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Chris Hauty

Chris HautyAmerican screenwriter CHRIS HAUTY has found new freedom in writing his debut novel, Deep State. This political thriller follows conspirational activity within the White House as it is uncovered by Hayley Chill, an army veteran turned West Wing intern. We asked Chris about his newfound love of writing novels, and if he was inspired by the political situation surrounding him in the United States.

 

Deep State is your debut novel but you’ve had a successful career as a Hollywood scriptwriter. What made you want to write a book?

You may have noticed that the movies being released of late are quite different than those distributed only ten years ago. The demise of home video compelled the studios to replace those lost dollars with revenues from foreign markets. Those changes spelled the end – or a vast reduction – of films about human beings. That era of film relied on stories that are too narrow and provincial for a truly global appeal. The movie stories I was interested in writing were no longer viable. Additionally, once I began my first novel, I realised how much more freedom I could exercise writing fiction. It was extremely liberating! Deep State has been optioned by a television studio and I offered my services as a series creator as part of that deal. I’m keeping a toe or two in the film and television worlds, but only in consideration of adapting my own fiction. I now happily consider myself novelist first and scriptwriter a far distant second. 

You’ve covered countless different genres in your scriptwriting career; what is it that draws you to political thrillers?

Three Days of the Condor (based on James Grady's novel, Six Days of the Condor) was a huge influence on my screenwriting career. It’s such a perfect, atmospheric and suspenseful movie that doesn’t rely on elaborate gunplay or action sequences to entertain the viewer. I’ve written a couple of script political thrillers that never got made. The times we now live in are politically super-charged, yes? In the UK and in the States, or anywhere else in the world for that matter, you can’t take a breath without inhaling someone’s politics. All of these events we’re experiencing fascinate me and provide ample fodder for plot and character. Additionally, I relish the possibility of exploring my protagonist over a (hopefully) long series of books, an expectation of the genre.

Can you tell us about the ‘deep state’ conspiracy that the book draws upon, and why you wanted to write about it?

To be perfectly honest, the concept of a ‘deep state’ and the very phrase itself simply seemed like a cool element for a political thriller. How could you possibly ignore it? The majority of books in the genre, according to my very unscientific sampling, utilise off-shore threats. My goal is to explore threats from within the US borders, if not for any other reason than because it seems like virgin territory!

Given the novel’s setting, some might draw parallels between the novel’s US president Richard Monroe and the current US president, Donald Trump. Was that deliberate?

With the characterisation of the president in Deep State, and with so many other elements and events, I’m cherry-picking real (or real fake?) news and giving them a good twist/blend/manipulation to serve the needs of my story. My goal is to entertain and perhaps goad the reader into flights of similar fancy. No political axes were harmed in the writing of this novel.

Many readers have compared the protagonist Hayley Chill to the likes of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, or Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. Were there any particular influences on her character?

Any comparisons to those masters of the craft are flattering in the extreme. But Hayley Chill grew from a question I’d asked myself about Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Lee Dolly, in Winter’s Bone. What would happen next with her after the events in that excellent film? What if she did enlist in the US army? What then?

Deep State, Chris HautyWith the rapid developments happening with Trump’s impeachment, do you think there’s enough fertile ground with today’s political climate for you to continue Hayley’s story?

Oh, indeed. I don’t think news of the day is going to settle back down to the low simmer of the ’90s. The events of 9/11 – what led up to it and all that’s followed – have changed the world. The follow-up to Deep State is written and I’ve outlined a third book.  Fortunately or not, I don’t think there will be any shortage of real-life controversies and intriguing storylines available to me.

If you were to make Deep State into a movie or TV show, what actors would you choose to play Haley Chill and President Monroe?

From my lips to God’s ears?  Zoe Deutsch for Haley Chill and Ed Harris for President Richard Monroe.

 Deep State by Chris Hauty is published by Simon and Schuster.