10 Questions with Stephen Templin
1. Mr. Templin, thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for my blog. Your new thriller, EASY DAY FOR THE DEAD, came out on December 31. Tell us a bit more about this book.
Alex Brandenburg—a smart, steady SEAL Team Six chief who is at a crossroads in his life and career—must lead a secret mission to blow up a secret Iranian biological warfare site with a suitcase-sized nuke before Iran attacks the U.S.
Each member of the team is handpicked from SEAL Team Six:
John Landry, a quiet Cajun who believes in God and fights like the devil, will make a High Altitude High Opening jump with the nuke strapped to his back.
Catherine “Cat” Fares, fluent in Arabic, fluent in feminism and fluent in warfare helps the team in and out of hot spots across the world and has a romantic past with Alex.
Francisco “Pancho” Rodriguez, lives life at his own pace, so if the world catches on fire, it’ll just have to wait until this laughing Mexican-American shows up to save the day.
In Iran, they come face-to-face with a maniacal Revolutionary Guard officer who knows Alex’s identity and is hot on his trail. Their fight takes them halfway around the world in a frantic battle of courage and skill that America can’t afford to lose…
2. What kind of research did you do for this book, a part of which takes place in Afghanistan and Iran?
I think the research begins with my own experiences in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training and understanding the fundamentals of that mindset. This understanding was deepened by my friendship with Howard and interviewing him and researching for his memoir—SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper. My research includes books, magazines, journals, videos and so on. It helps that I can read between the lines of what is written and said and what isn’t. In Easy Day for the Dead, Afghanistan plays a minor role, but Iran’s role is major, and I spoke with Iranians in order to fill in some missing pieces to get it right.
3. Where did the inspiration for this story come from, and how much of it is true and how much is fiction?
The Three Musketeers is a favorite novel of mine and Alexander Dumas a favorite author, so you see Athos, Aramis and Porthos in these SEAL Team Six characters Alex, John and Pancho. I was also inspired by the movie, The Dirty Dozen. I wanted members with extraordinary talents who needed an opportunity to redeem themselves. This Dirty Dozen element plays out more strongly in our first novel, SEAL Team Six Outcasts.
I prefer a high level of realism in the fiction I read, so I strive for that in the novels I write, too. For example, women serving in combat in the U.S. seems like something new, but people don’t realize that women have already been playing key roles in Tier One units: it’s easier to infiltrate a hostile country under cover of husband and wife than as two buff dudes. The character Cat in this novel is part of that realism. On the other hand, one has to be careful not to overdo realism—most people don’t want the actual experience of second degree hypothermia and going without sleep for a week. They don’t want to read about every minute of tedious days pissing and crapping in bags while waiting for nothing to happen and carrying the piss and crap bags on the way back to base. And people want a dramatic experience, even if it might stretch believability to some degree.
There was a part in Easy Day for the Dead where the heroes have to survive in Iran’s brutal Lut Desert. At first, I didn’t have enough realism, so the reader didn’t have enough of the experience. Then I had too much realism, and the passage was too long. On the third edit, I think I found a happy balance. Too little foreplay causes less excitement but too much can be frustrating. I try to listen carefully to our readers and communicate with them through Facebook and Twitter.
4. You’re been in the Navy, a missionary and a professor in Japan. Quite a variety. What’s your favorite memory from your days in Japan?
My favorite memories are the Japanese in general and sushi in particular. And Okinawa is great for skin diving. Also, I learned a lot. When living in another country such as Japan, life is different and one has to reexamine oneself to reevaluate what is important, what can be modified, and what is expendable. I think I have a deeper understanding of what it means to be an American. I was quite patriotic before, but now I feel my patriotism has matured. The Japanese are great listeners, and I’ve tried to become a better listener, too. Patience and cooperation are other skills that rubbed off a little on me. But I’m still learning.
5. You completed Hell Week in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training—what was the most difficult part of that week?
I’d say the cold. Most people have experienced first degree hypothermia, shivering and some numbness in the extremities; but we spent most of the week in the ocean, causing second degree hypothermia, which is violent shaking and the mind slowing down. Doing that for a whole week, day and night, is tough. We only had a total of about six hours sleep for the whole week, so our dreams blended with reality, and we hallucinated—this magnified the stress.
6. What is the single most important thing you have learned during the writing process of crafting a novel?
Wow, I’ve learned so much, that’s a tough one. Right now, I’m trying to wrap my mind around creating dramatic scenes. A good example is David Lynch’s movie Mulholland Drive. Its narrative order seems so out of order and the whole is often more confusing than the parts, but each scene is so expertly created that it pulls the viewer from beginning to end. Although I don’t aspire to be as cryptic as Lynch, I would like to craft chapters as expertly as he does.
7. A word of advice for new writers?
I want to say, “Write.” But are people who talk about writing but don’t finish writing anything truly writers? Probably not. For the true writers, I’d suggest believe strongly that you can write. When you believe strongly, it influences your effort, focus and persistence. Then create specific, challenging goals. If your goals are too difficult, you’ll choke, or if they’re too easy, you won’t progress enough. Challenge yourself. Break the goals into smaller objectives. And finally devise strategies to achieve those objectives. But if you don’t believe strongly in your writing, all is lost before it begins.
8. What are your thoughts on the latest publishing industry developments, mainly the rise of the self-publishing? Did you ever consider it or might you consider it in the future?
Self-publishing has been around for decades, but recent advances in Electronic (E-book) Publishing has revolutionized the industry—Amazon being the most influential. Now, more talented authors have an opportunity to get their work out to an audience without being shut out by the traditional gatekeepers. Self-published authors also have more control over their product (from content to cover), can get their books out more quickly (traditional publishing takes about a year), keep more of the profit, and charge less to their readers. It will be exciting to see what happens five to ten years from now. The challenge for authors is to be heard among the noise of so many other authors. Since self-published authors run their own business, I think they have to wear the hats of marketing and entrepreneur to be successful. I’m grateful for the option to self-publish, and I consider it with each book I write. An author has to seriously weigh the personal value of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. Right now, traditional publishing is treating me well.
9. What are your favorite pastimes?
Favorite pastimes are movies, music, reading and shooting. Recently I did four days of pistol and rifle training with Larry Vickers, the former Delta operator who rescued CIA agent Kurt Muse in Panama. This was in preparation for my next book, but I enjoyed it a lot. Enjoyable, but on the fourth day, I was close to mentally spent.
10. What is your next book going to be about?
My next novel is a special ops action-adventure/thriller. I’m most familiar with SEALs, so that will play a major role in the story. I’m over ¾ finished with a rough draft.