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Writing While at War

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Zombies Are Just the Beginning for These Military Authors

For some members of the military, serving your country doesn’t end when you retire from active duty.  Meet a few members of the military, active and retired, who are working to make our lives a little richer with epically entertaining (and equally scary) zombie and end of the world thrillers. Only the unimaginable would come from the minds of those who have endured some of the craziest things on earth to serve and protect their country. 

MEET THE GUYS:

Brian Parker, Active Duty Field Artillery Officer in the US Army Ÿ
Author of ENDURING ARMAGEDDON, out June 2nd

Stephen A. North, Retired Military Policeman in the Army Reserve Ÿ
Author of BENEATH THE MASK and DEAD TIDE series, on-sale now

J. L. Bourne, Active in the US Navy
Author of DAY BY DAY ARMAGEDDON series, on-sale now 

Toby Tate, Former US Navy Ÿ
Author of LILITU and the GABRIELLE LINCOLN THRILLER series, out Fall 2015 

Mikhail Lerma, Army National Guard, Honorably Discharged after 10 years of service
Author of Z PLAN: BLOOD ON THE SAND, on-sale now 

SSgt. Thomas J. Wolfenden, US Army, Retired
Author of ONE MAN'S ISLAND, on-sale now

Dev Jarrett, Chief Warrant Officer Four in the US Army
Author of DARK CRESCENT, out June 9th
 

ON BEING A WRITER:

“I've always been a writer, of sorts. Then, when I joined the Army, I allowed myself to develop the mental flaw that so many other busy adults get: I was too busy to "waste" time writing. Especially me, right? I have a family, I go off to war and when we're not deployed, we work 12-16 hours a day. Who has time for writing? My flawed mental model was shattered when I read Day by Day Armageddon by J.L. Bourne. I read the About the Author section and found out that he was an Active Duty officer as well (in the Navy, but we won't hold that against him). I decided that if he could find the time to write, then so could I.” – Brian Parker

“I started off writing out of boredom. An idea came to me during my year overseas, so I just started writing. I was surprised when I enjoyed it as much as I did.” – Mikhail Lerma

ON FINDING TIME TO WRITE WHILE ON ACTIVE DUTY:

“On long deployments, I read, a lot.  I also wrote all of my novels while serving on active duty in the military.” – J. L. Bourne

 “One of the great things about having a big cargo pocket on each thigh is that paperbacks fit inside easily.  I've always got a book in one pocket.  And as far as writing, my other cargo pocket holds a notebook.  Whenever I've got downtime and something occurs to me that will fit into a story, it goes into the notebook.”  – Dev Jarrett

“Any writing I did was for official reports or letters home. As a matter of fact, the letters to my then-girlfriend were what convinced her to marry me.” – Toby Tate

“There were many times when it was 'hurry up and wait' in which I had nothing to do but dream up story ideas.  I don't smoke, so every time they said, 'Smoke 'em if you got 'em' I pulled out my notebook and pen.  I remember this one  'Hey North, you didn't write that down, did you?'  Of course I wrote it down.”  – Stephen A. North


ON CIVILIAN AUTHORS:

I grew up reading Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Stephen King, along with magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland. I ate that stuff up.” – Toby Tate

“I would have to say that originally I was inspired by the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury and C.S. Forester.  Forester wrote a series of novels about a Royal Navy officer in the Napoleonic War era.  Those stories inspired me to write a story set in an earlier time frame when the English were chasing Spain's treasure-laden Manila Galleons.  I actually wrote it at the behest of my Spanish teacher, Roberto Bailes.  Not sure if he is still alive, but would love to tell him that I am a writer now.”  – Stephen A. North

I read a LOT. I read Tom Clancy, Frederick Forsythe, and Stephen King.” – Thomas J. Wolfenden

ON WHY THE MILITARY IS THE BEST AT BATTLING ZOMBIES:

I just know that anytime zombies are mentioned that most of the people I knew were excited to discuss the subject. Maybe because we're survival/preparation minded.” – Mikhail Lerma

“Human beings are viscous, devious, nasty predators (trust me on this one). As such, most fights in real life are fast, violent and never fair.” – Brian Parker

“I love to explore man's nature and his inherent nobility and savagery while he or she is trying to survive civilization's collapse.  Whether those real people face a vicious, mindless zombie, a vengeful alien, or another survivor, I enjoy finding out what people will do, and how they handle the consequences of what they do in apocalyptic situations.” – Stephen A. North
 

ON BRINGING THE PAST INTO THE PRESENT:

“The experiences I’ve had the past twenty years on active duty have been prolific in my work.” – J. L. Bourne

There's one military-ish story that needed to be told, though. I may be letting the cat out of the bag here, but after Dark Crescent, my next novel is being published in February by Permuted.  It's called Casualties, and as you can probably imagine from the title, it incorporates a lot of memories of my deployments to Afghanistan.” – Dev Jarrett

“There's a lot I still have bottled up in memory from that time, still waiting to be released!  No threat intended, though.  Just mostly good stuff from a time in my life when I learned to appreciate what I have, and not bemoan what I don't, while serving my country.” Stephen A. North

“In (my book) Z Plan, my main character was stationed exactly where I was stationed. He also had the same mission and even some of the same friends.” – Mikhail Lerma
 

ON THE HEALING POWER OF WRITING:

“I have a theory it has something to do with PTSD, the horrors of war and the depression and hopelessness that goes with being away from family and friends for months and in some cases years.” – J. L. Bourne

“Everything that is about me now as an adult are in direct consequence of my time in the military. There's several things, in several of my stories, that I know first hand, up close and personal, that I wrote into my stories as sort of excising the demons that lurk just under the surface with me. It's sort of therapy for me.”  – Thomas J. Wolfenden

“In 2011, I was in a roadside bomb incident in Afghanistan. I won't bore you with the details, but the punchline was a ride in a Medevac chopper, receiving a Purple Heart, and a brain full of PTSD.  … I've been writing all my adult life, so it's not necessarily an emotional coping mechanism for me, but I can see it being that way for others.  And who knows?  Maybe my own 'unseen scars' would be worse if I didn't write.” – Dev Jarrett

“I think it's therapeutic to write and to get the thoughts that are in your mind out of there and onto paper -- for anyone, not just military people! However, military folks who've been in combat, police officers and first responders, survivors of abuse and brutal crimes, all of us have, in some way, our own demons that we have to face.” – Brian Parker

ON BECOMING THE CHARACTERS IN THE STORY:

“Putting myself in a bleak situation, but then writing a way out of it that seems realistic is my favorite thing to do.” – Mikhail Lerma

“I try to put myself into my protagonists head, how would I handle each situation. It's fun to see where I go, or how far I'd go to get certain things done.” – Thomas J. Wolfenden

“While in the army, I learned to 'go away' in my head somewhere to escape whatever drudgery I was enduring.  I remember having this vivid image of a bunch of soldiers carrying spears marching across a pristine white sand beach with the spear tips glinting in the sun.  They were going to assault a coastal fortress.  What I'm trying to say is that I think that urge to escape to somewhere else morphed into wanting to write about doing just that and finding out what happened on that adventure.”  – Stephen A. North


AND AT THE END OF THE DAY:

“I want to scare folks, but that's only one piece of the whole.  I want people to feel for the characters and situations I create, as well.” – Dev Jarrett

“With my writing, I hope to help other people escape, and forget about their own life for a while.  I've succeeded if I entertained someone, and told a story well. – Stephen A. North
 

Many thanks to these authors, and to all military personnel, for the sacrifices they've made serving our country. Happy Memorial Day!