Monday, March 19, 2012


About Brad Taylor...
Brad Taylor was born on Okinawa, Japan, but grew up on 40-acres in rural Texas. Following graduation from the University of Texas, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Infantry. Brad served for more than 21 years, retiring as a Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel. His military service included numerous Infantry and Special Forces positions. During his eight years in 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta he commanded multiple troops and a squadron. He has conducted operations in support of US national interests in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other classified locations.
His final assignment was as the Assistant Professor of Military Science at The Citadel in Charleston, SC. He holds a Master’s of Science in Defense Analysis from the Naval Postgraduate School, with a concentration in Irregular Warfare. When not writing, he serves as a security consultant on asymmetric threats for various agencies. He lives in Charleston, SC with his wife and two daughters.
First, congratulations on becoming a NYT and USA bestselling writer. That’s quite an accomplishment. And thank you for joining us today to talk about your newest book and writing.  So here we go...

What have you experienced during your writing journey?
That’s very hard to put into a short answer. Suffice it to say, leaving the Army for a writing career was about as different as could be imagined. It’s been a whirlwind.

Could you share a bit about your newest book ALL NECESSARY FORCE and the characters?
Sure. I just posed a simple question: If a terrorist wanted to do some serious damage to the United States, on the level of 9/11, what would they attack? Ports? Railways? The financial industry? I then did some research into our national vulnerabilities, finding a system fairly easily. Boiled down, ALL NECESSARY FORCE is the story of a terrorist attempting to destroy this system and the Taskforce attempting to stop him.

You have a back ground as a Delta Force Commander. Did this knowledge help or hinder you when you decided to write a military thriller?
It definitely helps. I selfishly adhere to the axiom “write what you know”, and having served for over 21 years in Special Operations allows me to develop very realistic story lines, but it is a double edged sword. One thing I never want to do in my writing is harm our national security by divulging classified tactics, techniques or procedures, but I also want the manuscript to be as cutting-edge as possible. It’s a dichotomy that caused some serious rewrites on various scenes, such as when the Fort AP Hill ammunition supply point is attacked by terrorists. I did the research on that site, wrote the scene, and then realized I’d just written a blueprint on how to attack it that had a very good chance of succeeding. Because of my knowledge of tactics, and my ability to conduct some seriously close-in research due to my military affiliation, I had crossed the line. I had to go back and throw in some red herrings. I know I’ll get dinged on that by someone with the same knowledge as me, saying, “That would never work,” but that’s the point.

You’ve studied terrorism extensively and dealt with Muslim terrorists. What do you show about terrorists in your books?
I try to show why they act as they do and what motivates them. Too often terrorists are portrayed as some Doctor Evil with a one-track agenda, when in fact they’re human beings, with human emotions – including self-doubt. No terrorist is born. They’re made, and I try to show that through my writing.

How do you put yourself into the mind of the villain, in this case terrorist?
Basically, the same way I do my protagonists. As I said, terrorists are human beings, and I keep that in mind. As you stated above, I have studied the phenomenon of terrorism quite a bit, and have had the unfortunate opportunity to talk to a few terrorists face to face, so I have a pretty good idea of how they think. It’s not perfect, though. I’m not an Islamic scholar, so I’m sure I make mistakes.

Do you have someone currently on active duty who reads your material before you publish?
I have quite a few friends in various jobs that have read my manuscripts even before it’s sent to my editor. As I said, I never want to give away anything that could help someone with nefarious intentions, so I have them read the manuscript to make sure I’m not inadvertently doing that. Invariably, they’ll come back with changes, and I always accede to their wishes. Even so, there are only so many ways to skin the cat, and I’m constantly worried that I’ll give away a secret without meaning to. One widget I created in ALL NECESSARY FORCE was something I had never seen, but I knew was technologically feasible. Sure enough, a few months after I put it on the page I was doing some work for an agency, and the guy I was with pulled out my widget. It had become real, and I was now treading on classified technology without even knowing it. I had him walk me through how it worked, and was satisfied that mine was different enough that I didn’t need to pull it. I won’t say which piece of kit it is, but it’s still in ALL NECESSARY FORCE.

The premise of this novel and your previous novel, ONE ROUGH MAN, seems to be the thread of redemption. How did you accomplish this with a military thriller?

On the surface, the novel itself is a military thriller, but that’s just because I have a background that’s conducive to writing military thrillers. If I had been a priest, it would be set in a church, but the themes would remain the same. In the same vein, the characters would be similar. The book is realistic, and folks will jump on my past and how it allows the novel to reflect real life, but that wasn’t any work. It just came out because of who I am. What I really wanted to do was create memorable characters the reader would identify with regardless of their background. Real characters that aren’t supermen or diabolically evil, but human. Like real life – only better, because who the hell wants to read about real life?

