Tony Park is Australian, his books are huge in the UK (he’s published 11), and take place in Africa. Confused? Don’t be, it’s all part of his awesome, and he just made his US debut with The Delta, featuring mercenary Sonja Kurtz. He was also kind enough to answer a few questions about the new book, his love for Africa’s beauty, and more!
Tony, you have many titles already under your belt, but I can’t wait to dive into your US debut, THE DELTA. Will you tell us a little about it and about Sonja Kurtz, your very unusual protagonist?
I’m really excited about my US debut. The Delta is set in Botswana’s magnificent Okavango Delta, wildlife paradise that was, bizarrely, threatened in real life several years ago by a plan to build a dam on the Okavango River, which would have starved the wetlands of water. The dam didn’t go ahead in real life, but I resurrected the plan for my novel. The dam is built and a group of environmentalists and land owners hire mercenary Sonja Kurtz to blow it up! Sonja was quite a departure for me – my first female principal lead character. She’s ruthless, intelligent, and tough as nails, but she’s also a single mom with some serious relationship issues. She may be a bit of a softy at heart, but never let her hear you say that.
You have a very interesting background and have worked as a freelance writer, but have you always wanted to write books? Will you tell us a little more about yourself?
The one thing I always wanted to do in life was write a novel. I enjoyed writing at school and worked as a journalist, but fiction was always my passion. I left full time work in 1996 to try and write a novel and after one unsuccessful attempt I found my true inspiration in Africa, a continent I’d begun exploring as a tourist in 1995 and was fast becoming addicted to. Since my first book came out in 2004 my wife, Nicola, and I have spent six months of every year in Africa, where I research and write my books, and the other six months back in our native Australia. We have an unusual life but we love it.
What kind of research did you do for The Delta, and what was one of the most interesting things you learned?
As with all my books I do my research and writing on location, as I travel around Africa. 99 per cent of my research is talking to local people and just observing and soaking in the local surroundings in a bid to try and do them justice. The most fascinating thing I learned more about during the writing of The Delta was the struggle for independence of the Lozi people in the Caprivi Strip area of Namibia, which runs across the top of northern Botswana. The proposed Okavango Dam would have been built in this area, so I thought it would be interesting to tie the plight of the Lozi and their Caprivi Liberation movement into the novel. Namibia is, I hasten to add, a very peaceful, stable, lovely country, but there was a time back in the early nineties when the Caprivians resorted briefly to armed insurrections to further their cause. The country is very harmonious these days.
Why do you think readers will root for Sonja?
Sonja has proved to be one of my most popular characters internationally, with both men and women. She’s tough, but she also faces the same relationship issues that most of us go through at one time or another. My female readers like her strong, independent attitude and she’s a hit with the guys as well. A friend of mine, an ex Special Forces operative, said to me in an email after reading The Delta: “At first I wasn’t sure about your idea of having a female mercenary, but after I finished the book I have one thing to say – if Sonja’s based on a real person do you have her phone number?”
What supporting character or characters did you enjoy writing the most?
I like ‘Coyote’ Sam Chapman. He’s a good guy who was happy researching wild animals when he was ‘discovered’ by TV and dropped into the set of a reality TV show. My wife and I have just been filmed for one of these shows and I now have a greater appreciation for how crazy – and demanding – the so called glamourous world of TV can be. Sam’s not a wimp, but as Sonja puts it in the story at one point he needs to ‘man-up’ a bit. I had fun watching his character go from spoiled TV star to something a little more Bruce Willis.
You’ve undoubtedly influenced many writers with your work, but who are some of your favorites? Are there any that you particularly love?
I love Nelson Demille and I’m a big fan of South African crime writers Deon Meyer and Margie Orford. For historical fiction I love Bernard Cornwell and it’s also hard to pass up Michael Connelly.
What are you currently reading? Are there any books you’re looking forward to this year?
I’m just about to star Deon Meyer’s latest, ‘Cobra’, though right now I’m reading a couple of history books about my character Sonja Kurtz’s home country, Namibia.
You divide your time between Australia and South Africa. What do you love the most about both of your homes? Where would you take a first time visitor?
My two homes are such an incredible contrast. In Africa I live in a house on a game reserve in an area of pristine bush land surrounded by animals – we recently had a herd of elephants hanging around our house for a couple of weeks and we’re often visited by our resident leopard. In Sydney, Australia, we live in a two bedroom apartment in the city where we can walk to stores, bars and restaurants. I think many people living in a city would like to spend time in the country, and vice versa, but we get a nice mix of both. Australia is safe, orderly, predictable and about as close to perfect as a country gets, while Africa is wild, exciting, chaotic and even a little scary at times. It’s a nice mix!
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your free time (when you can find it?)
Yes, the challenge is finding it. In Africa Nicola and I love to go out for a game drive, viewing the continent’s amazing wildlife. It’s hard to exercise here in Africa – we can’t run around our neighbourhood in case something chases us and eats us, to in Australia I like to keep fit by running and swimming at Sydney’s fantastic beaches.
What’s next for you?
Sonja Kurtz from The Delta has proven to be such a popular character that I’m bringing her back in my 12th novel. It’s a modern day treasure hunt set in Sonja’s stunning home country, Namibia.
About THE DELTA:
Assassin-for-hire Sonja Kurtz is on the run. Kurtz, an ex-soldier turned mercenary, is given a high profile job—to kill the president of Zimbabwe. But it’s a set up, the assassination attempt fails, Kurtz has been burned and her exfiltration plan are in ruins. Kurtz now heads for her only place of refuge, the Okavango Delta in the heart of Botswana. Determined to lay low and take it easy, Sonja discovers that her beloved Delta is on the brink of destruction. In a bid to halt a project that would destroy the Delta’s fragile network of swamps and waterways, she is recruited as an ‘eco-commando.’
Soon she finds herself caught in a web of intrigue as deadly as the one she left behind her. Caught between her ex-lover Sterling, Martin Steele, her mercenary commander, and a TV wildlife documentary host ‘Coyote’ Sam Chapman who blunders out of the bush in a reality show gone wrong. Instead of escaping her violent past, Sonja is now surrounded by men who are relying on her killer instincts. Having come to peace, she finds herself in the midst of a deadly war… and it is not only the survival of the Delta that is at stake.
The Delta is a white-knuckle thriller from international bestseller Tony Park, the new “master of adventure,” in his North American debut.