It’s amazing the people you meet poking about on social media. Take Tasmanian thriller author, Nic D’Alessandro, for example. He’d posted something on a group I’m also a member of and I was immediately intrigued by the premise of his debut novel, Convergence on the 42nd Parallel. What else could I do but showcase him on my humble blog!
Born and bred on an island state, Nic D’Alessandro is passionate about the wilderness, sea, and sky. He’s a writer, landscape and aerial photographer, education consultant, keen on anything which sails or flies, fascinated by the human condition, and enjoys musing about the future of the world.
Prior to writing fiction, Nic forged a career as an education leader, manager in the public sector, and specialist in the aviation industry. He’s now channelling his life and career experiences into written works to entertain, surprise, and stimulate thought.
Nic lives in Tasmania, Australia with his wife, and extended family.
Nic’s novel, Convergence on the 42nd Parallel, is set for release on 21 October 2021. Keep your eyes peeled for this one. It’s an absolute beauty!
TWO PEOPLE. TWO GLOBAL SUPERPOWERS. ONE DATE WITH DESTINY.
… set them on a collision course in a rapidly converging story, mix-in a new U.S. Navy aircraft carrier on a week-long visit to an allied port, add local politicians, activists, and the media – and the ingredients are there for an epic edge-of-your-seat suspense-thriller with a climax and ending you won’t see coming.
‘The pilot raised her helmet visor, and his seething eyes locked in on hers. She shook her head from side to side and made a slashing motion across her throat…’
Is Lt. Cmdr. Katherine Marlowe about to make a catastrophic mistake? Is Ben Cai’s unthinkable mission destined to succeed?
Their next sixty seconds will tell.
Katherine Marlowe and Ben Cai were born on opposite sides of the world and have lived different yet parallel lives. Their destinies converge as simmering geopolitical tensions draw them together in a friendly harbour a long way from anywhere. Their actions will ultimately shake this place and reverberate across the world.
CONVERGENCE ON THE 42ND PARALLEL is a thriller on an international scale—a tale of those who serve on the seas, in the skies, and in secret. It reveals the power-wielding few, the technologies of modern warfare at their fingertips, and those who spin their truth. It is also a story of humanity—of place and belonging, of family and relationships, and of personal sacrifice.
What makes your writing unique compared to others in the genre?
In very general terms, I don’t write to formulas or with commercial outcomes as my driver. I like to incorporate subtle themes – including some literary themes – and I enjoy weaving subplots through the story.
Some might classify my writing as military-thriller or aviation-thriller and I wouldn’t dispute that. However, my focus is more on the characters and their lives. The machines and technologies are important but, for me, they are secondary to the people who are using them.
What made you choose this genre?
I didn’t consciously choose this genre. The story came first and the genre emerged as the story evolved. I do enjoy reading some books in this genre, but it’s not the only genre I read.
What’s the story behind your book title?
The original title was just ‘The 42nd Parallel’, but I found late in the process that this is also the title of a classic American novel published in the 1930s, which is still well-known in the USA. I didn’t want to compete with that or draw comparisons. The concept of ‘convergence’ is a strong theme in the book with two disconnected lives and two opposing superpowers converging on the final setting. ‘Convergence’ seemed like a natural addition to form the final title.
And the 42nd parallel is the line of latitude which cuts through Tasmania – just north of Ross. This is a strong symbol in the book … invisible lines which divide humanity. The 42nd parallel certainly divides northern and southern Tasmania politically and socially, and I bring out that theme in the story.
Which is your favourite character and why?
A very hard choice, this. I love all the characters and even the ones I hate. You might think that one of the two lead characters would be my favourite, but not so. A key supporting character is Captain William A. Collins, who unwittingly becomes the commanding officer of the aircraft carrier at the centre of the plot. His personality, his life story, and his presence developed much further than I’d originally planned. I’m in awe of his leadership style, his resilience at what life has thrown his way, his integrity, and his sense of ethics. These things are important to me as a person, and so I just ‘get’ this guy. It was no accident that the reader is left observing Collins in the final paragraphs of the epilogue.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Good question! I don’t really try to be either. I let my writing simply flow at first and then improve from the first draft – incorporating feedback from alpha and beta readers, and the work of my editor. It’s important to me that readers enjoy the experience and feel satisfied, but I write on the basis that I’m not going to attract or please all readers. I think originality has a part to play in this and I’m resistant to the homogenisation of writing to the point where originality suffers. I’m influenced by other authors for sure, but I definitely write with my own pen.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
In a word, no. Not for fiction anyway. Characters are paramount in a fictional story and their physical and emotional journeys are what we experience by proxy as readers. Writing a character is a process of placing yourself in their shoes and experiencing the world through their senses. Feeling their emotions becomes part of this. There are parts of my book where I choke up when I re-read it – even now after having read it more times than I can count. I don’t think I could expect readers to have an emotional reaction to the characters if I don’t experience those reactions myself.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
… on my editor. Editing was the most significant cost in the whole process, but also the most worthwhile. The value of a good editor who ‘gets’ your story and treats it with the same love and respect you do, cannot be underestimated. Some of the editing process was painful, yes, but oh so essential.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I wrote my first short story at the age of seven. My primary school teacher asked us to write a story about something that had happened to us recently, and then she read each story to the class. I wrote about my dog who’d fallen asleep beside a car wheel and was then runover by accident. I could see the emotional effect on the teacher as she read my story to the class. Her tears were the first indicators to me of the power of language.
