I'm Christopher Hepworth, author of the climate change thriller 'The Last Oracle' - third book in the Sam Jardine thriller series. Ask me anything.

Christopher Hepworth
Oct 29, 2017

The Last Oracle is a climate change conspiracy thriller. It is a well-researched, fast paced 'Hollywood' style book with an Indiana Jones type of hero. It earned 25 five star reviews in its first week of release and has caused a minor sensation since its launch. 

It is deliberately designed to bring the dry and over-scientific, but hugely important topic of climate change to the public by making its potentially catastrophic consequences  personal and realistic.

My three books are all self-published. I had to learn the basics of self-editing, proofreading, formatting for Amazon and marketing from scratch. I am now approaching the 'big five publishers' in the hope of securing a publishing contract.

You can ask me anything about how to pick the subject of your next book, plot development, characterisation, self editing and publishing.

You can ask me about what I learnt about climate change science and how long  the earth may have before it reaches a catastrophic tipping point. Is fracking really bad for the environment? What are the politics around fossil fuels? Is the coal industry trying to kill off renewables and does the lobbying industry really control our politicians?

You can ask me about the Sam Jardine novels and my ideas for my next book.

Twitter:   https://twitter.com/CHepworthAuthor 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorChristopherHepworth

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christopherhepworth/

Christopher Hepworth says:

This AMA will end Oct 30, 2017 4PM EDT

Christopher Hepworth says:

This AMA will end Oct 31, 2017 4PM EDT


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Oct 30, 8:46AM EDT0

In your book "The Last Oracle", how long did it take you to finish from scratch to publishing?

Oct 30, 2:53AM EDT0

Hi James,

It probably takes me a little longer than most as I still have a job as a full time negotiator! Each of my three books has taken me roughly 18 to 20 months.

I allow myself roughly three months 'thinking time' between books when I chill out and spend as much time with the family as I can.

When I decide to start a new book, I spend a further three months, developing the storyline, planning out a chapter by chapter structure and conducting preliminary research.

The first draft takes me about nine months and then the next four or five drafts might take a further three months.

Proofreading, formatting and planning for the book launch take another three months before the book goes live on Amazon.

Its a long process, but you can't rush a craftsman!

Oct 30, 6:50AM EDT0
Show all 4 replies

Did you dream of being a writer when you were little?

Oct 28, 5:00PM EDT0

I certainly did, Tatiana. I was a very early reader and I made little books out of paper and sellotape. My handwriting was so bad at the time that no-one else could read them!

I wrote diaries from the age of ten and continued writing diaries until I was about twenty-two. I ended up writing several pages of A4 per day and I still have all those diaries today although I have never re-read any of them.

I stopped writing diaries, but I continued my creative writing addiction by having pen friends around the world. I loved to write to people in exotic countries and hear all about their strange customs and habits. (At least they seemed strange to me!)

I had my first serious attempt at writing a novel in my late twenties and wrote on the train each day on an IBM Thinkpad that weighed over three kilos. But I was quite naïve as a youngster and I was not happy with the quality of my work and life just ‘got in the way’. I did not take up writing again until five years ago.

Last edited @ Oct 29, 5:35PM EDT.
Oct 29, 2:08AM EDT0

What did you edit out of "The Last Oracle”?

Oct 28, 5:52AM EDT0

Hi Heenal,

Thank you for your question and nice to meet you. A similar question has been asked later in this post and I gave a full response so I hope you don't mind me answering this in a slightly different way. 

The single biggest section that was editted out was a 30,000 word section set in the Sahara desert. It was full of action and mainly involved battles between Sam Jardine and the 'rebels' in the area around the temple.

The book had taken on a 'bloated' feel and the battles did not really enhace the narrative. Very little of this section survived and the few chapters that remained were significantly changed. The book was much tighter as a result of the changes and the scene where Sam and Sienna escaped from the desert was much more elegant.

It is amazing what a severe haircut can do for a book.

Last edited @ Oct 29, 7:05AM EDT.
Oct 29, 6:33AM EDT0

What do you do in your spare time?

Oct 28, 3:13AM EDT0

Thank you Lyn, for such a lovely question.

