Goran Powell has spent more than 35 years in Martial Arts. He is a qualified instructor with Daigaku Karate Kai (DKK), on of the United Kingdom’s leading clubs, and assistant coach to the successful mixed martial arts team; DKK Fighters. He is a regular contributor to martial arts magazines and has appeared twice on the cover of the Traditional Karate magazine. He is a freelance writer and has won numerous advertising awards. Powell is married and lives in London with his wife and three children.
When I caught up with Goran Powell by phone, we spent a pleasant forty five minutes chatting about his writing, his involvement in Martial Arts and some of his likes and dislikes. Powell came across as a gentle and pleasant man, one whose company would be quite welcome. His company would be quite welcome too on a dark night in a back alley when faced by thugs; Powell is a 4th Dan, Goju Ruy Karate expert, and it is his love of the Martial Arts that has inspired two books on the subject. And that was the reason for this interview; Powell’s latest novel, A Sudden Dawn.
Before talking about Powell’s latest book, I want to touch briefly on his first: Waking Dragon. This began as an article and extended into a book, an autobiographical narrative about Powell’s own journey through the hard, physical road that takes the exponents up to a level of skill and discipline that can only be admired by us lesser mortals culminating in the 30 Man Kumite, a brutal test involving fighting 30 men, one after another, in full-contact combat. The book was warmly received by martial artists everywhere and it was this that encouraged him to keep writing. Powell described it as autobiographical almost, and after talking to him, I can understand why.
But like so many of us who began the long slog writing and looking for a publisher, Powell’s tale is no exception. He sent out about eighty mail shots before receiving the reply that launched him as an author. Mind you, Powell is no stranger to writing per se, he is a copy writer by profession, working mainly in advertising. But the praise he received for his first book convinced him that there was a gap in the market, and it was this that brought about his second book, but first novel; A Sudden Dawn. At first Powell was not convinced that the American market was right for his work, and had been seeking a UK publisher, but the US publisher who took it on had been looking to build the relatively new genre of Martial Arts Fiction, and Powell’s novel fitted the bill perfectly.
A Sudden Dawn is the story of an epic journey of the monk, Bodhidharma (Da Mo), who brought Zen and martial arts to the Shaolin Temple in A. D. 507. It’s a refreshing take on the mythical origins of Kung Fu with a good pace, enjoyable interpretation of legendary characters, and wonderfully written adventures during the long journey across Asia. He and an unlikely disciple, a young Chinese fugitive named Ko, become travelling companions. But there are powerful forces at work to destroy the Indian master, and Ko’s violent past catches up with them outside the temple gates, where a deadly reckoning takes place.
Powell certainly has some credo when you read the following jacket blurbs or reviews:
“Inspirational…I loved it!”–Geoff Thompson, martial artist, award-winning film maker, British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
“A Powerhouse of a page turner!”–Iain Abernethy, 5th Dan karate, best selling martial arts author.
“Superbly crafted. Surges with action!”–Loren W. Christensen, 8th Dan, best selling author of 40 martial arts books.
“As good as James Clavell’s Shogun, masterfully written and hard to put down. It’s freaking brilliant!”–Lawrence A. Kane, best selling martial arts author.
I told Powell that when you’re mentioned in the same breath as James Clavell, that’s an accolade in itself, to which he agreed wholeheartedly.
I asked him to elaborate a little more on A Sudden Dawn and his inspiration for writing the novel. He believed there was a gap in the market that his novel could fill. There was the inevitable comparison (from me) about David Carradine and Bruce Lee. But Powell wasn’t fazed by that comparison, and in a sense welcomed it. Whereas those two characters were diametrically opposed, in Powell’s novel he brings the Master and Student angle to life where the student learns his craft, in difficult and practical circumstances as the two men trek across Asia.
When I asked Powell what type of books he likes to read, he told me that he loved historical fiction; anything to do with Romans, Spartans, Vikings and Mongol hordes. He likes Eastern philosophy and believes there is a link, a connection between the aforementioned fighting armies, their philosophies and the ZEN that is inherent in Martial Arts.
A favourite fiction hero of Powell’s is Harry Flashman of the series of Flashman novels by George Macdonald Frazer. Hardly the macho, hero I put to him, but Powell said there was something about the gallows humour in the Flashman novels that was irresistible, and not dissimilar to the gallows humour one finds among servicemen the world over.
Powell’s advice to would be writers is to find something you want to write about and complete it, even if you think no-one wants to publish your story. You need to be hard skinned, suffer rejections as a matter of course and keep on polishing your novel because the competition is fierce.
Powell likes to begin his writing day with a karate session in his local park or in his back garden. He believes it helps to recharge the creative juices. When he is working, Powell spends a great deal of time on the tube (metro), and he uses this time to make notes or work mentally on his characters and the story line. He admits that when the action rises in his novel, so does the adrenalin.
Although Powell lives and works in London, he said he would like to live around the Mediterranean. His mother is from the former country of Yugoslavia and he spent his summers in Montenegro. So either there or in France. When asked what book he would take to a desert island, Powell said it would have to be the Bible, not because he is religious but because it would give him an opportunity to compare the Eastern religions to Christianity.
Goran Powell’s latest novel, A Sudden Dawn is published by YMAA Publication Center, and is available on Amazon and Book Depository. I’ve just ordered mine, and I look forward to reading it.