How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
This is a fine balance and not an easy thing to do well. There’s a tension between informing the reader about facts they need in order to understand the story and setting, and drowning them in excessive detail. This can take the form of exposition using the narrator’s voice. In this book I drop the reader into sub-worlds such as politics, the media, the Tasmanian wilderness, aviation, naval operations, and even submarine operations. The temptation is to over-explain things to take care of the reader, but the risk is making too many technical demands on the reader to the point where they become lost or give up. This is where beta-readers and a good editor as so important in the development of a novel. I’ve learned to trust the reader much more, and to err on the side of ‘less’.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
This book will be my first published novel. I have another thriller already written which is yet to go through beta-reading and editing. I have book #3 in a research phase, and book #4 is at an early concept stage.
What does literary success look like to you?
Simply: my readers are moved. If my writing can move a reader to laugh, yell, cry, think, scream, fume, or gasp and I can hold their attention right through to the end, then I’ve done my job. The more readers the better, but I don’t really care whether I can claim a ‘best seller’ or about making money from this.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
This book took an enormous amount of research. I haven’t counted the hours, but it would be in the thousands I’d reckon. I tend to research as I go before I start writing each chapter.
I have working knowledge and experience of many of the topics in the book, but there are others where I had no knowledge at all. I’ve never been to the United States, for example. I generally conduct a wide search for reading materials on a topic first, then immerse myself in a range of information and points-of-view. I use the Internet (of course) but also forums, libraries, films, documentaries, and other books. I bring people on board who have subject-matter expertise. For the aviation parts of this book, for example, I had advice and feedback from a US Navy officer, a helicopter pilot, a commercial pilot, a flight instructor, and an air-traffic-controller. I’m a pilot myself, but I still needed their specific expertise and knowledge.
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
Yes, for sure, although I can’t explain how! I found the experience to be cathartic and it helped me grow as a person. Writing fiction somehow taps into deeper recesses of my mind and my being in ways that I can’t fathom.
There were times during the writing of this book where I had a specific scene all planned out, but as I began to write it a certain character would ‘take over’ and go places I’d never dreamt of. My fingers were flying on the keyboard and my mind seemed to be tapped-into ‘something else’. Spooky, but incredibly enjoyable too. I’ve heard other writers talk about a character becoming so alive that they seem to have agency over the story. I didn’t really believe them at the time, but now I do!
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Wow. Yes. I set myself a ridiculous challenge by making one of my two lead characters a strong-willed and very capable American female, and a millennial one at that. Part of my reason for this came from reading a similar book in the genre which had no females in the whole story … not one! And another book where the few token female characters either made coffee or flitted around in tight tops. This was just lazy misogyny from those male authors and I was determined to be different.
I had no idea what I was doing with this at first, mind you, and I got it wrong before I got it right. The alpha-reader for this book is female and four of my beta-readers were female, and they sorted me out. I discovered some of my own hidden biases and assumptions during the process. In the end, I’m pleased with how the female characters in the story have come across. It’s a terrific challenge to write from the opposite gender’s point-of-view.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Yes! I have a technology/IT background, so the practice of placing secret ‘easter eggs’ in the story was a no-brainer for me. I suspect many readers won’t realise these secrets are there, which is totally fine and does not detract from the story, but astute readers of Tasmanian history and naval history may pick up on some of these. I’m looking forward to hearing from readers who discover ‘easter eggs’.
What was your hardest scene to write?
A death scene. I actually felt like I’d killed someone. And I missed that character once they were ‘gone’. That particular scene still gets to me, even now.
Where to find Nic