Monday, October 24, 2011

The Novel Road Interview: Larry Bond

Product Details   Talented and Prolific are words that come to mind when describing my guest today on The Novel Road.
 Larry Bond is an amazingly gifted author, whose work spans three decades… And NEVER stops selling in huge numbers.

   He is also an author who reaches out to help new authors whenever the chance arises. Many authors at his level of success can’t claim his generosity with his time and expertise, helping the next generation of authors.

  In the Techno-Thriller genre, he is a true icon. His fans quite literally number in the millions.

  Here’s a bit about Larry and his work:

   After co-authoring Red Storm Rising with Tom Clancy, he has written six novels under his own name: Red Phoenix, Vortex, Cauldron, The Enemy Within, and Day of Wrath, all were published by Warner Books. Dangerous Ground, is published by Tor Books. He also wrote a novella titled Lashup, which appeared in Steven Coonts’ anthology Combat, as well as several published short stories.
Product Details   He has also co-designed the Admiralty Trilogy series games, which include Harpoon, Command at Sea, and Fear God & Dreadnought. All three have won industry awards.
Larry’s writing career started by collaborating with Tom Clancy on Red Storm Rising, a runaway New York Times bestseller that has was one of the best-selling books of the 1980s. It depicted a hypothetical conflict between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, drawing heavily on expert analysis of what such a conflict would be like. It has been used as a text at the Naval War College and similar institutions.

   Since then, Larry’s books have depicted military and political crises, emphasizing accuracy and fast-paced action. Red Phoenix, Vortex, and Cauldron were all New York Times bestsellers.

   Red Phoenix was set in South Korea and depicted an invasion of the south by a decaying North Korean government. Vortex told the story of a reactionary Afrikaner government trying to roll back the clock in South Africa. Cauldron showed a financial crisis in Europe that grew out of control, leading to a military confrontation between France and the United States. The Enemy Within depicted a terror campaign launched against the United States. Day of Wrath followed the same characters as The Enemy Within. They faced a large-scale nuclear weapons conspiracy led by a millionaire Saudi terrorist. Dangerous Ground is set aboard a US nuclear attack sub, and is the frst of a series following the career of Jerry Mitchell, a young naval officer.

   Lashup is set in the near future, 2010, and shows the U.S. dealing with a sudden threat to its GPS satellites by hurriedly fielding its first armed spacecraft.

Product Details   Larry’s Harpoon gaming system was first published in 1980. Designed as a general-purpose air, surface, and submarine naval simulation, it combines playability with a wealth of information on modern naval weapons systems. Designed for the entry-level player, it has found acceptance in both the commercial market and the professional naval community. It is used at the Naval Academy, several ROTC installations, and on several surface ships as a training aid.

   Now in its fourth edition, Harpoon has won the H.G. Wells Award, a trade association honor, in 1981, 1987, and 1997 as the best miniatures game of the year. It is the only game to win the award more than once.

   Command at Sea is the second game of the Admiralty Trilogy, and is an adaptation of Harpoon to the WWII era. Like Harpoon, it emphasizes both playability and historical accuracy, drawing on many contemporary sources.

  Fear God & Dreadnought extends the game system back to World War I, allowing players familiar with the system to play any naval battle of the Twentieth Century. Emphasizing playability as well as scrupulous historical accuracy, research for the game has involved many of the best naval historians in the world.

   In June of 2004, because of his many award-winning game designs, as well as over 20 years’ experience in gaming and writing, Larry was inducted into the International Hall of Fame by the Game Manufacturers Association.

Product Details   Graduating from St. Thomas College, St. Paul, Minnesota in 1973 with a degree in Quantitative Methods, Larry worked first as a computer programmer for two years before being selected for Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. He was sworn into the Navy in 1975 and graduated from OCS the following year.

   Larry was in the Navy for six years, serving four on a destroyer and two on shore duty in the Washington DC area. He served in the reserves for two years with the Naval Reserve Intelligence Program. After leaving the Navy he worked as a naval analyst for defense consulting firms in the Washington, DC area. He now writes and designs games full-time.

  He is presently working on several new book projects.

  You can contact Larry Bond by email at

  Also check out this interview to learn more about his writing process.

  Larry Bond lives with his wife Jeanne and daughters Katie and Julia in Virginia outside Washington DC.
  I’m pleased to welcome Larry Bond to The Novel Road...
Me: Bestselling novels in both fiction and non-fiction, computer games… You have THREE books (Red Dragon Rising: Edge of War, November; Red Dragon Rising: Shadow of War, September and Cold Choices, March) for 2010 alone. Instead of asking you a question, I want to tell you to take a vacation… But since you’re here: How do you keep your creative fire so white hot?
Larry Bond
Larry: My creativity comes from a sense of fun, and a desire to create things that will entertain others. I've always had plenty of ideas for book and game projects. My good fortune has come from teaming up with others: First Tom Clancy on Red Storm, now with Jim DeFelice for the Red Dragon Rising series, and with Chris Carlson for the Jerry Mitchell series. And 2010 isn't over. Persian Incursion, a wargame about an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear infrastructure, came out this week (15 Dec). Chris Carlson and I worked together on that one as well, along with another designer, Jeff Dougherty.

