Author Interview: Jake Avila

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Jake Avila, author of Cage Diver took some time out to have a chat with Beauty and Lace.

Get to know Jake in this interview.

Tell us a little about yourself…

I came to Australia as an infant ten-pound pom, grew up in Sydney, and worked a variety of jobs, mostly in construction and landscaping, which eventually led to my wife and I buying a lifestyle farm in Northern NSW.

I went to university as a mature age student studying multimedia and IT, and upon rediscovering my love of writing, switched to that degree program. After some early fiction rejections, I enjoyed some success as a freelance journalist, before becoming a casual English teacher, which morphed into a ten-year career until I returned to writing.

In 2019 you won the Adventure Writers Competition Clive Cussler Grandmaster Award. Can you tell us about that?

Having spent two years trying to get an agent or publisher, this writing competition was my first break and a massive shot in the arm for my confidence. I travelled to the USA and met Dirk Cussler who gave me a wonderful plug.

I used feedback from the judging to rework the manuscript for entry into Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing prize the following year. Winning that led to a publishing deal, so I’m very grateful to these legends of the genre for providing such opportunities to unknown writers.

Where do you get your inspiration?

It’s a combination of interest and imagination. For example, Cave Diver began with a vision of a World War 2 submarine in a vast underwater cavern in the jungle. Where did that come from you might ask?

Well, I’d always been fascinated by WW2 artefacts turning up in New Guinea, and after seeing Brighton’s West Pier before it burned down, washed up on the shore like an Edwardian shipwreck, the romance of something old and immense surviving the ravages of nature and time was clearly simmering in my subconscious.

When the image of the submarine hit me, I quickly wrote two or three pages to capture the scene, but it wasn’t until I covered a story on cave diving some years later that my protagonist materialised, and then through researching history and technology, the rest of the story took shape.

What does being an author mean to you?

I think I have always been a storyteller, so it feels like the right place for me to be. I can remember as a teenager writing my grandmother a letter detailing my exploits spear fishing on a school trip, and her response was “oh, you do so exaggerate!”, which I thought hilarious because I had sent her a photo of me posing with the poor old fish!

But I realise now what she was responding to was not the size of the catch but the vividness of my account. I have always seen things in technicolor and often feel them that way too, so I think I have found my creative niche and purpose, which is a relief because I always had this sense my purpose was unresolved.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given about writing?

“Show don’t tell”, and “read as much as you can”, spring to mind, but something that sticks out is New York Literary agent Noah Lukeman’s point that it can take 20 years to become a good writer, so be patient! This advice combines perseverance, self-belief (which, in my case is still fragile) and developing the requisite suite of writing skills through the doing.

What is your favourite part of the publishing process?

Working with editors and having a team behind you. After so long on my own (notwithstanding the generosity of friends and family giving feedback) it is a joy to get close professional input.

At times it can be challenging having your carefully stitched together characters and plot pulled apart, but the consultative process enhances the story and the writing, and it allows me to not worry about a myriad of other details such as copy editing, proofreading and all the other work involved with self-publishing like formatting, font, pagination and the like.

You also have an art department designing covers, PR and marketing experts doing the selling, all of which lets me get on with the core business of writing.

What are you currently reading?

Jurassic Park. I spotted it in a cheapy rack at the bookshop and wanted to reacquaint myself with a classic of the techno thriller genre. For the most part I’m enjoying it – at times Grant the paleontologist seems a bit slow off the mark for the sake of the plot – but Crichton does an excellent job of weaving sophisticated science with genuine suspense.

I’m not surprised Spielberg wanted to make the film – the whole concept of humanity making dinosaurs for entertainment and having it all go wrong is such a perfect metaphor for our time.

Who are your favourite authors?

That is a tough one! My tastes are eclectic and I’m sure I’m forgetting several but in no particular order: Joseph Conrad, Margaret Attwood, Len Deighton, Kurt Vonnegut, Alastair Maclean, G.R.R Martin, Tim Winton, Wilbur Smith, Lionel Shriver, Bernard Cornwell, Hilary Mantel, Nicholas Monsarrat, Ion Idriess, and Norman Mailer.

Where can our readers follow you?

My website is, you can also find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

What is next for Jake Avila?

I am currently working on a sequel to Cave Diver set in the windswept wastes of the Southern Ocean. I’m also putting the finishing touches on Book One of an end of civilization saga which I hope to find a home for soon.

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