The primary theme is Pike’s redemption. I’ve always had a soft spot for books like that, and had known since I was in college that I would write about it. I wanted to describe the emotional climb of someone at his peak – someone whose peak was pretty damn high – crushed by a tragedy, and his climb back up. While redemption is something universal, the book has a separate theme that I admittedly didn’t have in mind when I started, but it did come out because of the myriad of situations I have experienced. That theme is the greater good. It’s something that the war on terrorism has in spades, but is never really discussed in novels of this type. It’s always black and white. Do “A” and save the day or do “B” and everyone dies. Most of the public doesn’t see it, but we make choices that have a slippery slope every day. I ended up exploring that, and I hope it comes through for the reader – from Jennifer stopping Pike on an individual level to the terrorists wanting to create a caliphate utopia worldwide.

ALL NECESSARY FORCE is your second novel to feature your tough-as-nails protagonist, Pike Logan, a Special Forces task force covert counterterrorism operative. What is it about Pike that you think resonates with so many readers?
First, I would say it’s the combination of both Pike and Jennifer. I get emails that are evenly split between the two, so it’s definitely not a one-man show. As to why they resonate, I honestly couldn’t say. I just tried to write what I would want to read, and I’m glad my readers have taken them to heart.

How do you give your characters the depth and detail necessary for readers to want to cheer them on?
I wanted to show a distinct moral component for the work that men like Pike Logan execute. Too often the characters in such novels or movies run around killing or torturing people without a shred of remorse, when that’s not really the case. A lot of time, effort, and thought go into counter-terrorist activities in the real world, and the men and woman who execute them operate within a moral framework. They make decisions with life or death repercussions, and live with those decisions. They aren’t robots. I wanted to show that through the interactions between Pike—an operator experienced with combat—and Jennifer—a relative newcomer to what combat actually entails.

What challenge or struggle did you face when you tried to build emotional bonds between the characters?
I suppose the same challenge other writers face, namely making it real. I write an action-oriented series, but getting the reader to associate with the characters – both on the “good-guy” side and the “bad-guy” side—is what really matters to me. It’s the heart of why I write. Bullets flying around and bombs going off are great, but they mean nothing unless someone is viscerally affected by the action. That’s what brings the story to life, and is the hardest thing I struggle to achieve. I know—and use—a lot of current counter-terrorism methods in my writing, but at the end of the day, it’s the impact of those events on the characters that makes a reader want to continue.

Do you have a favorite character in this book?
Well, yeah. Two, actually. Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill.

Do you have a favorite scene, you can share with the readers?
That’s a tough question. I think it would be when Pike and crew interdict the terrorist attempting to obtain explosives in Budapest. There is so much intertwined into that scene – the conflicting motivations of the terrorist and an Albanian mafia don, Jennifer coming to grips with combat for the first time, and Pike pushing his team further than he should. Another favorite would be the very ending of the book, which, of course, I’m not going to share. But from emails it appears to be a fan favorite as well.

Which is more important in your stories character or plot?
Definitely the characters.

Do you write an entire outline before you begin your novel?
I don’t outline the entire novel. I do create what I call a “framework” as opposed to an outline. I know the overarching plot, and sketch out the trajectory in broad strokes, but don’t go chapter by chapter. I’ve found that a concrete outline is restrictive, and invariably, I’ll end up ignoring it. I know a start and finish, with selected points in between, and hang the meat on the bones of the framework as I go along, letting the plot twist and turn how it sees fit until it gets to the end.

What do you find most rewarding about your writing career? Most disappointing?
The most rewarding is the reader who connects with what I’ve created. I get wonderful emails from the entire age spectrum, from 70 year old ladies to 18 year old privates in the Army describing what my novels meant to them. That means more than anything else. Most disappointing is when readers email me mistakes I’ve made in the book. I work very, very hard to ensure accuracy, and have at least six or seven different people reading the manuscript, and yet somehow errors slip through. It’s frustrating, but I’m finding it’s just the way of writing. No matter how much I try, I’m not going to reach perfection. Don’t take that as me being disapointed in the people who email. I’m disapointed in myself. By all means, send in every error you find, because it allows me to fix the manuscript before it comes out in paperback.

If you could give writers one small piece of advice, what would it be?
Write. I know that’s what everyone says, but they do so because it’s true.

What is something that you often see beginning writers doing wrong?
I am a beginning writer, so far be it from me to start analyzing others. I’m sure I’m the one doing things wrong.

If you could have a beer, coffee, tea or wine with a literary luminary living or dead, who would it be and why?
I just had it. I was interviewed for a newspaper by a reporter named David Maurer. He’s also the author of THE DYING PLACE, one of my favorite books of all time. He’s a Special Forces veteran of Vietnam, serving in MACV-SOG, a top-secret special operations unit. I had a cousin who was KIA with MACV-SOG in Vietnam, and ALL NECESSARY FORCE is dedicated to him and the men of SOG. It was an honor to get to talk with David.