I have four children and a busy job as well as writing novels, so my spare time is at a premium. Sometimes I wish there were two of me! Luckily I can combine two of my activities into one when my daughter plays cricket. I can write and watch her play at the same time.

My children keep me young and like all families we go for excursions and holidays during school holidays. Living in Sydney, there are plenty of nearby beaches, the Royal National Park and the beautiful Blue Mountains.

I can also travel with my job both within Australia and to two of my favourite cities, London and Chicago where we have offices. My job also allows me to ‘do my bit’ for society by supporting social enterprises and raising money for worthy causes.

I love jogging to keep fit and I try to run about twenty kilometres a week. I use a satnav watch to add up how far I have run since acquiring the watch and imagine I am running across Australia. In two years’ time, I will have achieved my goal!

Oct 28, 5:40AM EDT0

How important is factual accuracy for you in your books? E.g. if the facts do not support the plot, which way do you gravitate towards?

Oct 27, 4:25PM EDT0

Hi Sri. Thank you for your amazing review by the way!

I try to be 100% factually accurate throughout the book. I’m sure a few inaccuracies do sneak in every so often, but when for example Sam Jardine travels on the Citation CJ4 aircraft in The Last Oracle, I studied photos, drawings and aircraft manuals to make sure that even a Citation pilot would feel comfortable with my description of the plane’s cockpit and internal layout.

I try to be 100% historically accurate as well, so when I mentioned in The Last Oracle that Alexander the Great recovered from a wound in an Egyptian temple in 332 BC, then you can rest assured that he did just that.

I studied maps and ‘google earthed’ all the places I wrote about and YouTubed several film clips about aircraft landings in Greenland to make one of the scenes more authenic.

The issue comes when I take artistic liberties for the sake of the plot. For example, there is no such book in real life as the ‘Sapientus Manuscript’ which led Sam Jardine to the ice plug in the Upernavik Icefjord and no such person as Sapientus. But there is a similar book called The Voynich Manuscript which continues to baffle the best minds even today. And Sapientus was closely modelled on the life of Nostradamus with a few liberties taken with dates and places he visited. A page from the Voynich Manuscript is shown below.

Last edited @ Oct 28, 4:27AM EDT.
Oct 28, 2:14AM EDT0

What other authors do you find fascinating, and why?

Oct 27, 11:08AM EDT0

Hi Karen! I have been asked a similar question, so I will try to answer yours with a slightly different angle.

The author that surprised me most was Charles Dickens, because I did not expect to like him at all, but actually I loved his books, especially Great Expectations. I enjoyed George Orwell because he was so different and more relevant today than ever. LP Hartley who wrote the coming of age novel ‘The Go Between’ is another because the book still has such an effect on me even now.

The first book I read by someone I felt I knew was by Canadian author Poulomi Sanyal who wrote the excellent ‘Colour me confounded’

A local author who lives down the road from me is Markus Zusack, author of The Book Thief. It is a stunning book and excellent movie.

And finally, there is Donald Jack, another Canadian author who wrote a series of hilarious books about a WWI pilot called Captain Bandy. He’s on my list because I read his book ‘Three Cheers for me’ forty years apart and enjoyed the book just as much the second time around.

Oct 28, 4:15AM EDT0

Who is a trending author to watch out for nowadays in your eyes?

Oct 27, 1:52AM EDT0

Hi Steeve,

I would love to be in that very special category and who knows, maybe The Last Oracle will be my big break.

But an emerging author I have a huge amount of respect for is my ‘stablemate’ and best selling author, Gabriel Farago. He has written six books including ‘Letters from the Attic’ and the Jack Rogan Mystery series. He also picked up the top award in the Thriller Category for his amazing book ‘The Hidden Genes of Professor K’ in the 2017 Independent Author Network Awards.

His books are well worth a read if you haven’t read him already.

Another emerging author at the very start of her career is the hilarious Lucy Brazier author of The Portergirl series. Definitely one to watch

Last edited @ Oct 28, 7:01AM EDT.
Oct 28, 7:00AM EDT0

How long does it take you to come up with a topic?

