The Booktopia Book Guru asks
author of Undaunted
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born and raised on a farm, ‘Marree’ in Greenethorpe, on the southern inlands of NSW. We ran sheep and wheat; it was a childhood of adventure and survival, noting that I had 3 brothers to contend with. I was then sent to boarding school at 10yrs old, to St Joseph’s College in Sydney. Here, rugby was the school’s religion and you had to keep your wits about you – good training for the military really.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
When I was 12 I wanted to be Indiana Jones; adventure seemed to me to be the only thing that held any value. If it wasn’t dangerous, I wasn’t interested! When I was 18 all I could think about was rugby, I wanted to be a wallaby; unfortunately they don’t select 55kg, 5 foot high weaklings to play front row for Australia! When I was 30 I wanted to be a private security contractor and former special forces solider – both of which I already WAS – so that worked out fine (haha).
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That strength, size and rugby prowess was the true measure of a man. I now know that there are other barometers for success.
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
Lets go with 3 books, because that’s really what made me believe in a world outside that which I existed.
1. ‘Musashi’ by Eiji Yoshikawa. It is a story of a great Samurai who really existed however, the story is fictionalised. It’s lessons and values about honour and sacrifice saturated my core – and still do.
2. ‘A Fortunate Life‘ by A.B. Facey. It is one boy’s adventure in a harsh land that made me aware fear should not govern your path in life.
3. ‘The Illiad‘ by Homer. A book every solider should read, for it encompasses the dichotomy of a soldier’s rationale for war and held a mirror up to my desire for it.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?
I didn’t really ‘choose’ to write a book – as I began to jot down the events of my life in order to understand them – it just sort of happened. To me, the idea that books are obsolete is ridiculous; the tactile visceral nature of a printed paper book is a sacred thing and will never be replaced.
6. Please tell us about your latest book…
‘Diving was a boy’s own adventure, a jump into the unknown full of devil-may-care attitudes. It welcomed you with one hand and cast you asunder with the other. It was a hideous bitch goddess and it drank the blood of the unprepared.’
It’s the story of how I got into Australia’s special forces and the many trials and tribulations of seeking adventure wherever I could
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
Hard question for sure. I’d be happy if one kid read it and I made him/her think that they could do more with their life – that they weren’t hamstrung by circumstance or ability. To simply endure hardship and attempt the impossible are endeavours worth pursuing.
I most admire the instructors I had in the military and the guys in the army, navy and air force still fighting the global war on terror. It’s a fight worth engaging in and we owe a great debt to those still fighting it.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
My goal is to keep attempting things outside the scope of my ability; it’s very easy to do stuff you’re good at, the challenge lies in striving for the unreachable.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
My advice for writers is to do just that: write. Just get it down, smash it out – even if it’s bad the first time – get your ideas down on the paper Hunter S. Thompson style then go back and work on making it good. Reading a s**t load helps too!
Hugh, thank you for playing.
by Hugh O’Brien
‘Diving was a boys-own adventure, a jump into the unknown, full of devil-may-care attitudes. It welcomed you with one hand and cast you asunder with the other. It was a hideous bitch goddess and it drank the blood of the unprepared.’
After an ordinary childhood, Hugh ‘Obi’ O’Brien’s life has been surprising. What took this sporty country boy from Sydney boarding school to directionless youth to navy clearance diver, slipping undetected through deep waters to defuse mines and dismantle bombs? Upping that level of adrenaline, Obi joined the Special Forces counterterrorism unit TAG (East) – no picnic.
In a memoir full of eye-popping anecdotes, he colourfully recounts this wild ride. He reveals the painful transition from military life to his days risking ‘spaghettification’ on underwater construction projects to private security work – pirate-hunting in the Red Sea and tearing along the world’s most dangerous roads in the Middle East.
Undaunted is for anyone who’s ever dreamed of taking a high-action, alternative route through life. This is an engaging and unexpected account by an operator at once tough, whimsical and funny, and always brutally honest.
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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