INTERVIEW WITH DALE BROWN
My first interview! Dale Brown is the author of more than 15 New York Times bestsellers, including Plan of Attack (January 2005), his last novel starring his intrepid hero, Patrick McLanahan. His newest book, Act of War, launches an unforgettable new series lead by a young new hero named Jason Richter. This surefire thriller combines geopolitics, terrorism, and plenty of action as it takes readers deep into the new world of intelligence-focused warfare like never before. A former U. S. Air Force captain, Brown can often be found flying his own plane over the skies of Nevada. He lives near Lake Tahoe.
BookBitch: Why did you go into the military? How old were you? How did your family feel about it? Do you come from a military family?
Dale Brown: I entered the military because I wanted to fly; my family couldn't afford to send me to college (I am the oldest boy of 6 kids); my grades were good but not good enough for an academic scholarship; and I was active in sports (soccer, hockey, tennis) but not good enough for an athletic scholarship.
My Dad was and is very anti-military, but with two of his sons in the military he's softened up over the years. The rest of my family thought it was a regular job--I don't think they realized that I trained to drop nuclear bombs for a living, just like they don't know what my youngest brother Jim does in the Army.
BookBitch: Tell me about your military career. Specifically, your progression through the ranks, friends you made that you kept, and your best and worst memories.
Dale Brown: I never saw the military as a career. I'm like my Dad in a lot of ways--I'm always looking for the next great thing, the next challenge, the next opportunity. I met lots of military officers but never wanted to be like any of them. I resigned my commission because I wasn't being challenged any more, I realized I probably wasn't going to get promoted very high, and I had something else that I was more interested in--writing.
BookBitch: In what direction do you see the military moving today? Do you think a draft will become inevitable? Talk to me in technobabble, baby! Then translate please.
Dale Brown: The military desperately needs to change, but is being prevented from doing so by the old heads, the Vietnam- and Cold War-era generals, politicians, and bureaucrats who see transformation, downsizing, and technology as eroding the military they know and are too comfortable with.
Operation Iraqi Freedom is the perfect example of the "graybeards" in control. Instead of using our technological advantages to fight the Iraqis, we tried to fight a World War Two-style war against a Vietnam-style guerrilla opponent--we used a sledgehammer to knock down the beehive and were surprised when we started getting stung.
If another Iraq-like confrontation breaks out, a draft will happen (the draft actually never went away--it's just dormant). But it doesn't have to happen. We brought down the Taliban in Afghanistan with less than ten percent of the troops we're using in Iraq--we can do the same to Iran, Syria, or North Korea, if the old guys in the Pentagon would simply stop thinking of war in twentieth-century terms.
BookBitch: What words of advice do you have for the soldiers in the military today? Especially those in Iraq and other combat zones, and their families.
Dale Brown: To the soldiers, I would say: learn your craft, pay attention, stay alert, don't get complacent, and don't give up. You chose to be a soldier--get out there and be the best damned soldier you can.
To the families, I would say: be strong, stay strong, be supportive, and keep the faith. The military is not some stranger that stole your son, daughter, husband, or wife in the middle of the night--the military is the life they chose. Support and love them, or keep your mouth shut.
BookBitch: Tell me about your educational background and any other jobs/careers you had besides the military & writing. Why did you leave the military? Why did you start writing? How did you get your first agent? Your first book contract? What advice would you give struggling authors?
Dale Brown: I was always a good student but college was very difficult for me, primarily because I chose a difficult major (pre-med) and partied too much as a freshman. After I changed my major (to West European History) and stopped screwing around, I did better.
Other than that, I have no other marketable skills. I never finished even the basic professional military education courses like Squadron Officers School or Air Command and Staff College; I never finished a master's degree. But I knew I could write.
I had been writing freelance magazine articles for years; I had a column in the Penn State University newspaper; and I wrote for the base newspapers. I had not been doing much fiction. But writing about a fictitious B-52 bombing mission against the Soviet Union while still flying B-52s really got me going. I worked on that manuscript for 3 years.
