Monday, September 22, 2014

A Conversation with Author Nick Pengelley

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Nick Pengelley
with Nick Pengelley

We are delighted to welcome author Nick Pengelley to Omnimystery News today, courtesy of TLC Book Tours, which is coordinating his current book tour. We encourage you to visit all of the participating host sites; you can find his schedule here.

Nick introduces academic researcher Ayesha Ryder in the thriller Ryder (Alibi; September 2014 ebook formats) and we recently had the chance to talk with him more about the book and its lead character.

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Omnimystery News: Introduce us to Ayesha Ryder.

Nick Pengelley
Photo provided courtesy of
Nick Pengelley

Nick Pengelley: Ayesha Ryder's past is shrouded in mystery. Palestinian, she grew up in the Gaza Strip, subjected to trauma and violence — which she soon learned to turn on others.

Ayesha, now a respected academic, has a skill set unlike any of her peers — the legacy of her dark past. Decades have passed since she last put these skills to use. They have not rusted with time — as a vicious assassin discovers when he tortures and murders the only man she ever loved. Adventure follows adventure as Ayesha combines her talents as a researcher, her knowledge of the Middle East, and the lethal abilities of a ruthless commando, in the pursuit of long hidden, and deadly, secrets.

Ayesha Ryder appeals to me because she is a complex character around whom I can build multiple stories. She has a dark, twisted, past, that has left its mark on her in numerous ways. She had stellar academic credentials, but she is also highly skilled in the use of deadly weapons, and in hand to hand combat. Ayesha is a loner, yet she craves society. She loves history I love — the Middle East, modern British and European — and, through her, I get to show the world (or anyone who reads Ayesha's adventures), something of the lessons that history can teach us (although seldom does).

OMN: As a male writer, do you find it difficult to find the right voice for a female protagonist?

NP: I've always related to women more than men — they're much better communicators, and empathetic! I don't find it a challenge to write a female character — it feels more natural than it would be for me to write a man. I also doubt that it matters to readers, although I'd like to hear what people think.

OMN: Into which fiction genre would you place Ryder?

NP: Thriller/Adventure seems the most appropriate fit. I never think in such categories myself. If asked to compare with other works of fiction I'd say I'm Dan Brown meets John Buchan with a strong dash of Peter O'Donnell (Modesty Blaise).

OMN: Tell us something about Ryder that isn't mentioned in the publisher's synopsis.

NP: There are undiscovered Roman catacombs beneath London.

OMN: How would you tweet a summary of the book?

NP: Palestinian Ayesha Ryder battles terrorists in London while solving clues left by Lawrence of Arabia to save Middle East peace.

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience have you included in the book?

NP: The Middle East — its peoples, politics, cultures, and religions — have long fascinated me. Probably since, as a child, I saw the movie Lawrence of Arabia. While I have read a great deal on these subjects, none of the characters in the series are based on my own experiences, or those of people I know. I do know London very well — it's my favourite city — which is why much of the action in the series takes place there. As to whether anything in the books is based on real events — or what could be real events — I'd simply say, "read the news".

OMN: Describe your writing process for us.

NP: I develop a first, basic idea for a plot. Then I flesh it out and develop sub-plots. Then I outline the chapters, "growing" them and expanding them until I'm fairly happy with what I have. Then I start writing the story, chapter by chapter. The cast remains much as expected at the outset, although new minor characters always invent themselves.

OMN: And where might we typically find you writing?

NP: I love writing, but it's a lonely activity. I can't write at home — too many chores call to me, and it's too quiet. So I write in local bars and cafés. I like to be able to look up from the screen and see people and life around me. To interact with baristas and bartenders. And I need noise. Preferably loud classic rock. I can tune it out, and get totally absorbed in my writing, but I cannot work in a "zone of silence".

OMN: How do you go about researching the plot points of your stories?

NP: The Internet! Thank heaven for it! When I think of the things I research in seconds for my books, and how much time I'd spend in libraries trying to find the same information (even if that were possible), I shudder. Weapons — I know nothing about them. What, for instance, is the difference between a pistol and a revolver? What type of gun would be used by a British policeman? How does one use a longbow? How do you build a pipe-bomb? What time is sunrise in May. in London? Where would I position a sniper to take out someone on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral? If my Google searches were monitored by a counter-terrorism agency, I'm likely headed for Guantamo Bay!

OMN: How true are you to the settings in your books?

NP: My books are set mostly in London, or other UK locales. I'm mostly true to the settings, taking liberties where necessary and appropriate. My key fictional location is the Walsingham Institute for Oriental Studies, where Ayesha Ryder works. In Ayesha's world it is located at 1 Seething Lane, next to St. Olave's church, where Samuel Pepys is buried, not far from the Tower of London and St. Paul's. Actually a nondescript hotel stands on the site. I prefer Ayesha's world!

OMN: If you could travel — all expenses paid — to anywhere in the world to research the setting for a book, where would it be?

NP: London. London. London. Because it's the greatest city in the world!

OMN: What are some of your outside interests? And do any of these find their way into your stories?

NP: Reading. I think my love of books and libraries comes through in the books of the Ryder series.

OMN: What is the best advice — and harshest criticism — you've received as an author?

