Ben is a backpacker struggling with life on the road. That is until a chance encounter brings him together with the enigmatic Asia. She is smart, beautiful and everything else that he could possibly desire in a woman. She also has an uncanny habit of attracting danger.
When events conspire to keep the pair apart, Ben begins to question if it is coincidence or a conspiracy. He learns that Asia’s life may be in danger, but he is unsure of exactly where the threat is coming from and who to trust. Only one thing is certain; unless he acts fast, it will be too late. In order to protect his new love, he is forced into making a drastic decision…
Stealing Asia is a character driven action thriller that offers a completely fresh take on the genre. The author’s personal experience travelling the globe, anchors the exotic setting and action filled story line, providing a realism and depth that is lacking in so many contemporary novels. It is a tale of international espionage with characters so real that you will think you know them.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
As with my debut, The Outback, it begins with a true event from my days travelling. In this case – a very stressful border crossing from Malaysia into Thailand.
There were two points where the overland crossing could be made. One at a town named Bukit Kayu and the other at a town named Sungai Kolok. At the time, the latter had come under scrutiny as a potential trouble spot between warring factions in the area and tales of bombings and targeted attacks on tourists were not uncommon. Obviously, when buying our tickets we made sure that we would be using the safer crossing at Bukit Kayu.
Thankfully, we made it into Thailand without incident and upon arriving at the transport hub of Hat Yai, it was just a case of securing further transport to take us on to the islands. Unfortunately, this was where things started to go wrong.
A tall, dark skinned local helped us with our bags as we left the minibus, which had delivered us to the town. I assumed that he worked for the company we had travelled with.
I was wrong.
The man took us to a small travel agency and asked us to wait whilst he arranged for tickets to take us on to Donsak and the connecting ferry to the island of Koh Samui. I handed over 500Baht and he handed us the tickets, which had been filled out entirely in Thai script. He then led us to the bus station and put us into a small minivan. The driver was not Thai and all of the passengers were women wearing headscarves. Having spent a month in the predominantly Muslim Malaysia, I did not blink an eye at the head attire. I thought that like my girlfriend and I, these women were travelling to the islands for a holiday.
It was after 2pm when we finally set off and I made sure that we bagged the seats on the right hand side of the minivan. We were travelling north and since it was the afternoon, the sun would have been strongest on the eastern side. The fact that it was not and I had the full glare upon me, should again have alerted me to the fact that something was not quite right. Only when we came to the roadblocks did I start to suspect something.
I have seen people carrying guns before. Armed police are always visible around the popular tourist areas of London (Buckingham Palace in particular), but this does not compare to witnessing armed soldiers in a foreign land. The machine gun turret replete with sandbag barricade was particularly disconcerting. We passed through three such checkpoints and at the third the vehicle was actually searched. Suffice to say, I was terrified (my girlfriend, Katie, was just confused).
By the time we approached the journey’s end and were greeted by a large sign with the words “Selamat Detang” on it (Malaysian for welcome), I already knew what had happened, but still my brain tried to tell me otherwise. We were in a forlorn looking town and a pallid grey mist had set in. I asked the driver which way to the ferry port as we left the minivan and he he just stared back at me blankly. When I would not give up, he finally pointed me the way to go. Just a few moments later, the mist gave way to a long line of immigrants and a strong military presence. We had found ourselves at the Sungai Kolok border crossing.
What happened next is a little hazy. I just have snatches of images in my memory bank. I can recall confused soldiers herding us on like cattle. I remember faces in the crowd deliberately averting eye contact from the two confused westerners kicking up a fuss. I remember Katie crying.
Now, I realise that I may have blown everything out of all proportion in my mind (what do you expect – I’m a writer. By nature, my imagination is overactive.) At the time though, we were genuinely terrified. We were lost, alone and did not know who to turn to (the soldiers were only interested in getting us through customs and back into Malaysia). That was when we managed to find an office of the tourist police and our ultimate salvation.
For all that I know, we were just unfortunate. The ticket fiasco in Hat Yai had resulted from a misunderstanding. But what if it was deliberate? What if somebody had wanted to send us to that place? What if they were trying to prevent us from getting to the islands? This is where my novel, Stealing Asia, comes in. The stories central protagonist, Ben, has met his dream girl and is on his way to be reunited with her, when he too is sent on such a detour, but unlike with Katie and I, this is no accident.
Looking back, that day should be one I would want to forget. Looking forward, I am really glad that I didn’t. We want our stories to be as realistic and believable as possible and that is why there is no better place to search for inspiration than our life experiences.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The book is in three sections with a different narrator for each. The first, Ben, is a lot like me – a nervous traveller in a strange and exotic land. The second, Esteban, is more of a conventional action hero and his section brings the story more into thriller territory. He is basically the kind of guy every man wants to be, but has begun to question the morality of the path he has taken. The third, Asia, is a bit of a wild child. Again, she is every man’s fantasy, but her life or even that of those close to her is far from the ideal it pertains to be.
‘You won’t last a day.’
‘Are you sure about that?’
‘I’ve never been more certain. Before twenty four hours have passed, you’ll be so torn apart by the loss, you’ll forever rue the day that you let me slip through your fingers.’