Oct 26, 12:16PM EDT0

Hi NicZ.  Thanks for your question. Usually about three months of planning go into my books before I start to write. My three books all have a conspiracy at their core. The Sleepwalker Legacy has a drug scandal, The Wulff Agenda has the abuse of personal data gathered from social media sites and The Last Oracle is a conspiracy perpetrated by the fossil fuel industry against the renewables.

I would like to continue with the conspiracy angle because I like to play with the emotions of the readers and make them mad at a perceived injustice. It can take me months of research to come up with a plausible conspiracy that is doing the rounds and gets the readers to think ‘… just maybe Christopher Hepworth is onto something.’ As it can take up to two years to write and launch a book, the conspiracy must have traction and stand the test of time.

I also like to base my books in exotic locations and explore different cultures. It takes me a long time to select which country I wish to base my books in. This is because I love researching these people and places and I hope that my wonder and excitement shines through in my books. My main character, Sam Jardine will always fall in love with a character from that exotic land, but it is really a reflection of my own love for the places I have spent hundreds of hours researching. I like Sam to have a family connection with the places he visits so it is lucky that Sam’s home country, Britain had a history of exploration and settlement in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which lends credibility to that link.

The intricacies of the plot may take about a month to develop and I like to have a solid foundation before I start my first draft. But the plot may change massively as I am writing, so I am not too concerned if the plot has a few holes in the planning phase.

I hope that answers your question, Nic

Last edited @ Oct 28, 4:35AM EDT.
Oct 27, 3:26AM EDT0

What was the first book that you read?

Oct 25, 8:44PM EDT0

Hi Dematrixx. I had to trawl through my memory to answer that question!

I was a voracious reader even before I went to school! I was lucky enough to be the annoying little brother who was always hanging around when my parents were teaching my elder brother to read. Something just clicked, and I was hooked from the age of four.

The first book that stuck in my mind was ‘Swallows and Amazons’ by Arthur Ransome. It was a story about four children who explore a large lake in their little sailing dinghy. The children spend a week camping on an Island in the middle of the lake and encounter a series of adventures during their stay. It’s an absolute classic set in Edwardian England. I even read the book to my eight-year-old daughter a few tears ago. I loved the structure and hierarchy of life on their boat, the Swallow and their incredible adventures. But for some reason I loved the ‘kick-ass’ girls Nancy and Peggy who challenged them in the rival boat, the Amazon.  That concept was way ahead of its time. I have come to realise that my own books follow much the same structure, forty years later.

The first truly adult book I read was ‘When the Lion Feeds’ by Wilbur Smith. I devoured all Wilbur Smith’s books and absolutely loved his Egyptian novels.

Last edited @ Oct 28, 6:17AM EDT.
Oct 27, 3:34AM EDT0

What's the hardest thing about planning a book or novel?

Oct 25, 3:38PM EDT0

Hi Tas, thank you for your great question.

Impatience! I just can’t wait to start writing and the discipline of planning and preparation is sometimes just too much. I do like to have a structure and a chapter by chapter framework is essential to getting a good start.

But it doesn’t take long before my book veers from its intended course like a battered old car that pulls to the left. I once listened to a renowned author who is so meticulous with his planning that he can start his book by writing the middle few chapters or the ending depending on how he feels when he wakes up in the morning! I could never do that. I am a compulsive researcher and I keep researching until I have written the last chapter. Sometimes I stumble upon ideas, facts and storylines that are so amazing they just have to find a place in my book.

The price I pay for my lack of planning is that my first draft ends up being way too long and I am forced to cull the book drastically and it may take several redrafts before it takes on a polished feel. It leads to a fast-paced almost breathless style of book, full of twists and turns which has become my signature style.

Oct 27, 5:22AM EDT0

What’s the best way to market your books?

Oct 25, 2:42PM EDT0

Thanks for the tough question Paulynna!

As an independent author, I am almost entirely dependent upon social media and word of mouth. When I launched The Last Oracle my company of 13,000 people was kind enough to feature me on their intranet site for a whole week. I also conducted an online interview for a e-magazine that went to over 25,000 travel agents in Australia.