NP: The best, and harshest, advice I ever received was to be told that what I'd written was crap. I was VERY lucky to receive this advice. Authors crave feedback, but only the lucky ones get honest feedback — something close friends and relatives are reluctant to do, because it can hurt. My best advice is to develop a thick skin and find people you trust who will tell you honestly what they think. Then act on that advice. Don't get defensive. Accept it for what it is and welcome it.

Also, choose an author/book you love, and whom you'd love to emulate in your own writing. Then pick his/her book apart — don't read it — deconstruct it. Analyze how they introduce and describe characters. How do they move the plot along? How do they describe rooms, and movement?

Read books about writing — or take a course. Learn the rules and conventions.

Edit and edit and cut and cut.

OMN: Complete this sentence for us: "I am a mystery/adventure author and thus I am also …".

NP: I am a mystery/adventure author and thus I am also someone who needs to earn an income! In my spare time from writing I am a legal consultant for a major US law firm, advising on the legal regimes of the Australasia-Pacific region.

OMN: Were you involved with the design of the cover? And how about the title?

NP: I love the book cover designs that Random House has come up with — they hark back, I think, to the 60s and earlier thriller adventures that are so much part of my inspiration — particularly Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, and the Modesty Blaise stores of Peter O'Donnell. The title of the first book went through many permutations — "Traitors' Gate" was a favourite, where the penultimate action takes place at The Tower of London. "Ryder" just seemed to click.

OMN: What kinds of books did you read when you were young?

NP: I grew up in Australia reading adventure books by Enid Blyton, then the Biggles books of W.E. Johns. From there I graduated to the great Empire adventure/thriller authors — John Buchan, Dornford Yates, Edgar Wallace, Sapper (Bulldog Drummond), Rider Haggard, Sax Rohmer, Leslie Charteris (The Saint), Ian Fleming, Peter O'Donnell (Modesty Blaise). I've re-read these people all my life and they've had a great influence on my own writing.

OMN: What do you read now for pleasure?

NP: Oddly, since starting to write fiction, I have now become almost exclusively a reader of non-fiction. Partly it's a realization that I need to know so much more real history in order to write about it believably. Partly it's a realization that life is always more exciting than fiction. Of the few fiction authors I still read (apart from re-reading old favourites), Alan Faust's espionage/thrillers set in the murky world of 1930s Europe are undoubtedly favourites.

OMN: Do you enjoy watching movies?

NP: I enjoy a wide variety of films. All time favourites include Lawrence of Arabia, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon and North By Northwest. I'm a fan of great fan of time-travel type romances, like Somewhere in Time. Lawrence of Arabia and The Maltese Falcon in particular have influenced my writing — as any reader of the first three books in the Ryder series will be able to attest.

OMN: If your series were to be adapted for television or film, who do you see playing the part of Ayesha Ryder?

NP: I love the image of Ayesha Ryder on the first two book covers designed by Random House. If the model they used is an actress I'd love to see her in the part. Otherwise people seem to think Angelina Jolie would be an obvious choice. Personally. I'd like to see Jaime Murray in the part; people would know her from her role as Helena G. Wells, in Warehouse 13, among others.

OMN: Create a Top 5 list for us on any topic.

NP: Top 5 favorite fiction books …

• Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose;
• John Buchan: The Three Hostages;
• Elizabeth Kostova: The Historian;
• Edgar Wallace: The Four Just Men; and
• Henry Rider Haggard: She.

OMN: What's next for you?

NP: Writing, always writing! Coming up with ideas for the fourth novel in the Ryder series, and for a second series, set in the 1930s/40s, and featuring Lady Madrigal Carey, Ayesha's close friend and confidant.

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Nick Pengelley Book Tour

Australian by birth, Nick Pengelley has had careers in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom as a law professor, legal consultant, and analyst on Middle East politics, which is his passion. Pengelley lives in Toronto with his wife, Pamela.

For more information about the author, please visit his website at or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Ryder by Nick Pengelley

Nick Pengelley
An Ayesha Ryder Novel

Ayesha Ryder bears the scars of strife in the Middle East. Now her past is catching up to her as she races to unravel a mystery that spans centuries — and threatens to change the course of history.

As Israeli and Palestinian leaders prepare to make a joint announcement at the Tower of London, an influential scholar is tortured and murdered in his well-appointed home in St. John's Wood. Academic researcher Ayesha Ryder believes the killing is no coincidence. Sir Evelyn Montagu had unearthed shocking revelations about T. E. Lawrence — the famed Lawrence of Arabia. Could Montagu have been targeted because of his discoveries?

Ryder's search for answers takes her back to her old life in the Middle East and into a lion's den of killers and traitors. As she draws the attention of agents from both sides of the conflict, including detectives from Scotland Yard and MI5, Ryder stumbles deeper into Lawrence's secrets, an astounding case of royal blackmail, even the search for the Bible's lost Ark of the Covenant.

Every step of the way, the endgame grows more terrifying. But when an attack rocks London, the real players show their hand — and Ayesha Ryder is left holding the final piece of the puzzle. Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)  iTunes iBook Format  Kobo eBook Format


  1. Thank you for hosting Ryder on Omnimystery News. I'd be happy to answer any other questions your readers might have.


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