are fun to write, it is not work and I do not suffer from what is known as “writer’s block.” Perhaps I am just lucky but first I get the idea, and then they idea grows and soon my fingers talk to the keyboard.
When I write, I type twelve to fourteen hours a day with short breaks for coffee, to make food, watch television for an hour and a daily walk. I write from about 07h30 to 16h00 and then rehearse (go through) what I wrote at night. And tomorrow is the same and soon you have 250 – 300 pages but it really depends on the story. And it takes about two to three weeks before the editor has it. The cover will be guided by the story and unlike many I do not plan the book, it writes itself which is why there are surprising turns in the plot. Sometimes they repeat, unfortunately, I have to explain in each book the premises they are based on and that takes about twenty pages – why, because each book can be read separately. We should never assume that the reader read every book and would know what happened. So in that sense it repeats (not word for word) and it cannot be helped.
But do they affect me? Yes, in certain ways and with readers. I do write jokes in the books which makes me laugh because they take the Mickey out of myself writing them. See if you can spot them, it is funny. Of course, whenever a lawyer is involved, it is a joke aimed at me. There are other examples also. Some of the loyal readers, I know a few that read every GMJ Book (thank you), and they say to me – “I was driving home from work, and I listened to Angelique’s songs!” Okay, in the books Angelique Dawson (she is based on a real person as is all the characters) has two songs she always refers to. The first, and she whistles it whenever she is busy with some shenanigans (like winning a sniper competition against Foxtrot who has to cheat to win) “Always a woman to me” by Billy Joel.
We came to this song because of the lyrics which describes her so well “And she never gives in, She just changes her mind.” That is Angelique Dawson, Mrs “Always Right” and she is dangerous which brings us to her second song “Dangerous” by Roxette, the Swedish super group in the eighties when the characters (and I) were young people. When I hear these songs, I think… “Angelique” and look around to where she is. Of course, Angelique will always remind the reader or Foxtrot (I feel sorry for him at times, he is abused with garlic and her “otherwise” behaviour) she is “not a little bit dangerous” and my word, she is not. She is as dangerous as any of the men and more because she is smarter by far.
Then, flares. Every reader will know Angelique loves shooting flares more than anything else in life, into the air, at people (her twins once remarked they felt homesick when French Navy instructors shot at them with flares, it reminded them of their mom). Whenever I play Solitaire, and I win, you see flares exploding on the screen. Then I think… “Angelique” and I smile. Also where I see an actual flare going up, I can see her smirking and standing with hand stuck out waiting for another (Foxtrot almost spit in her hand, a schoolboy prank, in Books 15, Code Name Blue Tang which will be out end of November 2015). Yep, I doubt if she would have taken kindly to that and her reaction entirely predictable (violent) – although she admits in this book and others she always misses on purpose where he is involved, her soul and future husband.
Flares are also involved in one of the most romantic scenes in the entire series. In Code Name Angel (the first book where Angelique really features – they recover lost nukes) she fires three flares and twists into Foxtrot’s arms to give him an unexpected Christmas kiss. That was the first time she showed emotion, such kind of emotion, physically towards him. Yet the feedback I get, is that Code Name Foxtrot is the most romantic book of them all - where Foxtrot takes revenge for the death of his wife, Marwa and Angelique’s husband also passes and they help each other in their grief. It is also the shortest book, only 203 pages. I am told that Code Name Dawson (the end of the Egg Breaker War) is great because they become a family, she is seen getting home, pregnant and re-joining Foxtrot. Originally, the Series would have ended there, at book 5, those who know me would have noted the dates and know why. But then I got requests on what happened to them before the Egg Breaker War and so we are now ten books further with no end in sight, really.
As you write the characters grow on you. Intriguing is how many asked that Foxtrot and Geelslang “flashback” to the eighties and their Special Forces days as we did with Code Name Missa 72 (a genuinely great read). Most also wants to know more about Geelslang Peter Ndebele and the Zulu Nation in general. Of all the characters, Geelslang is the one most asked about – unfortunately, you will need to read the books – his details are in small parts in all of them to form a complete picture. I don’t know if we will flashback to the eighties, as explained, the stories write themselves. It may or may not but I can tell you, those three will never die in my books and there is always a happy ending. We live in hard enough times. Sad endings, yeah I get that it is “arty” and to me just so much crap – I don’t like sad endings, not in books, not in life and not in movies. So, no sad endings for GMJ Books and if that makes them predictable, so be it.
Lastly, whenever I see something blown up, I automatically think Geelslang or Angelique and I recall them cheating well within the rules to get the rights to blow a quarry to repair a runway in Code Name Cadillac. And yes, I was laughing aloud when I rehearsed the section, it was vintage Angelique doing the lads in to get the right to set the charges. She will always win, she is very much my late wife in this regard. I remember when I wrote Code Name Vfo565 and Code Name Pour Angelique, the cover designer said to me - she is your wife. Well, she is, she has the same eyes, green, same hair, and same smile. Perhaps I did write her like that and there is a real Angelique out there too – she puts the fear of God into me at times. It is great fun, these stories and most ask if it is for real (a great honor). I explained that aspect in other blogs.
Most readers also become part of the Series, I remember when Angelique got wounded, shot in the arm in Code Name Phoenix (sometimes wrongly attributed as Code Name Lise in books) she was showing her pregnancy (about 5 months) and two female readers asked: “What the F is wrong with you? She is pregnant!” Yes, that proved to me the books are entirely believable. In my defense, I did get medical opinion beforehand, and unlike real life, here I have control. I knew she would not die.