Sunday, April 13, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Author Andrew Clawson

Andrew Clawson, Author
Andrew Clawson just released his latest present-day thriller using history to entice readers, DARK TIDES RISING. Reviewers describe Clawson’s books as, “historically intriguing,” “fast-paced thrillers,” and “true-to-life well developed characters.” Clawson says his interest in the past combines with his curiosity to explore small moments with a big impact. He says he creates suspense more through dialogue than back story, and divulges his characters slowly.

Clawson lives in Pennsylvania, loves to read, seeks out the sun, and “of course a good craft beer will always get my attention.”

Be sure to check out the excerpt from DARK TIDES RISING following his interview.

Q:  What inspired you to use history to tell modern day thrillers?

Andrew Clawson: The biggest inspiration is a lifelong interest in our past, which bred a fascination with understanding not only where we came from, but looking beyond the surface and wanting to know what events from bygone eras led to the reality we experience today. The tiny coincidences or mundane actions of years gone by, which at the time seemed irrelevant, can have a permanent impact on the future.

Take, for example, George Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware. December 25, 1776. The Continental Army was camped in Pennsylvania, and Washington led a surprise attack by crossing the ice-choked river in the dead of night, which allowed him to take the Hessians in New Jersey by surprise, capturing 1,000 soldiers along with much-needed supplies. Now, how was this bold maneuver able to succeed? Other than excellent planning and decisive action, the much-needed victory came about because a Hessian officer who received word of the impending crossing from a loyalist spy failed to pass on this information, as he was playing poker. Had he folded, the British would have known Washington was coming, could have captured or killed him, along with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, and the Declaration of Independence becomes nothing but a dream. Truth is stranger than fiction, and this is a perfect example of how history can be inter-woven with truth to drive a thriller today.

Q: “Historically intriguing,” “sparked my interest in American history,” “adept handling of historical details…Far from a dry history lesson, the author weaves details from the past into the fast-paced action of the present.” Are you a historian? Do you enjoy history? How do you engage readers with historical facts?

Andrew Clawson: The only historical training I’ve received is in a classroom, much like every other student in the country, but it seems to have stuck. As noted before, I enjoy reading about history, and I’ve been fortunate enough to combine a subject I get excited about with a chance to craft tales that keep a reader intrigued on multiple levels. In every novel I write, extensive research goes into each twist and turn. I do my best to weave an authentic storyline that is as true to the times in which the narrative is set as possible. Utilizing a historian as one of the recurring characters allows me to take the best parts of modern fiction, such as technology, weaponry, and geography, and mold them with the wonders of the past. Part of what I believe makes this all work is that though we have a vast knowledge of our past, there are still countless mysteries regarding what exactly happened in any number of situations. With such a trove of material, the hard part is choosing what to write about, because it’s all so good.

Q: How important is historical accuracy to telling your story? Do you believe historical accuracy leads to credibility and believability? If so, what kind of research do you conduct?

Andrew Clawson: Accuracy is vital – to a point. With the kind of stories I like to write, it’s important that the lines between fact and fiction are difficult to discern, because much of the inspiration for my plots can be found in textbooks. Borrowing from the past allows me to paint a much more vivid and engrossing picture than simply creating most detail from thin air. I believe that type of story is much more likely to make a reader question what’s in front of them, which takes away from the whole purpose of a book – to entertain (at least a fiction novel). By incorporating factual information into the narrative, it allows a reader to more easily accept the story, as many readers who pick up one of my novels will have at least a passing familiarity with the time period from which parts of the tale are drawn. And this all leads to one of, to me, the most important outcomes of a book like mine: making the reader think. I want everyone who finishes a book I’ve written to go out and do a little research. Did that really happen? Was that person real? By drawing someone into the past, and by doing so in an entertaining manner, I hope to stoke, or even create, a newfound interest in the past.

My research is multi-faceted. I have a decent grasp on events of significance from our past, though of course this is painted with the brush of who wrote the history books (a favorite saying: “History is written by the victors”). Once I latch on to an idea for a story, I’ll begin to read about the period, specifically the time and place in which the impetus for my modern-day adventure will be drawn. This initial research is less focused than later readings and investigations, because I’ve found that if I limit myself in the beginning, I risk missing out on facts and trivia that I never knew existed, some of which may work perfectly with my storyline. Once I have a better idea of exactly what the tale will contain, my research focuses specifically on how I can incorporate factual information from the time period or place into my writing. Soon after this, an outline begins to take shape, and I can move forward with confidence.

Q: How do you create interest in your characters—both modern day and historical?

Andrew Clawson:  I try to incorporate traits from people I know or with whom I am familiar, people who have inspired or in some way left an impression on me. I also like to utilize actions or motives that create a strong reaction, positive or negative. Giving characters depth isn’t a product of detailed back story or endowing them with stereotypical villainous qualities. Creating a memorable individual can be much more subtle, a sentence here or a pointed action there. Sometimes, of course, it’s best to hit your audience over the head with one of these, but I try to mix it up and paint characters in small strokes without a wide brush. Complexity, to a point, is paramount. And it should be revealed over time, with a dash of misdirection thrown in when you can. Always keep the reader guessing (except when you don’t).

Q: Are you in charge of your characters, or do they take over? Do you follow an outline? Or…what is your writing process?