I had already decided to get out of the Air Force, but shortly thereafter I had my first meeting with a literary agency (George and Olga Wieser, now the Wieser & Elwell Agency). I didn't sign any deals at that meeting, but it pulled me out of my little funk about worrying what to do after I got out of the Air Force.
A couple months after I got out I received a telegram (the one and only telegram I ever received or even remember seeing) from the Wiesers telling me they had made a deal for "Flight of the Old Dog" and two other novels. I still have no idea how they found me, because since meeting with them in April of 1986 I had left the Air Force, moved from New Hampshire back to California, and had moved twice after that.
BookBitch: I'm curious about how you work. Tell me what a typical writing day is like for you. How long do you work? When do you write? How does your family affect that process? How long does it take you to complete a novel? Do they vary? Do you use researchers or do your own or just use yourself as your chief resource? Do you have groupies?
Dale Brown: My schedule revolves around my family--I tried it the other way, having my family adapt to my schedule, but with an 8 year-old that doesn't work.
A typical day starts around 8:30 a.m., after I drop my son off at school. I usually read and answer e-mail, look over whatever I'm working on, make a few changes here and there until noon...then go to the driving range and hit some golf balls, read a book, surf the Internet, or just stare out the window and think about the story.
Around one p.m. I go back to work and go until 2:30 until it's time to pick up my son from school. I get him started on his homework, then go back to work until around six p.m. I hang with the family until my son goes to bed around 9 p.m., then go back to work. I read what I've done, make a few changes or additions, then quit around 11:30 pm.
I fly my Cessna P210 at least once a week year-round to stay proficient. I play golf in the late spring, summer, and early fall, and I referee soccer for the local youth soccer group in the summer and fall. My wintertime sport is snowblowing, which is good exercise but is starting to feel like work now, so I'm ready to move someplace warm that has good flying weather, an airport nearby, and a good golf course.
I do quite a few speaking engagements, mostly for service clubs, colleges, libraries, and literacy groups.
I used to have an assistant but my office is my space and I didn't like anyone invading it, even if it was something worthwhile or necessary. I do all my own research.
A book takes 6-8 months to finish, plus a month or so for editing. I try to roll right into the next one as soon as I finish.
Groupies? Yeah, right!
BookBitch: What are you currently reading? Can you read other action adventure type books while you're working on writing one? What sort of books do you read for pleasure? Who are some of your favorite authors? What are some of your favorite books and why?
Dale Brown: Most of the stuff I read is research oriented, mostly background or "behind-the-scenes" books, a little politics, a lot of geopolitical or military non-fiction. I read very few other techno-thriller writers, and rarely while I'm working on a manuscript.
BookBitch: Your new book, ACT OF WAR, is also a video game. How did that happen? Are you a video game enthusiast?
Dale Brown: My Hollywood agent, Alan Nevins of The Firm Entertainment, brought me the offer from Attari to write a story for a real-time military strategy game they were producing. I had already done a computer game years ago("Megafortress") and I jumped at the opportunity. I wasn't paid much money, but I did get the book rights and a portion of the movie and TV rights.
Before "Act of War," the only computer games I played were "Solitaire" and flight simulators like "Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004," and even then I only flew planes that I fly in real life. My son is into PC computer games so I've gotten more into them recently, games like "Command and Conquer: Generals" and of course "Act of War."
BookBitch: Do people confuse you with Dan Brown? Can you cash his checks? Do you wish you could? Did you read The Da Vinci Code and would you care to express an opinion?
Dale Brown: Many folks have said that our writing styles are similar. I haven't read any of Dan Brown's books. I'm secretly hoping he's a long-lost son that has been searching for me for years. Fat chance.
BookBitch: Please share anything else you'd like that I haven't asked about.
Dale Brown: I believe we live in a world of our own creation. We are all God. We are immortal. We had no beginning and have no end, and life is an endless journey of pleasure and discovery. Life is managed, enlightened risk, or it's wasted.
Please visit Dale Brown's website at http://www.megafortress.com
Sunday, July 31, 2005
INTERVIEW WITH DALE BROWN
Posted by BookBitch at 7/31/2005 09:45:00 PM