The Novel Road Interview: Dale Brown
The Novel Road Interview: Dale Brown
My intention with these interviews was to find authors of note, representing the many literary genres, and ask questions that point directly to their work. When I approached Dale Brown to represent “Techno-Thrillers”, he graciously accepted.
Having read a score of his novels (Yes, he has a SCORE of novels) over the years, I began formulating questions… Guy questions? Yes, and who could blame me. I am a guy after all and Dale has earned more frequent flyer miles from flying some of the coolest aircraft ever invented, than most people have on commercial airliners.
Note to self: ask Dale if the Air Force has a Frequent Flyer program, and see if he’ll slide me a few for a B-1ride.
I had a problem though, in that Dale Brown isn’t your typical bombs-a-bursting author. If you have ever read one of his novels, you can’t help but realize Dale is actually a brilliant writer. Others in his genre can’t all make this claim. What’s more, the questions he chose to answer were about his passion for the written word, not traveling at Mach Two… Damn him!
Here’s a bit of background:
Dale Brown, a former U.S. Air Force captain, is the author of New York Times best-selling 22 action-adventure “techno-thriller” novels, making that prestigious list 15 times! His novels are published in 11 languages and distributed to over 70 countries. Worldwide sales of his novels, audiobooks and video games, are well in excess of 15 million copies. He has co-authored another eleven books in the bestselling Dreamland series, with Jim DeFelice. He is the writer and technical consultant on the Act of War PC real-time strategy game, published by Atari Interactive, as well as on the Megafortress PC flight simulator by Three-Sixty Pacific.
Dale was born in Buffalo, New York in 1956.
He graduated from Penn State University with a degree in Western European History and received an Air Force commission in 1978. He was a navigator-bombardier in the B-52G Stratofortress heavy bomber and the FB-111A supersonic medium bomber, and is the recipient of several military decorations and awards including the Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Combat Crew Award, and the Marksmanship ribbon. He was a member of the first class of Air Force ROTC cadets to qualify for and complete the grueling three-week U.S. Army Airborne Infantry paratrooper-training course at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Dale is a command pilot in Angel Flight West, a group that volunteer their time, skills, and aircraft to fly needy medical patients free of charge to receive medical treatment. Dale is also a Mission Pilot in the Civil Air Patrol, which performs search and rescue, disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, surveillance, and many other missions in support of the U.S. Air Force and other federal agencies. He supports a number of organizations to promote law enforcement, education, literacy, and support for military veterans and their families.
He is a Life Member of the Air Force Association, U.S. Naval Institute, and National Rifle Association. He is a multi-engine and instrument-rated private pilot and can often be found in the skies all across the United States, at the controls of his Piper Aztec-E. On the ground, Dale is a U.S. Soccer Federation referee and American Youth Soccer Organization referee instructor, and enjoys tennis and scuba diving. Dale, his wife Diane, and son Hunter live near Lake Tahoe, Nevada.
Dale: I wrote an editorial for my high school newspaper defending a so-called "crackdown" on smoking in the parking lot, and I was surprised at how many POSITIVE responses I received. Clue: Have the courage to speak your mind.
Me: You're co-writing novels with Jim DeFelice. It is becoming more and more common among established authors to co-write. Why?
Dale: Established authors do other series to keep their names on the bookshelves. But I do not subscribe to the concept of "ghost writer." Jim DeFelice is not my ghost-writer: he is an established and well-known author that writes outstanding stories that I am fortunate enough to collaborate on with him.
Me: In two sentences, describe your book or work in progress.
Dale: "A Time For Patriots" is about patriotism--good and bad. In tough economic and political times, one man's patriotism is another man's extremism--and vice-versa.
Me: How strict are you when it comes to staying true to your outline?
Dale: It never happens. The outline is just that--an outline. The story is always the master, and the story always changes. The characters have a life of their own that must be accurately and dynamically portrayed.
Me: Lunch with you and any Author you choose, from throughout history or today, and why.
Dale: Mark Twain, but NOT Samuel Clemens. Mark Twain was the fictional character come to life--Sam Clemens was the starving writer. Everyone should be exactly what they want to be, even if they have to invent them. Clemens had the guts to invent Mark Twain, and he will be immortalized because of it.
Me: You show a tremendous connection to your subject matter, as evidenced by your great stories and characters. Talk about your characters and how they came to be?
Dale: My characters serve the story, versus so-called "character-based" novels which focus on the character. Drama is about conflict, and as in real life, I want to portray how a person interacts with the situation and the story, and not the other way around.
Me: Talk about editing your first book. Also, how did you know when to stop?
Dale: I had the good fortune to listen to my first agents George and Olga Wieser, who told me that the story was good but the telling of the story was bad because I had too much technical gobbly-de-gook in it--I interrupted the story to inject more techno-stuff. The story is the master--serve the master. When you have a few books under your belt you can assert your own opinions, but in the first few books, listen to your experts.
When to stop? When you've told the story you want to tell. Your editor or agent may have opinions about breaks, holes, or questions in the story, but YOU always tell YOUR story--period.
Me: Tell us about your agent and why the match is perfect?
Dale: My agent, Robert Gottlieb of Trident Media, is a good match because he has standing and credibility in New York. He has enough clients that deals with different publishing houses and different clients interact for everyone's benefit.
But as an author, your job is to produce, not to worry about the deal-making. The great process breaks down if you don't deliver the goods. You are a writer--WRITE! Deliver the stuff you are passionate about and that the publishers want. YOUR passion is the key. Put YOUR passion down on paper. That's what the agents, editors, and publishers really want and pay for.
Me: This question, courtesy of Jeff Hall : “I'm a shortstory-ist. Writing a novel is like a crazy long marathon, only harder. How do you maintain a clear sense of that first passion that inspired you throughout a 200K word journey?”
Dale: You write whatever you are passionate and motivated to write. Military-technological-geopolitical stuff sometimes takes longer to set up, so you take the space and time to do it properly. If you can tell your story in less time and space, then do it. Again, as a novelist, you are slave to the STORY. Don't scrimp or save--tell it PROPERLY, YOUR WAY, but TELL THE STORY. Short or long, whatever, but TELL IT.
Me: You get a blank check to write about ANYTHING and it’s guaranteed to be published. What would the subject be?
I'd like to thank Dale for his time, taken from his busy schedule, to do this interview. He gave me a view of the great author he is, as well as his passion for the story and the written word. Authors everywhere wonder how they can become successful in the competitive world of publishing. Dale gave you the answer: Be true to the story! I, for one, am listening, because his 15 million books says he knows what he's talking about...
FLIGHT OF THE OLD DOG (1987), SILVER TOWER (1988), DAY OF THE CHEETAH (1989), HAMMERHEADS (1990), SKY MASTERS (1991), NIGHT OF THE HAWK (1992), CHAINS OF COMMAND (1993), STORMING HEAVEN (1994), SHADOWS OF STEEL (1996), FATAL TERRAIN (1997), THE TIN MAN (1998), BATTLE BORN, (1999), WARRIOR CLASS (2001), WINGS OF FIRE (2002), AIR BATTLE FORCE (2003), PLAN OF ATTACK (2004), ACT OF WAR (2005), EDGE OF BATTLE (2006), STRIKE FORCE (2007), SHADOW COMMAND (2008), ROGUE FORCES (2009), and EXECUTIVE INTENT (2010).