For the first time on my blog, I have the pleasure of interviewing an author-buddy of mine: David Bruns. David is a fantastic sci-fi writer, but lately he’s ventured into military thrillers with his latest novel, Weapons of Mass Deception. David was kind enough to let me grill him about his experience with writing and how it feels to dip his toe into a brand new genre.
1. David, tell us a little about yourself and your writing. How did you get into fiction writing and what do you consider your genre, if you can even pin that down specifically for us.
My entry point into full-time writing was science fiction with my series The Dream Guild Chronicles. I love the “old school” sci-fi stories—Heinlein, Bradbury, the original Star Trek, to name a few—and I think my writing style tends to have that kind of vibe.
I’ve wanted to try a more mainstream genre and got the opportunity with Weapons of Mass Deception, a military thriller that I co-authored with another Navy veteran. There’s absolutely no sci-fi in that story. It’s all either real events or events that could have happened.
2. My introduction to your work was the fantastic The Yesterday Adjustment, a time-travel thriller set in Michael Bunker’s world of Pennsylvania. But, as you say, you’ve also written The Dream Guild Chronicles and multiple short stories. What attracts you to a topic or genre when you write? What are you going for when you produce a story?
Sometimes ideas just happen. When I read Bunker’s Pennsylvania, I immediately had this idea for a short story from the perspective of a Transport agent. I didn’t know if Michael would even allow fanfic, so I emailed him and he said “yes.”
I see a big difference in writing a novel and writing a short story. A short story is about a moment, a revelation, and the rest of the story is built around that one moment. For me, to start a short story, I need to have that moment very clearly captured in my head.
If a short story is a sprint, then a novel is a marathon. You need to start out strong, find your place in the pack, pace yourself for the long haul, and finish with a nice kick so you look good for the photos at the finish line. The more I write, the more I find myself putting in more time in the pre-writing/planning stages. It’s kind of like putting a jigsaw puzzle together without having a picture to work from.
Short stories are also a great way to test out a concept or a character before putting the effort into a full-length novel.
3. I know you’ve got a military background, as does your coauthor, J.R. Olson. Can you tell us a little about your—and J.R.’s—experiences in the military and how they inform your writing, especially in Weapons of Mass Deception?
JR and I are both graduates of the US Naval Academy and served in the Navy. (We graduated two years apart and never knew each other when we attended Annapolis.) I served six years in nuclear-powered submarines—remember, this was the late 80s, the tail end of the Cold War—before putting in my papers to become a civilian.
JR served a full 21 years as a naval intelligence officer before retiring as a commander. He had a fascinating career that specialized in HUMINT, or human intelligence, and culminated with a tour as the US Naval attaché to Finland in Helsinki.
JR’s background played a huge role in making WMD happen. He had the original idea (Saddam Hussein’s nukes being smuggled to Iran) and had lived the military-political game inside the Washington Beltway. We even used Helsinki as a main setting in the story because of his connection there.
4. WMD starts out in the deserts of Iraq with Uday Hussein, one of Saddam’s sons–he’s actually a character in the novel. How did you come to write about him and the topic of WMDs? What inspired you to it? How accurate are the historical aspects (like Uday as a character) in the novel, if you can give us a feel for that.
We chose the WMD topic because we wanted a modern historical event that was both important and recognizable to everyone. Saddam Hussein’s missing WMDs pretty much nails those criteria. We went out of our way to include real-life events in the story. There’s a point in the novel when two Iranian characters are seeing the statue of Saddam being torn down in Firdos Square in Iraq—it actually happened on that exact day using an M88 armored vehicle. To make sure we didn’t miss anything, we had a former Navy SEAL, an FBI agent, and a Research Fellow at the Finnish Institute of Foreign Affairs as beta readers to screen for any technical inaccuracies in their respective fields.
When we created fictional events, like the Iranian nuclear talks in Helsinki, we used real venues that had been used in the past for these types of high-level international discussions.
5. WMD has a very Tom Clancy feel to it. Political intrigue mixed with military thriller elements. Is Clancy a favorite of yours? How about other favorite writers? How do you see them influencing your style?
The Tom Clancy comment is near and dear to my heart. The Hunt for Red October is one of my favorite books and I met Tom Clancy before he became famous. I was a midshipman at the Academy and he was still selling insurance in Maryland. I read his book a few months later, when I was actually serving on-board a submarine for the summer, and I was hooked.
What I loved about Clancy’s writing, especially his earlier works, is that he really tried to make the characters and the scenarios authentic. He avoided the Hollywood version of the military in favor of real people doing real missions in an increasingly dangerous world.
Other writers that have influenced me? Ken Follett has had an amazingly prolific career of consistently good thrillers and historical fiction. Daniel Silva is another writer who puts out consistently good books. Frank Herbert penned my favorite book of all time, DUNE. Patrick O’Brian for the Aubrey-Maturin series, of which Master and Commander is the most well-recognized. None of these guys were one-hit wonders, all of them built solid careers on a steady stream of good writing.
6. Why should readers who might not ordinarily read military thrillers pick up Weapons of Mass Deception? Why would they like it?
I hate labels, especially genre labels. Weapons of Mass Deception has military characters and is a thriller, so military thriller is the right label for sorting purposes. But it’s also a great story about characters you can believe in who balance love and work—and sometimes they get it wrong. It’s about bad guys who believe in what they’re doing, but also have families that they love very much.
Really good stories go beyond genre labels. That’s what we’ve tried to create with Weapons of Mass Deception.
Give it a shot. You won’t be disappointed.
You can follow David Bruns through his website at www.davidbruns.com. Sign up for his newsletter and you’ll get free ARCs of his works, first access to new stories, and plenty of subscriber-only perks.
Join My Newseltter
Sign up for free books, special sales, and inside info!
Sign Up Now