By Dawn Ius
For New York Times bestselling author Brad Taylor, almost nothing is more embarrassing than writing inaccurate information—especially when he should know better.
So imagine his horror a few books back when the former Army Lieutenant Colonel inadvertently wrote about a weapon system that fired .556.
“That went all the way to galley prints before a friend said, ‘.556? Were you even in the military? It’s 5.56.’ Of course, I knew that,” Taylor says. “That one decimal point may seem like small potatoes to just about anyone, but to a segment of readers, it would have been heresy.”
Lucky for Taylor, he’s armed with a group of pre-readers who have unique skills that go far beyond fixing typos.
Having spent twenty-one years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel, he admits he is generally held to a higher standard of accuracy—but he’s fine with that, since it means he can concentrate on the plot and characters without worrying about getting the Operator’s actions right.
Plot and character remain a central focus in NO FORTUNATE SON, Taylor’s seventh book in the military thriller series featuring Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill. The premise for the novel was inspired by the true story of Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier previously captured by Afghanistan in 2009.
“From the moment he disappeared, the U.S. government spent an enormous effort trying to repatriate him, despite the fact that he was basically a nobody with a cloud over his head about his motivations,” Taylor says. “I wondered what we would do if a military member related to someone important was captured. How far would we go?”
For Logan and Cahill, the answer is hidden beneath a thrilling adventure that begins in an unfamiliar place. Fired from their previous posts, the duo are asked to work on a more personal task force mission, prompting the question (and chilling tagline)—how much is one life worth?
“(Logan) went a little wild in DAYS OF RAGE, and I thought it would be disingenuous to start this book from a blank slate, ignoring what transpired before, “ Taylor says. “He and the task force have a history, and it is that history that begins the plot of NO FORTUNATE SON. It was something I thought would happen in the real world, and I worked with it from there.”
A real life story “seed” is often what propels each of Taylor’s books. While he doesn’t outline, every novel starts with a solid framework. Typically, he knows the underlying threat, the general scheme of maneuver, and the end. But as for the plot intricacies that move the story from point A to B? Those happen throughout the journey.
“The original framework usually looks like a freeway on the plains of Kansas,” he says. “By the time I’m done, it looks like a switchback road in the Appalachian Mountains.”
As part of that navigation process, Taylor weaves in the twists and turns that not only move the story forward, but also facilitate necessary character growth, of particular importance when writing a series.
“I strive mightily to make sure the characters aren’t static, and it’s not easy,” he says. “But luckily, I have great reference material: the ordinary human condition. It’s evolutionary, not revolutionary.”
In NO FORTUNATE SON, most of the character reflection is with Cahill, who must come to grips with her moral compass as it smashes head-long into a bad situation.
“At the end of the day, it’s nuance,” Taylor says. “I write thrillers, not soap operas, so it’s a fine balance between character growth and bogging down the plot.”
With no formal writing training, pacing is something Taylor picked up primarily by studying authors who inspire him, such as John Sandford, whose books Taylor says he can devour in one sitting. But if pressed on what advice to give aspiring authors about how to combat the blank page, or other writing words of wisdom, Taylor admits his own motivation process is somewhat unorthodox.
“For me, typing because I feel like I have to press forward generally ends up being sloppy writing,” he says. “I’ve learned that I don’t need to bang out X number of words a day, and that it’s better to let it percolate. When all my thoughts have coalesced, I’ll know it, because I can’t keep my hands away from the keyboard. At the end of the day, writing is more than typing, and I’m always writing.”
Though, often not at a desk. With seven novels and four e-book shorts under his belt, Taylor has learned to write whenever and wherever the mood strikes—the passenger seat on a long car ride, in airport bars, at his daughter’s volleyball games, and everywhere in-between.
Currently, Taylor is working on his eighth Logan and Cahill book, titled THE INSIDER THREAT.
Brad Taylor is the New York Times bestselling author of six previous Pike Logan novels. He served for more than twenty years in the US Army, including eight years in 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment—Delta, commonly known as Delta Force. He retired as a Special Forces lieutenant colonel and now lives in Charleston, South Carolina.
To learn more about Brad, please visit his website.
Photography credit: Claudio Marinesco