Asia was stretched out naked on the bed. I know what you will be thinking right now, but you are wrong. It was simply too hot for clothes. It was also too hot for sex. If we wanted to do that we would have gone in the shower. The temperature in the room must have been at least 37 degrees and the only air conditioning came in the form of a pathetic single speed fan, which hung from the ceiling. It rotated so slowly that I wondered if it was powered by electricity or a hamster on a treadmill.
‘What makes you think that you won’t regret our parting any more than me?’ I asked.
She rolled onto her back, adopting a position that was both vulnerable and alluring.
‘Because I can at least look back and say I gave it a shot,’ she replied. ‘Will you be able to do the same?’
The morning after the night before had long since passed and it was now late in the afternoon. Despite it being less than twenty four hours since our meeting, we had together experienced more excitement, fear and passion than most couples would in months of dating. The sex was pretty amazing too. It did not seem right to end it so soon.
‘I don’t understand why you have to go now,’ I said. ‘Surely after last night you have a reason to stay.’
‘I already bought my ticket,’ she replied. ‘Besides, it does not matter so much when I leave, because you will be coming with me.’
‘You’re really sure about that, aren’t you?’
‘Like I said; you would never live with yourself if you walked away from me now.’
I have to admit that her confidence turned me on. The more time I spent around her, the more I could not believe a girl like that could possibly be interested in me. Then again, I had saved her life – sort of. Did she really want me or was she just afraid to go on alone?
Her flight was booked for the following day. She was headed to Thailand and the island of Koh Pha Ngan for the full moon party. Demand was obviously high at this time of the month and I could not get another flight for a week. The only way for me to make the party in time would be to take the overland route.
‘Why don’t you cancel your flight and we both take the bus,’ I suggested.
‘It’s non refundable,’ she replied. ‘Besides, there is no way I am spending ten hours on a bus.’
My spirits dropped as I saw that she was unwilling to make this small sacrifice for me. If roles were reversed, I would not have hesitated to change my plans. The disappointment must have shown on my face as she was at least quick to offer encouragement.
‘Don’t worry,’ she said. ‘You are going to see me again, I promise.’
I sensed that she was being earnest, but despite her enthusiasm, I was a little doubtful about finding her again at the party. Asia was as free spirited as she was beautiful. She refused to sign up to any social networking sites and did not even carry a mobile phone. Once she left, I would have no way to contact her. She was completely convinced that fate had brought us together and therefore fate would never let us drift apart.
‘To prove how much faith I have in you, I want you to take this,’ she said.
She unclasped her locket and held it out for me.
‘What are you doing?’ I asked. ‘I cannot take that. If I am unable to find you, you will never see it again. After what you went through last night, do you really want to take that risk?’
‘I don’t consider it a risk; more a sign of faith. You are worried about finding me again, so this will give you focus.’
‘I don’t know what you mean.’
‘You worry too much. I’ve only known you for one day and I can already tell you have a terrible habit of over thinking everything. Last night though, when it really mattered, you were amazing. I see strength in you that is all too rare in this world. By taking care of this one thing for me, you are making it your duty to find me. I know you will not let me down.’
I reluctantly took the jewellery from her.
‘You’re crazy,’ I said, but she just shrugged.
Whatever her intentions, I was having trouble trying to figure them out. Was this really for my benefit or was she testing me? I thought that after the extreme circumstances of our coming together things would cool down fast. Obviously, I was mistaken. Asia was proving to be the type of girl who liked to keep the stakes high. I resolved to do my best not to let her down and then placed the locket on the bedside table before rejoining her on the mattress. We had spent enough time talking.
I slowly ran my fingers along the outside of her leg, teasing her with what was to follow. She reached out and took hold of my hand and moved it to the inside of her thigh. Now she was in control as she slowly moved it upwards, heightening her own anticipation as well as mine. As the tips of my fingers were about to connect with her crotch, she pulled my hand away and brought it to her lips. Smiling mischievously, she made her way along my arm with a series of short, delicate kisses. When she reached my shoulder she redirected the kisses downwards, across my chest and over my abdomen, before finally taking me in her mouth.
Between that first night and Asia catching her plane, we never once left the guesthouse. A lot of time was spent in the bedroom and perhaps even longer in the shower. Then, just forty eight hours after we had first met, she was gone. It never once entered my mind that I would not follow.
David grew up in the north east of England, where he went on to study English Literature at The University of Sunderland. After graduating, he started to write his first fictional stories, but always felt that to become a truly accomplished writer he would need to significantly broaden his horizons. Therefore, just days after his 27th birthday, he bought a one-way ticket to Sydney, Australia.
He spent 2 years in the land down under and travelled through every far flung corner of the country, earning his keep by taking up jobs doing everything from pruning grape vines to driving tractors. In his spare time he vowed to try every new experience that was offered his way, no matter how crazy. He climbed glaciers, swam with sharks, jumped from aeroplanes and pretty much tried to live life as much as possible.
During his time overseas, he was also fortunate enough to meet the love of his life; Katie. Upon the couple’s return to the UK in 2009, what was originally intended as a birthday present (a travel journal recounting their time in Asia) helped him to rediscover his vocation in life. He has been writing like a mad man ever since.
All of David’s novels are inspired to some extent by his own travels and he writes the kind of books that he would want to read. Far too impatient to spend months waiting for impersonal rejections from literary agents, he decided to publish his work himself. Ultimately, he just wants people to enjoy reading his books as much as he enjoys writing them.
All of his novels are written in standard British English.
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