Meet the author
James Ward was born in Middlesbrough in 1961. He lives and works in southern England with his wife of 35 years and her beloved dog. He writes fiction, philosophy and poetry.
"Tales of MI7 now consists of fourteen novels. But I didn’t start off as a writer of spy fiction. No, I used to churn out stand-alone novels more focused on issues and themes than on plot, and also poetry and philosophy. But when, in 2010, I first noticed the potential of Amazon’s e-book platform, I realised I'd have to change tack. Stand-alone fiction does not sell on Kindle. What sells is genre fiction: detective novels, romances, horror stories, fantasy, thrillers. And books in series.
"This forced me to clarify my aims as an author. I quickly saw that what I had previously been trying to write is sometimes called a state of the nation novel. That is, one that identifies the important social, cultural and moral issues of the day and sets out to tell a rattling good yarn around them.
"The great thing was, I didn’t have to abandon that, because it wasn’t essentially tied to one-off novels.
"And then I had another, even bigger, flash of insight. I could probably do a 'state of the nation novel' even more effectively in a series of genre novels. It was simply a question of choosing the right genre!
"Espionage fiction stood out as the obvious choice because it allowed me to address so many different types of issues. Firstly, spies are by nature intimately connected to the major political concerns of the day, so I could write about those; secondly, they all face dilemmas about how to reconcile their professional and personal lives – dilemmas all of us face in one way or another, but which, for spies, are probably particularly acute. Then there is the question of what spies are supposedly trying to protect: a ‘way of life’ (in Tales of MI7, the British way of life – which raises the questions, what is that way of life, and what ought it to be?). And finally of course, there are all the obvious moral problems: how far is the British, or any, way of life worth defending? Where do you draw the line in coming to its rescue? Who are the ‘bad guys’ and the ‘good guys’, and who decides? What are the ethics of spying? Ever?
"Espionage fiction is a large genre, but not too large. I have tried to make the Tales of MI7 novels as original and entertaining as possible, and, importantly, as enjoyable for women as men. My ideal reader will enjoy reading detective fiction (there is a large whodunit? element to all these novels), about contemporary political and moral issues, about families, about London, about romance, about real-life philosophical dilemmas. He or she will also appreciate humour: these are not essentially ‘dark’ novels, although they contain their share of darkness: they are optimistic about human flourishing and the potential for international cooperation.
"I should point out that the spies in my novels are nothing like real spies. Anyone expecting deep insights into surveillance techniques, technological weaponry and intelligence protocols in the 21st century should probably turn aside – although, where these do appear, I have tried to make them as realistic as possible, given my necessarily limited knowledge.
"When I think of the few novels I have really valued in my life - Anna Karenina, for example, or Sense and Sensibility - they all combine two things: they are set in a very specific time and place, but they also address universal human concerns. Obviously, I am not comparing Tales of MI7 to either of these, but I have tried to preserve something of their twofold appeal to me. The reader must judge whether I have succeeded."