Quantcast Author Interview with Duncan Banks from HarperCollins Publishers
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Duncan Banks

Deep in the heart of the Nevada desert is Dreamland, America′s most advanced aerospace weapons facility, where the nation′s top minds come together to design, build and test the weapons of the future. But in the post-Cold War world, Dreamland′s future is far from guaranteed. The next generation of fighter-bombers - and the people who fly them - are going to have to prove themselves.

When a former US Air Force Captain turns his hand to fiction, you can bet the action is going to be authentic. But there′s more to Dale Brown′s fiction than just edge-of-the-ejector-seat flying - there′s also an international crisis threatening to escalate, the ultimate in high-technology weaponry, and a marriage hanging by a thread.

As well as describing the development of the weapons and their use in combat, Dreamland also details the crucial political background to the military action. Which part do you prefer writing?

I prefer describing weapons and technology by far. But the fighting is actually just a tiny fraction of the conflict. The political/diplomatic stuff is not as exciting sometimes, but it′s every bit as important to the story.

Dreamland′s characters - "Dog" Bastian, his daughter Bree Stockard, her husband "Zen", Mack "Knife" Smith - all face different challenges and all have different goals in mind at the beginning of the novel. To what extent are they based on real people with whom you have worked?

We all know characters like these--the hot dogs, the dedicated ones, the smart ones, the obsessed ones. So all of my characters are based on folks I know. But it′s also true that the characters take on a life of their own. Jim DeFelice and I talk about the characters as if they′re real persons: "Bree wouldn′t do that;" "Mack would say this."

The novel depicts a fruitful rivalry between the various different divisions of the military. Is being a USAF pilot still seen as the most glamorous of all?

No one likes to admit it, because it doesn′t fit in with the "whole force" politically-correct concept, but the pilot is and will always be king of the U.S. Air Force. Only 17% of USAF personnel are pilots, but they make up most of the unit commanders. Even if in 10-15 years most USAF combat aircraft will be unmanned, the pilot will still be king.

Since the end of the Cold War, it′s been rather harder to predict the threats to Western military powers. Where do you see these threats coming from - if they still exist at all?

There are plenty of bad guys out there - but it sometimes takes more background to explain why they are the bad guys. Fifteen years ago, everyone understood why we were fighting the Soviets. But if you set a war story in Ukraine or Lithuania or the Philippines, you need to take some time and explain why we′re fighting there.

Life in a secret establishment such as Dreamland - or even on a "normal" military base - must be hard enough without the staff having relationships. In your experience, do these relationships lead to difficult situations?

All the time - that′s why we authors put them in our stories! We are always looking for conflict. But we describe those relationships because they occur all the time, too. It′s another complication in wartime.

What effect has the advent of improved technology had on the art of being a fighter pilot?

It has changed it completely. The "dogfight" - two pilots, two planes - is all but dead. Life and death takes place in split-second battles that happen across dozens of miles, usually without either adversary ever seeing the other. Pilots are more systems operators than fliers nowadays. Sooner than most folks think, our fighters won′t even have pilots in them!

You began your first novel, Flight Of The Old Dog, while you were still serving in the US Air Force. What did your colleagues think of this?

I never really told anybody what I was doing. Most of them thought I was just playing computer games. The others thought I was wasting my time. I enjoyed proving them wrong!

To what degree do you plan your novels before starting to write?

Probably not as much as I should be. When I get an idea, I research it, and if I get some exciting info or background, I′ll write a short outline for my editor, tweak it a little, then get busy.

Is there such a thing as a typical writing day for you? If so, what form does it take?

Most days start at 9 a.m. and go to 4 p.m., then restart at 9 p.m. and go to 11 p.m. I usually rewrite in the morning and write new scenes in the afternoon and evenings. But every day is different. Some days the scenes flow like water - the next day it′s as dry as a desert. But the important thing is to be in the seat with the computer on ready to go.

Dreamland is the first novel in a new series you′re co-writing with Jim DeFelice; can you give us an idea of how the writing process works?

It should be "Jim DeFelice with Dale Brown." I invented the basic backdrop of the Dreamland series - the time, place, circumstances - I help develop the plot and the characters, and I review the manuscript. Jim does everything else. He′s an incredibly talented writer and we work well together.

What′s in store in the second Dreamland episode?

In Minerva′s Brain, Jim takes the thought-controlled technology I devised in Day of the Cheetah even farther than even I could have imagined. He created a real psychological suspense thriller that shocked me!

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