Tell us about yourself.
I’m a USA Today bestselling author from Melbourne, Australia who lives a little too similarly to the characters in my sci-fi thriller novels. I’ve been waterboarded and shocked with electric currents and hunted through the streets of Houston. I’ve explored abandoned New York subway stations, hung precariously off rooftops in Russia, studied rare forms of unarmed combat and trained under SEAL, Spetsnaz and Defense Intelligence instructors.
I’ve worked in a variety of careers from a reconnaissance soldier in the Australian Army to a video editor and writer of lesbian pornography that portrayed women in a healthy, sex-positive light. I was the first published author of one of the world’s first digital imprints, Momentum, and Apple awarded my debut novel the iBooks Thriller of the Year in 2012. My novella, Zero, headlined the Murder and Mayhem collection of mysteries and thrillers, which sold 32,921 copies on release week, enough to hit the top five on the New York Times bestseller list.
After Pan Macmillan shut down my imprint, I took my rights back and moved into self-publishing.
What are your books about?
I write the Helix and The Fifth Column series of sci-fi thriller novels. They feature a ragtag team of genetically enhanced former operatives led by Sophia, and a team of Russian operative hunters led by Olesya. Both are pitted against the Fifth Column—a powerful, clandestine agency—and Purity, a radical anti-genetics political party sweeping Europe. They call Sophia and Olesya the Night Witches, and are hellbent on hunting them down and destroying them.
Why did you write Helix?
For a while, I thought I was writing technothrillers, but they never quite fit in with technothriller authors such as Tom Clancy and Dan Brown. The Helix books are set ten minutes into the future, focusing on genetically enhanced operatives and oppressive governments. These books are cynical and anti-authoritarian in tone, and that’s when I realized these books are, more than anything, cyberpunk thrillers. I wanted to read more books like this, and that’s why I wrote the Helix books.
Why are there so many women in your books?
Mostly, I just threw the dice and my first hero was female. Since then, it’s been an even split between both genders.
Are you a feminist?
Not the feminism that we recognize today, no.
There’s a bit of a strange story behind this, so bear with me. When my first novel was published with a female protagonist, I was drawn to feminism of the 1960s for its admirable aim of elevating women to the same rights and responsibilities as men.
In recent years, I noticed feminism became increasingly popular. And then it started to change, or maybe it had already changed long ago and I’d never noticed. But what I did see was the process of ponerization. As described by the late Dr Andrzej M. Łobaczewski, ponerization occurs when pathological individuals hijack an ideology, introducing simplistic doctrines that derail the movement.
While maintaining its external facade of equality, I noticed new doctrines starting to trickle through. The most popular ones were toxic masculinity and male privilege. I paid them little attention at first, but once they were accepted, their definitions changed rapidly.
It wasn’t until I started working on the Helix series, where I was writing about ideologies being manipulated and subverted, that feminism began to alter language, creating new definitions of sexism and racism. These new definitions claimed that discrimination was only real if the victim belonged to an oppressed gender or race. If the victim did not, this was called reverse discrimination and therefore did not exist.
Łobaczewski, a clinical psychologist and survivor of both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, calls this a paramoralism. By appealing to our morality with a faulty logic, the new language is justified while its critics are left paralyzed with cognitive dissonance.
Now freely able to engage in approved forms of sexism, feminism gave birth to even more extreme doctrines. Sexual harassment expanded to include flirtation, and masculinity as a whole was finally declared toxic. Women were patronized and infantilized, left unable to smash the mythical patriarchy they were told had oppressed them. This was branded as empowerment, but the empowerment wasn’t real and the enemy wasn’t real. Something was terribly wrong.
So I got out.
To this day, my books feature robust and resilient characters of both genders. Sophia, Damien, Jay and Olesya fight against pathological ideologies and pathocracies. These are the sort of people who inspire me.
I’m a bookstore or library, can I order your books?
You can order my books from Ingram.
But they are only available with a 20% discount and are not returnable.
How do I read your books?
You can read them in ebook or print formats (and soon, audio).
You can read ebooks on any device from a Kindle to a tablet, phone or computer.
If you’re an iPhone or iPad user, you can read on the iBooks or Kindle app.
If you’re an Android user, you can read on the Google Play Books or Kindle app.
You can also read ebooks on a computer, but that isn’t much fun.
The most popular platforms to buy Helix: Episode 1 on is Amazon, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo and Nook.
And you can read them in print too, available from all online retailers and by manually ordering through bookstores.
(Hot tip: if you're Australian, you can order from Amazon's Book Depository website with free shipping.)
Do I need to read any other books before starting Helix?
Nope! This is a new series written for all readers.
How many episodes are there in the Helix series?
There are nine episodes.
Should I wait until you have combined all the episodes into one book?
You know that would be a 1,700-page book, right? That’s crazy talk.
Are there plans for more after the Helix series?
You bet there is.
Why are your books so cheap?
Because I enjoy not ripping people off.
No seriously, I insist on keeping a low price for all my books! Even if it kills me. But hopefully not.
My episodes are quite large for novellas, but the first hit is free, just like cocaine, and the rest are $2.99. This way, I hook you in and then you’re an addict and you can’t stop.
Most traditionally published ebooks are $12 to $18, if you’re wondering why the industry is collapsing.
Can I get your books in audiobook format?
Not yet, but this is my next priority! You can subscribe to my newsletter for future updates. You know you want to.
Are your books available in languages other than English?
Not yet, but the first language planned for translation is Simplified Chinese.
How did you get published?
I spent ten years trying to get published. It happened by accident when an editor I stalked on Twitter turned out to be a publisher for one of the Big Five. In 2011, I hired him to edit my novel and instead he offered me a publishing deal with Momentum, Pan Macmillan’s digital imprint.
The success of my books led to Pan Macmillan printing my first novel and soon it was on bookshelves around the country. It was a wonderful moment, but it was also the moment where the industry began falling apart. Over the past decade, the publishing industry had ignored the digital revolution and now they were paying a heavy price.
Some publishers shut down, while others closed imprints and fired staff. Even Momentum—despite being able to successfully compete against self-publishing authors in the digital space—couldn’t survive the cull. Over 100 authors were cut loose, including myself.
Since then, publishers have become increasingly reliant on mega-bestselling authors and non-fiction, which also meant shedding their entire midlist of authors. This solves a short-term crisis but it places publishers in a precarious position, putting all their chips on their mega-bestselling authors, many of whom are beyond retirement age, while having no midlist to replace them. The midlist are self-publishing now, and the more successful they are, the less likely they will be to hand over most of their income to a publisher.
Once Momentum was shut down, I took my rights back for The Fifth Column series and self-published all my books.
(You can read more about the recent collapse and revolution of the publishing industry in this excellent piece by fellow Australian thriller and SF author John Birmingham.)
Are publishing rights available?
Print rights are available for all titles. You’re welcome to contact my literary agent, Xavier Waterkeyn.
Are film or television rights available?
Netflix, if you’re reading this: triple yes.
Other producers: Would also love to hear from you.
Screenwriters: thank you, but I already have some industry pals helping me on that front.
How do I become a writer?
I wrote a rather unorthodox mini-guide here: https://tablo.io/nathanmfarrugia/beyond-your-first-draft
In summary: write an outline of your story and a few chapters.
Then hire a reputable, experienced editor to edit those. I highly recommend Pete Kempshall at https://www.petekempshall.com/
Do the work and resubmit. Keeping doing that until you learn all their lessons.
You’ll spend less and learn more from a few months of this than you will from a decade of creative writing degrees, writing workshops and beta reader feedback.