In June's Talking Travel series, we chat to Andre Frieden (aka AC Frieden). On Andre's Travellerspoint profile he describes himself as a: "Restless adrenaline-seeking multilingual attorney, novelist/author, pilot, martial artist, jetsetter, law professor, equestrian, brainiac, fitness fanatic, former army sniper and biologist who is easily bored." There's no guessing why we wanted to interview him!
You've lived all over the world – Senegal, India, Switzerland, the UK and now the US. Where did you like best and how has this experience impacted upon your view of the world?
Possessed with a virulent passion for writing espionage thrillers, fluent in several languages, and filled with anecdotes from living in five countries, I must confess: the itch to travel remains perpetually inflamed, no matter how often one of my three passports gets stamped. Each destination feeds this thirst for knowledge about our world and how I can make a difference through my books. Whether I’m flying a plane along the mountains above Santiago, meandering perilous barrios of Caracas, evading government minders in Pyongyang, or navigating the sultry waterways around New Orleans, I’m driven by curiosity and compelled to transform these experiences into fiction on as many bookshelves as possible.
Your background ranges from a molecular biologist, attorney, private pilot, martial artist, professor, army sniper and now novelist. How does one fit so much in one lifetime and where does travel fit in?
I wake up as an intellectual property attorney only to transform into a professor by early evening, and then further mutate into a thriller author for the remaining vampire hours, indulging in a labyrinth of sinister plots and characters. That’s a normal day. And when one of these roles calls for travel, you’ll catch me racing to the nearest airport with the essentials: three cameras, a notepad, and enough electronic gadgets to make the security screening process seem like root canal. Strangely perhaps, this is how I’ve found my equilibrium, both professionally and personally. Fiction writing has indeed become the glue that holds my diverse interests together, providing over the years a creative escape that has balanced the stresses of practicing law or running lengthy experiments in a windowless laboratory. It has also repurposed some skills that have little future use - demand is low for former snipers and 40+ martial artists, I’m guessing. Like most authors, I embrace what is familiar to my experiences, and exotic, bizarre, and off-the-beaten-path places that have some connection with current events tend to be my preference. There is so much more to write.
You've got lots of amazing photos and interesting blog posts on Travellerspoint – how did you find out about the site?
I blame my Swiss genes for keeping me organised, and my quixotic Brazilian genes for everything else. That’s perhaps what led me to Travellerspoint – a place to sort out my travel logistics, record my experiences, and let loose the literary demons that need a playground. For sure, Travellerspoint is a perfect fit for authors who travel, from its interactive maps to its versatile blogging tools and photography portal. The site’s community of fellow travellers also provides a dynamic international network that I tap into before and after my travels. I only wish I had found Travellerspoint much earlier in my career.
Do you have any advice for budding travel writers?
My rule of thumb is to not get bogged down in detail. When travelling I always take copious notes and many pictures but never at the expense of truly experiencing the surroundings and living the moment. Ultimately, it is that sense of familiarity, more than any recorded content, that will enrich your writing. The internet can always fill in the factual information, but few things can replace what we as authors absorb from being on-site, soaking in firsthand every aspect of a destination.
Where to next – literally and figuratively?
With a sequel thriller, an anthology, and two photography books due out later this year and several new novels in the works, my research travel schedule is filling up fast. In the months to come, I’ll scale the rugged terrain of Turkey’s Cappadocia region, witness a rocket launch in Kazakhstan, fly an old MiG-15 fighter jet, hunt for post-revolution scenes in Egypt, and interview retired intelligence officers in Eastern Europe. And after recently journeying through North Korea, witnessing the coup in Honduras, and exploring narcotrafficking havens across Latin America, I feel prepared for almost anything.
Check out these recent interviews in the Talking Travel series: