By Anne Tibbets
Tony “Red” Harmon’s life is a lie. In RECALL, Red discovers the hidden truth – he’s not a construction worker and suburban father – he’s a special ops veteran for an elite military squad with a dormant memory. Now, when tragedy strikes, Red’s buried skills are put to the test and he must rejoin his old team to prevent an international incident.
Veteran, U.S. Air Force Academy grad, and author David McCaleb isn’t messing around when it comes to writing military action – his love of the genre runs deep.
“I’ve always gravitated toward thrillers and action-adventure movies,” says McCaleb. “My father held a deep regard for the military and helped instill it in me. I feel my military background is more a reflection of my personality and upbringing, as is my love of writing black ops thrillers. What specifically I love about this genre is that war – armed conflict – is one of the greatest tests of man. And to follow my characters through an operation, documenting their thoughts, actions, and emotions, is, well…thrilling. I don’t know exactly how it’s going to turn out, so I want to hurry up and write the next chapter as much as I hope my reader wants to read it.”
Complete with action, tech, and weaponry, RECALL never lets up, taking the reader on a fast-paced ride from page one. McCaleb’s attention to detail in each scene adds to its authenticity, and proves just how seriously he takes his research – especially with weapons.
“Figuring out what tool is best for the job, learning how it works, how it performs, and how people interact with it. Does the plot call for a shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missile? What does it need to acquire its target? A heat signature or radar? What can throw it off? Make it fail? How reliable are they? Does the character have access to the latest model, or are they stuck with a Vietnam era weapon that may prove as dangerous to its operator as the target? All that said, weaponry isn’t what carries a thriller. Characters are, by far, the most interesting part of any novel, commercial or literary. Weapons are simply an extension of them.”
And McCaleb is quick to point out that weapons are only useful if you’ve got a solid battle strategy first.
“I begin with location and build from there,” says McCaleb. “I mentally step upon the ground, put myself in role, and observe my surroundings. What’s the topography? A jungle valley or a soccer field? If a soccer field, are the stands full of fans or is it the off-season? Once I can envision the scene, I strategize every angle to my character’s advantage, just as they would. As the saying goes, “If you’re ever in a fair fight, then your tactics suck.” But overwhelming victory makes for a poor story arc, so I layer in twists, and the unknown. Those ingredients makes for a thrilling scene.”
Thrilling to write, and thrilling to read, RECALL is no romp in the park – although, McCaleb is quick to point out his favorite moments.
“My favorite scene comes at the end of the second act. So much is at stake and my main character, Red, has so much stacked against him. He’s newly returned to active duty, doubtful of himself and his abilities, and inserted deep inside a hostile foreign country. He’s fighting for his own life while trying to rescue an intelligence asset that also happens to be his wife and the enemy is always one step ahead. I enjoy dragging this guy through it. But external battles are only a reflection his internal struggles. Is he up for the job? Can he trust his team? His family? Will he succumb to the temptation of exacting revenge verses doing what he knows is right? Multi-layered scenes such as these are my favorite.”
It’s not all battle scenes and struggles of conscience however, it’s skill. McCaleb believes in weaving a compelling story using the craft of writing.
“I draw up a basic plot outline, loosely define the story arc, begin with an opening scene, and start climbing,” McCaleb says. “I belong to an author workshop led by Lenore Hart and David Poyer, two highly accomplished author/teachers in their own right. At this workshop, each writer’s work is read aloud and all members provide critique. Thus, through the many years I’ve belonged, all the members have greatly influenced my writing. However, these two leaders in particular, Lenore and David, have taught me more than can be expressed regarding the craft of writing.”
A fan of Michael Connelly, Nelson DeMille, and David Poyer, McCaleb appreciates how they each create suspenseful plots and characters a reader can root for, and how they draw a reader through a story until the end. Striving to emulate that, McCaleb doesn’t limit himself to writing only military thrillers.
“I would love to write a young adult thriller that my daughter and I came up with. I get excited every time I think about the plot. It absolutely rocks! It takes a normal kid, yanks him out of this world, plants him in unfamiliar and extraordinary circumstances, and explores what it means to be a man. Throw in a hunt led by the spirit of his dead sister, a boat full of Norsemen, Aboriginal Canadians and a witch doctor, and you’ve got the idea.”
David McCaleb was born on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Growing up on a farm, he studied the teachings of nature, enjoying hunting and fishing, intermingled with hard labor. One of the last green belts on the east coast, the Eastern Shore is steeped in creative culture, with which he credits much of his inspiration.
He graduated from St. Andrews School in Middletown, Delaware, attended Valley Forge Military College, and then was accepted into the United States Air Force Academy, graduating in 1995. He served in the Air Force as a finance officer, managing base and command-level finance operations, as well as weapons system procurement in support of Cheyenne Mountain.
In 2000, he worked as a corporate financial analyst for a publicly traded software development company. He started an internet retail business in 2003, selling custom-made window coverings. After almost starving the first year, the business grew into a successful enterprise. Selling that venture in 2007, he joined his father in the family insurance agency, McCaleb-Metzler. Today, David works as a commercial insurance agent, serving as president of the business.
In order to counteract the rigidity of having to make a living, David writes. A lot. He started in 2009 and intensely studies his craft. RECALL, the first novel in the RED OPS series, is available August 2016. RELOAD hits shelves August 2017. The third book in the series is currently in production.
To learn more about David, please visit his website.