My Interview with Larry Bond
Who is Larry Bond?
Larry Bond is the author of numerous New York Times bestselling thrillers, including Cold Choices, Vortex, Cauldron, and The Enemy Within. He’s worked with Jim DeFelice on the Larry Bond’s First Team series, as well as the Larry Bond’s Red Dragon Rising series. A former naval intelligence officer, warfare analyst, and antisubmarine technology expert, he makes his home in Springfield, Virginia.
Mr. Bond, thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for my blog. You have been very actively involved in creating a series of best-selling series games, like the Admiralty Trilogy. How do you like that? Is creating a game similar to writing a book?
Both are creative acts, and the more you know about the topic, the better the creation will be. But beyond that, I don’t think the processes are similar at all. Writing a novel is simply storytelling, which most people are familiar with. It may be a complicated story, but it starts at the beginning, and when you get to the end you stop.
Game design is about creating a set of rules that describe some activity. It could be a battle or breeding cattle or the stock market. The players follow the rules to try and achieve some goal that matters within the framework of the game. Making sure the game’s pieces fit together and do what they’re supposed to is harder than a telling a story, because once the game begins, it’s impossible to predict the outcome.
How much have your years in the Navy service affected and shaped your storytelling?
Very much. Aside from my paltry skills as a mariner, I met and worked with people of all types from all parts of the country. My first chief was a kanaka from Hawaii, and we had a Tennessee hill boy and two hundred and ninety-seven other unique individuals in the crew. And we did things that I’d never have the chance to do otherwise.
How does a prolific writer like you keep track of all the storylines and plots, in order to avoid repeating them in your new works?
I actually had never thought of that. I do worry about repeating a phrase or a passage, but plotlines are so long and complex that it would be hard to accidentally duplicate one, or even come close. I do worry that having once “done” a topic, e.g., Korea, I can’t do another Korea book for a long time, no matter how good my story idea is.
How did it happen that you became a writer?
In my second naval assignment, after serving on a destroyer, I worked as an analyst at a navy think tank answering deep questions like “How many carriers will we need in 20 years?” You can’t just give them a number. You have to show your work. So I was writing a lot of “technical nonfiction.” I was also writing wargames, and my first one, Harpoon, was published in April of 1980. Tom Clancy was working on the Hunt For Red October, his first novel, and he bought Harpoon as a data source, one of many. He wrote a letter to me with some questions abut naval warfare, which I answered, and we became good friends. When he was looking for an idea for his second book, we came up with one together, and he asked me if I wanted to work on it with him. That was Red Storm Rising. I was essentially his apprentice, watching Tom create a story and fix it when it wasn’t working right, and then polish it. It doesn’t get any better than that.
How do you write? Outlines or not?
Definitely with an outline. The publisher wants a three- or four-page synopsis anyway, before he’ll give his approval. I’ll turn that into a chapter-by-chapter blocking. It’s important to make sure the timing meshes, because I’ve usually got stuff happening all over the world. Keeping track of the time zones can be a pain.
A word of advice for new thriller writers?
Don’t get lost in the hardware. It’s fun and it’s cool, but it’s there for the same reason there are crime labs in cop shows and horses in westerns. They are tools that let the characters do their jobs, and your effort should be on creating living, three-dimensional characters. Explain what the gear does so that when the character does his thing, the reader won’t wonder how he did it. Put in too many numbers or details and the reader’s eyes glaze over. At best, they’ll skip the paragraph. At worst, they’ll close the book.