By Aaron Brown
Ward Larsen is a writer who has led a life as interesting as the characters from his novels. As a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force, he flew over twenty combat missions in Operation Desert Storm, was awarded two Air Medals, received training in aircraft accident investigation, and attended USAF survival training where he learned, among other things, which snakes can be eaten and how to resist “interrogation under hostile conditions.”
Ward Larsen’s military qualifications and positions include Expert Qualification in Small Arms Marksmanship, Four-ship Flight Lead, Instructor Pilot, Maintenance Test Pilot, and Flight Commander. Larsen has herded camels using both a jet and an SUV. (He reports that it is far easier with an SUV.).
Ward has also worked as a federal law enforcement officer and an aircraft accident investigator. Presently, he is a captain for a major airline and resides with his family in Florida. And if that’s not enough for you, he is also the award-winning author of The Perfect Assassin, Stealing Trinity, and his latest book, Fly By Wire.
In Fly By Wire, Ward takes us into the world of aircraft accident investigation in a story described by legendary writer David Morrell as a “gripping, entertaining, informative thriller that feels authentic on every page.”
When French officials take over the crash investigation of a brand new C-500 plane in France, they call in the best there is: Jammer Davis. But soon, news of the crash is overshadowed by a more spectacular disaster as suicide bombers attack oil refineries across the world. When Davis uncovers the true cause of the crash, and its terrifying connection to this worldwide attack, it is a conspiracy of unthinkable proportions.
Among your other interesting careers, what inspired you to write novels as well?
I recently did an essay on Ernest Gann for the compilation work,Thrillers: 100 Must Reads. Gann, of course, was the father of aviation thrillers. While researching the piece, I discovered that Gann was an airline pilot who began to write because he had extra time on his overnights. I had to laugh, because I started writing for the very same reason–as an airline pilot, I had a fair amount of dead time in hotel rooms, and writing seemed like a productive way to use it.
How did you use your life experience and professional background to enrich your story?
My aviation background is used throughout the story. Truth is, it saved me a lot of research. When I was in the military, I attended the Air Force’s Flying Safety Officer course, which trains pilots to act as aircraft accident investigators. It’s an interesting field with a lot of pure detective work, which I think comes through in the story.
Are any characters based on people you know?
I never purely take a living person and design a character around him, but I often take traits of individuals I’ve known, and mesh them into a character. The protagonist’s name in Fly By Wire, Jammer Davis, is actually a real person, a former pilot in the Marines. Nothing else about the character was drawn from the original–I just loved that call sign.
What others writers have inspired you?
I enjoyed reading Robert Ludlum and Frederick Forsyth, early on. Different writers bring different strengths to the literary table, and there are dozens who have made their impression on me. Tom Clancy’s knack for detail. Ken Follett and Jeffrey Archer are terrific at building characters. As a reader, which all writers are at heart, I appreciate them all.
What is the writing process like for you?
I write whenever I find the time–simple as that. I have no set schedule. My first book, The Perfect Assassin, took nine years to finish. I wrote the first draft of Fly By Wire in nine weeks.
What is the best piece of advice about writing that you’ve ever received?
Stuart Kaminsky once told me that he always carried an index card with him to write down good ideas that came to him over the course of a day–he could never remember them otherwise. I do it now, and it’s great. Maybe a phrase or a situation, even a single word I want to use. I write it down and work it into my writing later.
What is the worst advice about writing that you’ve ever received?
Send an unsolicited manuscript to publishing houses in New York.
What’s next for you? Any new books in the pipeline?
Fly By Wire is intended as a series, which is something new for me. I’m working on the second, tentatively titled, Fly By Night.