Bestselling author Adrian McKinty tells of a trip he and his wife made to a remote island in Australia.
“The first thing we saw when we landed were the guys who came with guns,” he said of the place occupied by one family for several generations. Racing on the last ferry off the island, McKinty nearly knocked down a woman on a bicycle when she suddenly got off the side road in front of his car; the woman was deaf and could not hear his car. “A beep sounded and the brakes were pressed. We stopped about 10 feet from her bike. I turned to my wife and said, “If I had hit her, we would not have escaped from this island alive.”
McKinti says he told the story to his agent, who said, “This is your next book.”
In “Island” (Little Brown, May 17), Dr. Tom Baxter takes his wife and two children to Australia for a medical conference. During some break they take a ferry to a remote island to explore the sights. Similar to McKinty’s real-life experience, the island is inhabited by a family that has been there for generations, and the protagonist Dr. Baxter meets a deaf-mute woman on a bicycle.
However, deviating from McKinti’s own experience, the woman dies and someone has to pay.
“I wrote the first 30 pages without sketches to see if I liked the story,” McKinty said of his trial. “This is the journey of a classic hero. The hero is comfortable at home, he goes out [muck], terrible things happen and the hero tries to come back. And then, I hope, the journey itself is a geographical and temporary journey, but by the end the hero has changed in an interesting way.
“These changes are really important for success. In “Island” all the characters change. And at the same time, they are able to help each other and survive, ”says McKinty
Prior to his recent success, McKinty considered preserving his writing career. Having written many novels with good reviews, including a series starring Belfast detective Sean Duffy, his books have garnered numerous awards and have been shortlisted by many others.
But no one bought them.
A graduate of Oxford University, McKinti paid bills by doing occasional work – teaching, working in a bar and driving an Uber. But at age 49, McKinti and his family of four were evicted, and he saw it as a sign that it was time to find a permanent job. So he announced to readers in his blog that he was moving away from writing.
One of those blog readers was best-selling author Don Winslow, whose success came after years of writing well-reviewed and poorly-sold novels. Winslow called McKinti and asked him not to quit, convincing him that he just needed proper representation in the publishing world.
Winslow sent some McKinty books to his agent Shane Salerno. Returning late the next day as an Uber driver, McKinty called from Salerno in the middle of the night. The author reiterated that he had stopped writing and thanked for the interest. A few minutes later Salerno called twice more, finally convincing McKinti to send him the first 30 pages of what would become The Chain.
“This is a book that will change your life,” said Salerno McKinti. And so it happened. “The Chain,” published in 2019 by Little Brown, became a New York Times bestseller and is turning into a feature film directed by Edgar Wright.
“I feel like a scam because people tell me you’re a poster boy who never gives up. This is not exactly a story. The story is that I gave up, ”McKinty says, looking back. “It’s a weird situation because if your books don’t sell and they don’t get good reviews, if you’re not a fool, you quit your job because the world tells you to find another job. And if your books are really selling and you’re making money on that fortune, it’s also the world sending you a very clear message. But what if the books aren’t for sale and the newspapers say they’re great? I have been in this relationship for almost 10 years. “
Earlier this year, “Island” was sold to Hulu for development in a limited series. These days, McKinty is paying attention to a new novel, a genre work outside of his usual wheelhouse.
His recent success after 25 years of writing is welcomed by most of his readers, though he says there are a few skeptics. Despite the change in share, his approach is basically the same.
“I wrote books for myself and posted them there, and no one bought them,” he says. “The formula has not changed. I’m still writing them for myself, but now I’m reaching a larger audience. “