Andrew Clawson:  It’s not very often my characters begin to direct the action, mostly due to the fact that I outline every scene prior to starting the novel. I actually work backwards, starting with the ending, and stepping back through time to determine the best (read: most entertaining) path to arrive there. With such an investment in the outline, I tend to stick with it, though of course there are certain times when the story speaks to you, and if that happens, I believe only a fool ignores it. Barring such intervention, however, the most effective method I’ve found involves hours of preparation to allow yourself the luxury of focusing only on the writing itself as opposed to worrying about the storyline at every turn. If you’ve already plotted the dance, there’s little need to worry about each step.

Q: Are there villains and heroes in your books? What makes a good villain? Do you need villains in order to have heroes?

Andrew Clawson: I try to have both, but to paint them in shades of gray as opposed to black and white. Imbuing characters with qualities normally associated with their natural opponents gives them depth, creates a deeper association with the reader, and adds a level of complexity that isn’t found with the straightforward hero versus villain dynamic. And as to the need for both? I say, no, you don’t. A hero can be his own worst enemy if you write him properly.

Q: Your reviewers tout the “fast paced action.” How do you create an “electrically charged thriller?” What are the characteristics of a good thriller?

Andrew Clawson: For me, I seem to have success when my interactions are dialogue-based. By that I mean the characters reveal their motivations, come to realize their situations, and aid in story development through what they say as much as what they do. Tense, tightly-knit plotlines can be built through the careful construction of engaging dialogue, which I believe stems from putting yourself in the characters shoes. What would they say? Does it sound right? Focusing on putting not only the right words, but believable words, in a character’s mouth is what allows me to keep action flowing and reveal plot twists and turns in an engaging manner.

Q: Do you write your books primarily to entertain or were you also trying to educate or deliver a message?

Andrew Clawson:  Great question. For me, it’s both. I believe books are dual-purpose weapons. I believe you can get lost in a beach read that also makes you think. By weaving truths and near-truths together in a tale that gets your pulse racing, my hope is that readers will be inspired to delve more deeply into the issues, even if all they do is toss a few phrases into a search engine to fact-check. I’ve always found that truth is much stranger than fiction, so by incorporating my knowledge of the past with a good tale, I believe a reader can be both entertained and educated in one sitting.

Q: What’s next?

Andrew Clawson: My next tale will take readers to the green fields and bustling cities of Ireland, and from there on a non-stop adventure that traverses the Emerald Isle from north to south, finally ending in the heart of Great Britain, London. An ages-old conflict will serve as the focal point, and of course the story will stretch back through the centuries to bring a long-forgotten period of the British Empire’s past to the forefront, with global consequences on the line.

Q:  Tell us something about Andrew Clawson. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Andrew Clawson: If I can find enough time to read a great new book, that’s always first on my list. Away from the written word, I enjoy spending time out in the sun (though we haven’t seen much of that lately in the northeastern part of the U.S.), and supporting my favorite sports teams. And of course a good craft beer will always get my attention.

About Andrew Clawson

Andrew Clawson is the author of several books, including A PATRIOT'S BETRAYAL, THE CROWNS VENGEANCE, and DARK TIDES RISING

He lives in Pennsylvania, where he enjoys reading, writing as much as possible, and spending time with his rescued black cat, who brings him good luck and the occasional dead bug.

You can learn more about Andrew and his novels at

In Philadelphia, Penn historian Erika Carr studies a Revolutionary era map that had been lost for centuries. Scrawled across its surface is a cryptic poem, the contents of which Erika suspects may point to a prize that has fascinated mankind for ages.

Buried treasure.

When a mysterious benefactor appears and offers her a fortune in exchange for the map, Erika cannot imagine what her refusal will unleash. With Erika at his side, investment banker Parker Chase soon finds himself racing for his life as they unravel the mystery of the map and the treasure it protects, deciphering clues charted by some of history's most infamous pirates.

Every clue brings them closer to the truth masked within the enigmatic poem, though they have no idea what darkness awaits. The treacherous course takes them from the remote beaches of North Carolina to the sparkling waters of the Caribbean, and if they can stay alive, Parker and Erika can uncover a treasure that will rewrite history.


Parker slipped into the warm water and all was black. Moments later, silky sand met his heels as he struck bottom.

His light flashed toward the surface. He was about ten feet down. Ahead, all was inky black, the white beam fading to nothing. A mental clock began ticking down the seconds.

Hand raised, he felt for the rocky roof and found it just ahead. Beneath him, he didn't even bother looking. Using the roof as a guide, he kicked hard, back skimming just below the stone, eyes burning.

Ten seconds left. Ahead was nothing, an infinite pool of space.

The first surge of fear hit him. His body floated, weightless in the warm water. His only guide, the rocks above.

Five. Still nothing ahead.

His internal clock hit zero.

Lungs burning, he started to turn around.

Something slammed into his face.

The last breath of air shot from his lungs. Through a mass of bubbles, Parker caught a glimpse of the stalactite, a curving mass of cruel rock hanging from above.

Out of air and panicked, he reached forward to shove off. He needed air.

But the stalactite was slippery, covered with algae. His hand slipped across it like ice.

Desperately grabbing for purchase, his hand was suddenly cold.

His fingers had broken the surface. There was air above him.

He had no other options. Lungs screaming, Parker shot out of the water into a black void.

All he could do was gasp. Parker greedily gulped the warm, salt-tinged air, chest heaving. Only after he'd sucked in the most wonderful breaths of his life did he pull his flashlight up and look around.

What he saw nearly sent him back under.

Not ten feet away was a sandy beach, the mirror image of where he'd left Erika. However, it wasn't the cave that grabbed his attention. It was the shoreline.

Or, more appropriately, what was on it.

Skeletons lay strewn about the sand.

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