Are you black?
I am flattered that people think so. I think my agent was disappointed when we first met and she discovered that I am Caucasian. My novels are military thrillers, and the US military is blessed with a significant percentage of minority personnel. To ignore that would simply be unrealistic, and so I frequently create leading black characters. I do not pretend to have any special insight into how black characters should act or feel(or female characters or Muslim characters or short characters (I’m 6’4”)). Whenever I create any character, I try to imagine how my own personality would differ if I had grown up under different circumstances. Note that although my stories include black characters, the stories are not about race. If I replaced my black characters with white characters, the plots would remain essentially the same.
What motivated you to start writing?
After leaving the US Air Force, I was unemployed during the summer of 1985. I read Tom Clancy’s terrific book Hunt for the Red October, and I told myself that I could write something like that about airplanes and hurricanes. (I had been a Hurricane Hunter in the Air Force) I sat down with a yellow legal pad and wrote Hurricane Alley. I collected a lot of rejection slips until I sent it to a local publisher in Seattle, who responded with a note advising me that they only published Swedish novels. The publisher did include a nice comment regarding the quality of the manuscript and recommended an agent in New York. Two weeks later I had two offers.
I want to be a writer. What courses should I study in college?
Calculus. It teaches you to think clearly and to account for all factors.
Foreign language. It teaches you to express yourself in multiple ways.
Philosophy. It teaches you about the human condition, and thus motive, which is the most underrated aspect of writing a coherent novel.
Law. Almost as good as calculus, except that you have to attend classes with all those law students.
Summer Internship. Work in a coal mine or on a crab boat in the Bering Sea. Do something worth writing about. Nobody cares about your coming of age experience.
I’ve written a novel. Will you read it and tell me what you think?
When do you find time to write?
On airplanes, except when the jerk in front of me reclines his seat. I’m on an airplane right now.
Which is your favorite book?
At the risk of hubris, I think The Silent Men qualifies as real literature. The publisher expected it to become a best seller, but I guess we failed to realize how much Vietnam has faded from our interests. The book sold OK, but we were all very disappointed that we didn't make the big time. We did option the movie rights, but no producer stepped up. Antoine Fuqua did sign on as the director, though.
I love Acts of Honor. It is a big, bold, grand novel that transcends action thrillers to become a book with a message.
Hurricane Alley is a fun read at the beach or on an airplane, but I would not say it is serious literature. But it is better written and more exciting than most of the junk on the best seller list. One of my best friends says it is the best book he ever read, but he is an old Marine with a 10th grade reading level.
I have great hopes for Love Noir. It is an intense little thriller with the sexiest heroine ever created. I dedicated this book to my wife because she is my heroine.