It started out so easily, or so I thought, this move from non-fiction to fiction. Sitting at the wrong end of an 11-hour flight to LA, I opened up the laptop and thought: OK, lets do this, it’s time to write my third book and it needs to be a novel.
The obvious milieu for me to set it in would be the Middle East, somewhere I knew well from my BBC News job, like Saudi Arabia or Egypt. So I chose South America, I wanted to surprise people. I already had the germ of an idea about a malevolent Colombian coke baron from the various filming trips I had made there in recent years, embedding with a camera crew with Colombian police commandos and Hostage Rescue units. Now it was time to transplant that sense of an edgy border town with rotting shanties and heavily armed police patrols, sweating through jungle paths and swatting away mosquitoes, onto the page and into the reader’s mind. By the time we landed in LA I had written 5000 words, enough to email to my agent.
But for the next two years my day job made it hard to find the time to write so I would take the laptop on planes, trains and family holidays, progressing the story whenever I could. Frequently I would come across people who knew detail that was absolutely relevant to what I was writing about so whole new chapters would develop based on what I could get out of them. The final furlong was exhausting: tidying up the script in time for the publishers’ deadline. I would come home after a full day’s work, have supper with the family and then write until after midnight. But that feeling of submitting the final finished draft to the editor was, and is, unforgettable.
Crisis by Frank Gardner is published by Bantam Press