WELDON BURGE

Publisher/Full-Time Editor/Freelance Writer

Bullets and Butterflies: A Blog by Weldon Burge

An Interview with Thriller Novelist Stephen England

September 18, 2011

Tags: suspense fiction, Stephen England interview, Suspense Magazine

When you think of counterterrorism political thrillers, perhaps Tom Clancy, Brad Thor, and Brad Meltzer come to mind. Soon, you may be adding Stephen England to that venerable list. His new novel, Pandora’s Grave, the debut novel of his Shadow Warriors series, is an action-filled espionage/military thriller sure to impress many readers and rightfully garner him many fans. (Read my review!) And, at the age of 21, he has many years of writing ahead of him!

I asked Stephen to talk with us about his experiences during the creation, editing, and self-publication of Pandora’s Grave, among other things. He kindly agreed to the following interview.

Weldon Burge (WB): Pandora’s Grave includes many Christian, Jewish, and Muslim characters. Did you write character profiles before starting the novel, to keep things straight?

Stephen England (SE): Not really. I learned so many things about my characters through the course of the novel—I’m afraid it would have been a very boring book if I had attempted to lock them away at the start. To give an example—about half-way through Pandora’s Grave I realized that the character of Bernard Kranemeyer, the Director of the Clandestine Service, was really little more than another faceless bureaucrat. A major problem considering the major role he plays in the story. But then it occurred to me one day—what if? What if he was a retired Delta Force operative, an amputee who had lost his leg in an IED attack? It was quite literally as though someone had turned a light on for me—it’s those type of revelations that make writing so rewarding for me—those moments when you turn a corner and something fits so perfectly—I can’t imagine Kranemeyer any other way now. That’s who he is.

(more…)

Book Review: PANDORA'S GRAVE by Stephen England

September 8, 2011

Tags: suspense fiction, book review, Stephen England

An archaeological team, including a number of Americans, disappears high in the Alborz Mountains of northwestern Iran. Days later, imagery from U.S. spy satellites reveals detachments of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps converging on the area. With the presidential election only months away, President Roger Hancock authorizes a covert CIA mission into the mountains of Iran to rescue the archaeologists. Little do the rescuers know of the ancient evil they must face, or that the events could lead to the next world war—or even the apocalypse.

So begins Stephen England’s thrilling counterterrorism novel, Pandora’s Grave, the first in his Shadow Warriors series.

The lead character, Harry Nichols, is a church-going Christian, but also a highly skilled paramilitary operations officer who leads his team into dangerous regions of the Middle East, often on what seem like suicide missions. He faces moral dilemmas in his profession and is forced to make hard decisions, and this makes his character deeper and richer as the novel progresses. All the characters are well developed and thoroughly believable.

There is machismo and brutal violence aplenty, but England tempers this with a sensitivity and humanity rarely exhibited in espionage/action stories. There is little “black and white” here—the villains and the heroes are not always clearly discernible, adding to the overall suspense.

I was most impressed with England’s ability to maintain objectivity as he developed his Muslim, Jewish, and Christian characters throughout the novel, displaying a keen insight for character motivation based upon religious conviction, political ideology, and personal moral (and often amoral) predilections. There were many opportunities where the writer may have started to “preach,” but England deftly held his hand and created a balanced narrative, leading to a wholly satisfying conclusion (and, of course, a taunting taste of the sequel to come).


(A version of this review was also published in the September 2011 issue of Suspense Magazine.)


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