November 4, 2009 / 5:51 AM / in 8 years

Military, banks, books: author looks back in thriller

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - British author Mark Powell’s life reads like a novel, so perhaps it’s no surprise the former special forces military officer turned international banker found his true calling in writing books.

Singapore-based Powell started out in the British army as a teenage soldier in 1979. He joined the SAS special forces, and for nine years conducted operations, many of them covert, in some of the world’s worst war and conflict zones.

He did consultancy work for security companies for a while, but, keen for a career change, followed his father into banking, working as a foreign exchange trader for American Express, ING Barings, Credit Suisse among others, in the United States, Europe and Asia.

Along the way, he also got married, divorced, and has a 9-year-old daughter.

Powell’s debut novel, “Quantum Breach,” is, of course, a thriller set in Asia and the Middle East, with the protagonist Mark McCabe the author’s alter ego. A sequel, “The Rain Angel” for which Powell plans to travel to Somalia and which is based on international piracy, is in the works.

Powell, whose novel has been praised by popular and prolific British author Jeffery Archer, spoke to Reuters recently about how, sometimes, the pen is mightier than the military.

Q: So, how much of this book is real and how much is your imagination?

A: “I’d say this book is ”fact-ion,“ fiction which draws on a foundation of truth. About 40 percent of the events in the book I have personally experienced, the rest were things that happened to people I know. I don’t want to be seen as just another spook who’s written a book though! I draw upon my corporate career as a basis and then draw the past back in.”

Q: You’ve had quite a fascinating life, with such a variety of careers. Did you ever think you’d become a writer?

A: “No, but it took me 25 years to find out what I really wanted to do, and now I’ve found it and I love it and I know I just can’t stop. I spent years starting writing, and then stopping, and then starting again, until one day, I put what I’d written in front of my ex-wife and asked her what she thought. She’s my worst critic, so when she said ‘Mark, this isn’t bad,’ it just got me going.”

Q: How is writing different from your other careers? And has your past experience helped your writing?

A: “Writing is very therapeutic, it’s very leveling. Having written a book, you develop a lot of respect for other authors, the time and the effort they put into it. And what you learn in the SAS never really leaves you. I am very disciplined, I never give up on anything I do. I don’t believe anything is a failure, it’s only a lesson -- all that helps when you’re writing.”

Q: Your book reads like a movie -- its very descriptive.

A: “I visualize everything -- it’s a trait from the past, as during training you have to take everything into consideration. That’s how I write. I am very much in my own film, so to speak.”

Q: Any advice for aspiring writers?

A: “You have to just love doing it! Don’t do it with the aim of making money or even getting published. It shouldn’t be laborious.”

Editing by Ron Popeski

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