                                                 What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on edits for BOOK III in the series. I took a step back with this one, leaving behind the global nature of al Qaida and other Islamic groups, focusing instead on terrorist organizations with finite political goals. Too often we, as Americans, lump all “terrorists” together, when in fact, they have very different goals and capabilities. Like the quote says, one man’s terrorist is definitely another man’s freedom fighter. I chose to write about Hezbollah, Hamas, and the intractable Palestinian Diaspora problem vis-à-vis Israel. Probably not very smart, considering what’s going on with the Arab Spring (yes, I’ve already had to do quite a few re-writes based on events in Syria), but it is interesting. I’ve also brought back Lucas Kane. I’ve gotten a ton of emails from folks who read ONE ROUGH MAN and couldn’t wait to see what happens to him in my “next book,” but he’s not in ALL NECESSARY FORCE. A great many people insinuated that I let him go in ONE ROUGH MAN simply to set up ALL NECESSARY FORCE, but in reality, I simply wrote his escape because I thought it was poetic justice for Standish. I never meant for that to be some sort of “hook.” I now realize that I made a mistake in letting him go. What he did to Pike’s family required a revisit. Everyone wanted him to get a little Taskforce justice, so I brought him back. Book three ended up revolving around him, like Darth Vader from Star Wars, and make no mistake, he gets some justice.

Finally, where can we buy your books and find you on the web?
You can find any of my books at all major booksellers, such as Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Books a Million, etc.
Follow me on and
For basic info my website:

Thank you so much for sharing your writing journey with us.
Thank you for having me.

And readers thank you for stopping by. Don't forget to leave Brad a question or comment.


Ladson D. said...

I know this is supposed to be about writing, but I'm interested in what you think about the implosion of our efforts in Afghanistan and the possible increase in home grown terrorists in this country.
BTW I've read both of your books and liked them very much.

Ruby Johnson said...

It's such a pleasure to welcome you to our "Texas" blog. I am totally impressed with your writing. You deserve the best seller status you've earned.

Jerrie Alexander said...

Ruby, another interesting post and awesome guest! Brad, thanks for sharing insight on how you write. Your books sound like must reads and are now on my TBR list.

I'll look for you on Twitter and Facebook!

Much luck and many sales!

Thorne said...

Congratulations on your new book. It sounds like it is really a great thriller. I ran across this quote from Vince Flynn. When asked what he is reading, he said, "All Necessary Force by Brad Taylor. I just started so it's too early to give it a thumbs up or thumbs down, but so far so good."
Good luck to you and what a great interview.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Brad, thank you for sharing your process. Good to know you sound like a nice person. I always enjoy a book even more if I know the author is someone I'd like. Now I'll look for your book. It sounds like one my husband would also enjoy.

MattB said...

I'm not much into military fiction, but All Necessary Force definitely sounds like my next read. You have a great way of answering questions that shows your personal excitement and relation to your stories - it shows and makes me excited to go pick it up.

Thanks so much for sharing with us!

Brad Taylor said...

@ Ladson -

Personally, I think Afghanistan is too early to call. Yes, we'll pull out, but people forget the enormous geopolitical tugs going on in the region. There's a reason the Taliban are supported by the ISI of Pakistan. It's because they're happy to have Afghanistan in chaos so it doesn't fall into the sphere of influence of India or any other entity as a stable state. Hard to say how it will end up, but one thing's for sure - we're not going to stay around to influence it one way or another.

Brad Taylor said...

@ Ruby - glad to be here, being a Texas boy and all.

Brad Taylor said...

@ Jerrie - saw you on FB, and saw you were a writer as well. Good luck with the work! Well, not work, or we'd both be doing something else....

Brad Taylor said...

@ Thorne - I got a note today about Vince Flynn's newsletter and was flabbergasted. Ironic, because I just finished American Assassin and loved it.

Brad Taylor said...

@ Caroline - Yes, your husband will probably love it, but don't sell yourself short. My readership is about 45-55 female/male. Jennifer is a strong protagonist, and someone I work very, very hard to develop. It's not all bombs and guts. In fact, the bombs and guts are just a backdrop. I was asked at a signing how I develop my plots, and the truth is I first come up with what I want the characters to experience, in the absence of the plot, then build the plot to fit that. I just finished BOOK III, and believe it or not, I had the last sentence six months ago. The rest was simply building the plot to fit that last sentence. Buy one for your husband, then secretly give it a try. I think you'll be surprised.

Brad Taylor said...

@ Matt - Like I said to Caroline, yes, it's a military thriller, and I won't lie - there's some serious violence, but it's the characters that I write about. The violence itself serves a purpose - not the least of which is that it's something that really goes on. Beyond that, it's a catalyst for the characters themselves. A moral cause and effect that drives the interactions between Pike and Jennifer.

Caroline Clemmons said...

I have two people on whom I rely for critiques, and my husband acts as a beta reader. We can't catch all of our own errors. When I worked for a newspaper, no one was allowed to check his/her own work because we know what we intend to say and can miss errors.

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