I am ably assisted by a digital marketing professional who has been with me for a couple of years. She helped me format my books for Amazon and Goodreads and built my social media platform. You can see the spectacular results of her work here;

Twitter:   https://twitter.com/CHepworthAuthor 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorChristopherHepworth

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christopherhepworth/

I also have my own website https://www.christopher.hepworth.com

We have a distribution list of 5,000 readers who we send regular updates to and had a launch team for the launch of The Last Oracle who committed to pre-order the books and post their reviews on Amazon.com

I spend a lot of time on Twitter and have a following of 50,000. I try to keep it fresh by posting articles about Australia, writing blogs and highlighting authors like myself.

As my profile expands, I will try to attract media interviews and podcasts. But unless you are Dan Brown or EL James, it’s a slow process that requires resilience and patience.

Last edited @ Oct 28, 4:29AM EDT.
Oct 28, 12:23AM EDT0

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Oct 25, 12:14PM EDT0

Hi Faye. I am so lucky that I love researching. Even if I was not an author I would spend hours and hours trawling through Wikipedia and other websites to learn about various obscure topics.

Before writing The Last Oracle, I read two books on climate change science, a book on the fracking industry and a really funny book by an oil rig worker called ‘Don’t tell mum I work on the oil rigs’ to get a flavour of how the rough, tough oil rig workers talk and behave. I also read a book on modern Egyptian society and its problems to get a flavour of what's

going on in Egypt so that my book would sound authentic and a book specifically about the Sahara so that my desert scenes would come to life. Finally, I read an excellent book by Robert Kaiser about the American lobbying industry to help me with the ‘conspiracy theory’ angle and make the political corruption angle seem realistic.

I also read through countless websites, YouTube and Wikipedia articles on ancient Egyptian religion and society, global warming, solar power, the motor industry, Greenland and ‘The Voynich Manuscript’ which was the real life inspiration for the mysterious ‘Sapientus manuscript’ in The Last Oracle.

Last edited @ Oct 29, 10:31PM EDT.
Oct 28, 1:32AM EDT0

Do you have a special place where you go to be inspired?

Oct 25, 8:00AM EDT0

This is a topic dear to my heart Lynette. Yes, I do. I sit on my verandah overlooking the Sydney bush. It’s a large verandah and has an overhead heater so I can even sit outside in winter. The noise of lorikeets, kookaburras, cockatoos and other native Australian birds never stops and sometimes they will even sit on my computer!

If I ever am successful enough to become a full time author, I would like to be able to travel to the UK to write for three month a year as my main character Sam Jardine is English and I would get more inspiration by living and breathing in the English atmosphere.

Last edited @ Oct 28, 1:46AM EDT.
Oct 28, 1:46AM EDT0

Who is your favorite author?

Oct 24, 11:24PM EDT0

You are making me choose from a very big list, Dan and it will be a hard choice, but I will do my best.

I have always loved Wilbur Smith for his sweeping African adventures, complex plots and sense of history. I devoured every book of his until five years ago when it seemed as if he was collaborating with inferior authors and his books did not quite feel like a traditional Wilbur Smith novel. I absolutely loved his Egyptian novels which were full of ancient history and mysticism.

Then there is the historical fiction writer Bernard Cornwell who wrote the Sharp novels with the Napoleonic wars as the backdrop and the recent Saxon sagas. I would love to write historical fiction, but Bernard Cornwell is just so brilliant, all other authors in his genre pale by comparison.

I also love Peter James author of the Detective Grace novels and his earlier horror books. It was his style of writing that inspired me to write myself.

Other brilliant authors I admire include Tom Clancy, John Grisham and Tom Wolfe who wrote The Bonfire of the Vanities.

In their way, all authors who write books are brilliant as it is such a monumental achievement but if you make me select one, then it would probably have to be Wilbur Smith for the sheer volume and quality of his adventure stories that have thrilled me throughout my adult life.

Last edited @ Oct 29, 12:49AM EDT.
Oct 28, 3:11AM EDT0

What is your favorite book?

Oct 24, 7:14PM EDT0

Hi Makter. I must have read over 500 novels since childhood and I enjoyed most of them. There have only been a couple I have not managed to finish. I would like to impress you by naming one of the great literary gems as a favourite, but that would not be true.

My favourite book is River God by Wilbur Smith. It was published in 1994 and it started my life-long fascination with all things Egyptian.

