Aiden L. Bailey is an up-and-comer to watch, although he's been around, in one form or fashion, for a number of years in short story anthologies. His latest efforts concern the adventures of military contractor Simon Ashcroft, and his adventures on the Africa continent. The first book, The Benevolent Deception, is very good indeed.
You can find his books on Amazon (where else?) by clicking here.
I caught up with Aiden at a South Africa wildlife preserve and we chatted about writing while taking pictures of the wild animals who happened to pass by.
Brian Drake: You write thrillers featuring the adventures of Simon Ashcroft in Africa. It's not an area that shows up a lot in fiction. Do you have personal experience there that you used to model Simon Ashcroft?
Aiden Bailey: I backpacked through Africa when I was in my twenties and had a fantastic time there. It was the first continent I traveled to as an adult. I found myself in some reckless situations and soon saw the world from a completely different perspective. I gained a better understanding how the world works, and when it doesn’t work, why it fails. The good and the bad, it was all there in Africa and up in my face so I couldn’t avoid it.
Many of my story ideas seem to work best in an African setting. I’m obviously drawn to the location. The continent of Africa has many vibrant cultures, with wild landscapes and incredible people that are juxtaposed against militants, corrupt governments, extremes of poverty and a variety of amazing megafauna.
Simon Ashcroft features in three of my espionage thriller novels and novellas, and yes, all of them are predominately set in Africa. The Benevolent Deception is set in Kenya and Nigeria, The Assyrian Contraband in the Comoros Islands and Blood Ivory in Tanzania. Some of the locations Simon visits were places I visited and some of his experiences are my own. Many other descriptions are drawn from friends who’ve also been to Africa, based on stories they told me.
BD: When did you start writing? Who has been your biggest influence and why?
AB: I’ve been writing for most of my adult life. I’ve had over fifty short stories published in magazines and anthologies, many of which have won awards or appeared in ‘Year’s Best’ collections. I’ve been an editor with a fiction magazine and edited several anthologies. My day job is marketing communications copy-writing and technical writing for a variety of big industries including construction, defense, oil and gas, information technology and mining. It’s rare that I’m not writing something.
About three years ago I decided that what I really wanted to write was espionage thriller fiction. In my early days I was a big fan of authors like Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum, Len Deighton, Martin Cruz Smith, Desmond Bagley, Wilbur Smith, Gerald Seymour and others. I wanted to write the same kind of books.
About three years ago I started writing under the pen name Aiden L Bailey, putting out my first thriller novel The Benevolent Deception. It’s an espionage technothriller about cyberterrorists who assassinate the U.S. President, then fool the world that the President is still alive by impersonating him online through a variety of hacked digital news sources. This prompts all kinds of dangerous alterations to the world’s political, security and economic climate. The hero of the story, Simon Ashcroft who is a former spy turned military contractor, finds himself framed for many of the cyberthreats now facing the world. He goes on the run in Africa with a woman who might just know what is really happening, trying to stay one step ahead of the various shadowy forces trying to kill them.
BD: What is it about the thriller genre that attracted you?
AB: As a kid I was a big fan of the James Bond and Indiana Jones films. I liked the relentless action, the sense of constant danger and thrilling chase sequences. But there was also something really appealing about hero characters who travels the world and ends up in some rather exotic locations.
In my early days I wrote in many genres. After a while I noticed that all my stories had the same structure: action thriller fiction. I read far more action thriller fiction than anything else. I decided this was what I really needed to write and to focus on that.
I’ve discovered that I’ve never had this much fun writing as I do in creating espionage thriller novels. I can’t see that I will ever write anything else now.
BD: Do you outline or make up the story as you go? Why?
AB: In the early days I used to prepare detailed notes and outlines, but not anymore. These days I outline stories only in my head finding that is enough giving me the fluidity for stories to evolve as I tell them. But a structure is important, an overall plot is required because I need to know what is going on in every scene. Much of what is going on is not always at first obvious or apparent, only being revealed later. Mystery is important.
BD: The African continent is a great source of adventure, but also a land of tragedy. What is the overall theme of Ashcroft's adventures that take place there, and are you trying to teach readers anything about that area of the world?
AB: In The Benevolent Deception Ashcroft is confronted with the environmental degradation of the Niger Delta caused by oil companies operating in Nigeria, and terrorism in Kenya. Blood Ivory is about the mass slaughter of elephants in Tanzania and their near extinction in the wild because of the ivory trade into Asia. The Assyrian Contraband is set on an African Island in the Indian Ocean and features Islamic State terrorists smuggling archaeological artifact to fund their insurgency. You can read The Assyrian Contraband for free by joining my mailing list here.
I try to make my story locations as real as possible. Readers have commented that my stories bring these setting alive, particularly when I write about Africa. I guess I want to share what I find amazing about the African setting in my books. It is truly an amazing part of the world.
BD: You've mentioned on Facebook that you're planning a new series, and put up a poll to see which character name readers preferred. Which name won the poll, and what can we expect to see from this new character?
AB: My next series will be more traditional espionage thriller fiction in the same vein as Mark Greaney, Rob Sinclair, Mark Dawson, Tom Woods and Andrew Warren. It will feature an American CIA field operative who is incarcerated in a black prison for reasons he doesn’t at first understand. Eventually he escapes, only to discover he has been framed as a terrorist by a large, nefarious organization that is planning a rather nasty takeover of a major world commodity.
I have the first three books in this open-ended series plotted out. The first book is predominately set in Central Asia and Central Africa.
I haven’t settled on a name for the character yet, but the two popular options are either Travis North or Scott Pierce. One might end up as his real name and the other an alias. Not sure yet but I do like both names. Further feedback from readers is most welcomed.
BD: You've worked on some books with Andrew Warren, who has appeared on this blog twice. What was it like working with somebody else's characters, and do you plan to continue?
AB: Andrew Warren was looking for an author to help him write early stories in his Thomas Caine CIA assassin series. After Andrew read The Benevolent Deception and particularly The Assyrian Contraband, he approached me to co-write an early adventure in Caine’s career. He figured we write in a very similar style and tell the same kinds of stories. We’d been corresponding for some time already and it didn’t take me long to say yes.
The outcome was Sandfire, an espionage action thriller set predominately in Yemen. Thomas Caine teams up with a feisty Australian UN aid worker and a Bedouin mother seeking her kidnapped children. Together they enter the world’s largest sand desert, The Empty Quarter, searching for a missing CIA plane hiding a secret that if exposed, could start a war in the Middle East.
The success of the first book led us to writing the next one, Depth Charge, currently in the works. Caine travels from China to South America to secure the defection of a Chinese military software programmer working on the People Liberation Army’s submarine program. While Sandfire was predominately set in the desert, the action in Depth Charge will occur predominately at sea, both above and below the water. Andrew and I should have this one out later in 2018.
Working with Andrew has been great fun, and as long as our collaborations remain well received, we could have a few more books in the works after Depth Charge.
BD: Thanks, Aiden. Great chatting with you. For more of Aiden's work, his website is www.aidenlbailey.com.