My guest is Michael Beck, author of KILLPOINT, a terrific, action-filled thriller. I couldn’t put the book down and alternated between laughing out loud at the wise-cracking protagonist and holding my breath.
How did you settle on Mark Tanner as your protagonist?
I wanted to create a character that I would like to read about. A person with admirable character traits but with flaws like a real person. I enjoy reading books where the characters display a dry, irreverent humour so I wanted to create a character who displayed these qualities. I have a keen interest in sport which is why I gave Tanner a Fitness Trainer background. As they say, it’s always easier to write what you know.
How much of you is in Tanner?
My wife tells me only the smart-ass side! Seriously, Tanner loses his temper very easily whereas I have a very laid-back personality. I like to think the loyalty and protective streak Tanner has towards his friends and family is something I also hold pretty strongly. Tanner and I share a love of physical fitness but these days I can only dream of running half as well as Tanner!
Even the minor characters are well developed and interesting.
I had a lot of fun writing all the minor characters and was conscious of trying to make each one real and memorable.
Tanner has an irreverent sense of humor. He made me laugh.
Her grip was firm and calloused—not like a girl’s at all.
“You don’t look like a fitness trainer,” she said.
“My spandex shorts are in the car.”
“Somehow, I doubt that.” She looked me up and down. “In fact, I bet you have never even owned anything made of spandex in your life. Would I be right?”
“I have a blow up girl with a spandex bra but it’s not something I like to mention in mixed company.”
Do you share Tanner’s sense of humor? Do his smart answers come naturally to you?
I have always had a cheeky way at looking at things. For this reason I found Tanner really easy to write. The dialogue/ humour almost wrote itself. In fact, the chapter which contains this paragraph (where Tanner first meets Brooke Wentworth) quoted above was one of the first scenes I wrote and was not written sequentially. I wrote this chapter before the earlier chapters as the whole scene and dialogue came to me like it was already written in my head. When I’m writing Tanner’s dialogue I hardly have to think what he is going to say at all. He just seems to write himself.
Funnily enough, my family don’t find me funny at all. Like dads everywhere, all I get from my own children is a lot of eye-rolling!
Tanner’s attitude toward fitness borders on extreme. Do you share his enthusiasm?
Yes, I have always been a fitness enthusiast. I have always enjoyed running and hitting the gym. I have been heavily involved in a lot of sports such as Australian Rules Football, squash, skiing, ice-hockey, inline hockey, flatwater and whitewater kayaking. This was probably the reason it took me so long to finally write my first novel. I was just too damned busy!
In the book, Tanner’s not too fond of tennis.
Thunk. “The only way you could get me to a tennis match is if I was in a coma, completely paralyzed and with severe brain damage.” I paused to consider. “No. Even then, I’d find a way to escape.”
Tanner seems to know a good bit about it in spite of his opinion. Michael, are you a tennis fan?
My family find Tanner’s hate of tennis quite funny as I seem to spend most of my spare time driving my kids from one tennis tournament to another. So it was quite easy sending up tennis as I know the sport so intimately. Indeed, much of Killpoint was written while I was actually at tennis tournaments, either in a clubhouse during rain delays or, when the words were really flowing, in between points during matches. In fact, the whole story line of Killpoint came to me during a ten hour drive to a tennis tournament! I drove with a pad on my lap and was madly scribbling down ideas as they occurred to me. By the time I arrived most of the plot of Killpoint was done.
Some of Tan’s problems stem from his experiences in the Middle East. The descriptions are so real, it’s hard to believe you imagined it. Were you there? Aussie or U.S.?
No, I’ve never been to the Middle East. I suppose that’s the beauty of the internet and the extensive media coverage of today’s world. You can go anywhere and see anything and not leave your own living-room. I have always had an interest in military history and I found all of the scenes in Afghanistan very easy to write. In fact, you might find it interesting that I wrote all of the Afghanistan scenes first, almost like a mini war-story before I even started the main story line that occurs in the US.
Your bio says married, seven children. When do you find time to write?
It’s not easy! I write a lot at night when my kids are in bed. I am very much a night owl so it is not uncommon for me to be up until 2am. I have to write whenever and wherever I can because I don’t have much time at home. I am not one of those writers who needs solitude to write. In fact, here’s a tip. At home (when my kids are up and the place is as noisy as a frat house) I often wear soundproof headphones when I write! As I said earlier, I write a lot at tennis tournaments. Guess where I am right now? Yes, I am writing this while watching my daughter play tennis!
Your bio says you live in Australia, but the book is set in New York. Have you lived or spent much time there?
I have only spent three weeks in the States a good twenty years ago. I would love to spend more time there but work and family haven’t allowed this.
What does your wife think of Tan?
She loves him. She likes his humour and his obsessive loyalty to family.
Does she read as you write?
No. I don’t like anyone reading my books until they are actually finished. When I am finished she will proofread and give me suggestions. My wife is great in that she will tell me what she really thinks so I always know I am getting honest feedback.
Actually, my dislike of people reading my work before it’s ready is a bit of a running joke between my wife and I. Jenny knows that this really annoys me and will often walk past behind me and try to read what I have written and I will always click off the screen so she can’t read it.
This reminds me of the first time Jenny read one of my books, which happened to be Killpoint. Do you remember the very funny film, Funny Farm? Where Chevy Chase gives up his job and moves to the country to write a book. And when he shows it to his wife she just cries and cries because it was so bad? Well, my wife Jenny was really nervous that this might be her reaction when she read Killpoint. She was so relieved when she had read the first few pages (and actually liked it!) she couldn’t stop congratulating me. I’d never seen anyone so relieved!
Are you working on another Mark Tanner book?
I have finished the sequel to Killpoint and it should be out by the end of the year.
Can you tell us a bit about it?
In the sequel (which, at the moment, is titled Pump Fake) we find out what actually happened to Tanner’s parents. The question of who killed them and why is finally answered.
In PumpFake, Tanner is also dragged into the world of professional football when his ex-girlfriend, Liz, asks him to find out who is trying to destroy the career of her current boyfriend, who just happens to be the quarterback for the New York Jets. Tanner must enter the world of professional football, in the guise of a player no less, to discover who would want to kill the Jet’s quarterback. Tanner follows a tantalising trail, that leads across time and distance, to a small cabin nestled deep in the Rockies. Every year, five care-free, teenage friends make the pilgrimage to the cabin for Thanksgiving. That was until eleven years ago. That year only four came back. Tanner discovers that bad luck and death have followed all the survivors of that Thanksgiving weekend. What did the death of a sixteen year old girl eleven years ago have to do with a famous quarterback from the New York Jets? More importantly, who was killing off the teenage friends?
Tanner also discovers that his parents weren’t the only ones murdered in such a gruesome manner fourteen years ago. He traces the dark steps of the killer, (dubbed Cupid for a reason beyond imagining), which leads to a final revelation that horrifies and angers Tanner to the core of his being.
In Pump Fake, Tanner’s obsession for the truth leads to two mysteries, both linked deeply to the past and both likely to kill him.
Michael Beck grew up in Melbourne, Australia. With a passion for adventure and the outdoors most of Michael Beck’s life has been devoted to pursuing his love of extreme sports. He is a qualified whitewater Instructor and has spent many years exploring Australia’s wild, remote rivers. His love of photography and writing led him to have some of these exploits published. He is an expert skier, has represented his country in inline hockey and has a bachelor of education degree.
Michael Beck resides in Victoria, Australia, with his wife and seven children.
Watch for the excerpt from KILLPOINT on Saturday, April 13. You won't want to miss it!