The book itself is an epic. Set in Ancient Egypt at the end of the Middle Kingdom, it’s entertaining, well written and eventful. The story line is powerful and left me feeling emotional and thoughtful, just how a good book should make you feel.

But the thing that rocked me, was the author’s two-page afterword at the end of the book. Wilbur Smith claimed that the novel was based on scrolls discovered in an Egyptian tomb by an eminent Egyptologist. The translations were passed on to Wilbur Smith, the greatest story teller of the era so that he could popularise the historical events described in the scrolls.

As a lover of ancient history, I was rapt that many of the events in his novel could well be based on fact. Wilbur Smith took many liberties with the ‘truth’ but The River God opened the whole genre of historical fiction for me. Thus, this one book started two life-long fascinations that have stayed with me to this day.

Honorable mentions go to ‘Without Remorse’ by Tom Clancy, ‘Past Caring’ by Robert Goddard and ‘The Firm’ by John Grisham.

Oct 29, 1:03AM EDT0

What does literary success look like to you?

Oct 24, 7:05PM EDT0

Hi Anybite. That is a fascinating question. Success in any sphere is like chasing a rainbow. Five years ago I would have said having a book on Amazon was success in itself. But now I have achieved that milestone I have a different perspective.

At some stage I would like to get a book in the Amazon top 1000 best seller list maybe even higher. I hit a significant milestone last week when two of my books were in the top forty of the ‘Financial thriller genre’ ahead of John Grisham!

But ultimately I would like to have a traditional publishing contract to see my books in the major high street book stores.

Oct 28, 6:12AM EDT0

What's your favorite style of writing?

Oct 24, 5:28PM EDT0

Hi Eddy. I have three favourite writing styles all of which I try to include in my books.

The first is the faced-paced Hollywood style of all action adventure. I like to believe that the reader will stay glued to my books, become absorbed by the conspiracies and finish them one sitting. I try to finish each chapter on a cliff hanger so there is no natural point where the reader can put the book down.

The second is the inclusion of real life history within the books to give the storyline more gravitas and mystique and the characters more depth. I love historical fictions, but I am a much better writer of contemporary fiction.

And finally, I think all good thrillers should have ‘plateau points’ to allow the reader to catch their breath and set themselves up for the climax. The storyline should continue apace but the tension should drop a notch. There should be three or four of these points within a book and they should allow the author’s personality and sense of humour to shine through.

I hope my books are a nice balance of these three styles.

Last edited @ Oct 29, 1:09AM EDT.
Oct 29, 1:05AM EDT0

Do you think that physical books will eventually become obsolete?

Oct 24, 2:50PM EDT0

Two years ago, I would have said ‘yes’, Alvin. I have owned my own Kindle for 4 years and I gave most of my novels away to a second-hand bookshop as they were taking up too much space in my house. The only books I kept were history books and books with beautiful illustrations.

But the Kindle has probably reached saturation point and some people will just not give up their paperbacks, most of my own friends and colleagues included. Most publishers are breathing a sigh of relief that their business model still has a future.

Unfortunately, this has led to reduced sales and therefore traditional publishers have become more conservative as costs go up and readership has gone down. They tend to rely on established authors and will only sign up independent authors (such as myself) if they have a track record of success in the digital publishing world.

Oct 28, 3:44AM EDT0

What do you think of the trend in digital media nowadays?

Oct 24, 1:32PM EDT0

Digital media is here to stay H.H.Guerra and we must embrace it or become irrelevant. I was very lucky to have taken a Computer Studies MSc, so I am very comfortable with the technology.

But like all disruptive technologies, digital media is having teething problems. The most obvious is the problem of ‘fake news’ and poor-quality journalism. One of the unintended consequence is the demise of in-depth quality journalism. Another problem with digital media is how quickly we have come to judge others with differing opinions. I have seen a few ‘pile on attacks’ on social media of those who may have misguided opinions, but nothing that warranted the viciousness of these attacks.

Digital media has allowed authors such as myself to write, publish and market my books in a way that would not have been possible ten years ago. This is an amazing development that has democratised literature. There are over twelve million titles on Amazon, so the challenge is to get the quality books to rise to the top.

Oct 29, 1:32AM EDT0
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