Me: There is a growing trend to co-author books. You started back in the 1980’s with a guy who never really amounted to much… Clancy something or other?
 Larry: Yes, I did work with Tom. That was my Big Break. He bought a copy of my modern naval wargame, Harpoon, in 1980, and used it as one of his many sources when he wrote The Hunt for Red October. He wrote a letter to me with some questions about naval warfare, which I answered, and we became friends. He offered me a chance to team with him on his second book, a WW III novel centered on what was then called the "Central Front Scenario." Although we never officially divided the work, I was his apprentice, researching and running wargames to explore possibilities for the story. Along the way I learned the trade, and if you're going to learn, learn from the best. After RSR was finished, I struck out on my own, which for me meant finding and teaming with other writers.

Me: Tell us about Jim De Felice. You and another friend of The Novel Road, Dale Brown are working with Jim. Is he getting his Doctorate in the “Larry Bond Prolific Writer’s Course”?

Product DetailsLarry: I don't what Jim's program is, except that he's worked with everyone and is very good, my dumb luck in getting a chance to pair with him. He's the one teaching me. He's taken characters and stories in directions I never would have imagined. Writers are supposed to "stretch," and Jim's provided some excellent, and relatively painless, stretching exercises. He's also tech-savvy enough to help with my personal progress into things like Facebook and web pages.

Me: You wake up one morning and decide to change your genre from Bestselling Techno Thriller to…Drum roll… Young Adult(YA). Give me a storyline for a Larry Bond YA novel.
Larry: I love young adult fiction. I read enough of it when I was a kid, and still do. I read to relax and escape, so I love exotic locations, vivid characters, and lots of action. Not a lot of deep thought. But asking me for a plot is dangerous. I also watch a lot of anime, and some of those Japanese plotlines have expanded my definition of "wild."
How about a race of robots, worn out and battered, wandering an abandoned world, searching for the means to become organic, so they can begin to evolve? They might have to search other planets, or design their own life forms. They would get to discover things like food, and pain, and of course, sex (keeping it PG, of course). It's not terribly wild but it might be fun, which is my criteria for taking on a project.

Me: How much author editing is too much? Where should an author stop editing before submission?
Larry: I usually take two or three passes through my own stuff. I always reread my work from the day before, and it can get a pretty heavy rewrite. A second is when I finish a chapter, and the third when I'm reading the whole thing front to finish. I think it's good to have some time between reads so you're seeing it with fresh eyes. I stop editing when I'm sick of looking at it.

Product DetailsMe: The Publishing Industry is facing enormous challenges in the not so distant future. A number of smaller Houses have closed, Literary Agencies are taking on fewer, if not more select clients. Paint us a picture of the Publishing Industry five years from now.
Larry: I've had a lot of talks with publishers and other authors about the state of the publishing industry. The change is gonna be huge. E-books are seriously eroding sales of hardcovers. Eventually, some critical point will be passed where it's no longer economical to produce mass-market hardcovers. Are softcover profits (also declining) enough to support the warehouse and distribution networks publishers need? Maybe the new business model is just an editorial office and a server. And what does that do to the quality of what we read or sell? Publishers were the gatekeepers that maintained the quality of published material, because there was a financial risk in physically producing a product that they had to sell. Now all they have to do is load a story onto a server. With no risk, they're more willing to offer almost anything for sale. More opportunity for new writers, but more junk for the readers to sort through. With increased volume, maybe there will be more specialization.
Want to see the future? Look at a fanfiction site.

Product DetailsMe: Talk about life experience. How important it is to an author?
Larry: Well, I haven't suffered enough, and I think it's held me back. I had a happy childhood and a loving family, a typically nerdish adolescence, and I've been doing my best to avoid maturity. My love of books started early and certainly had an influence. I was in a creative writing club in junior high but it was all junk, of course. But I wanted to emulate the great writers I was reading: Bradbury, Heinlein, Asimov. My time in the Navy was obviously important, not just for the technical background but for experience in the military philosophy and core attitudes.
Life experience is vital to a writer. You put some of yourself, and other people you've met, into every character, and without real characters a story's worthless.

Me: Give me a two sentence “Hook” for your just released novel “Red Dragon Rising: Edge of War”.
Larry: In RDR: Edge of War, climate change has brought famine to China. Her leaders have to feed over a billion people, and they're going to take what they need from the rest of the world.
(I hate writing ad copy.)

Product DetailsMe: Social Media. Talk about its importance to the modern author’s success.
Larry: I wish I knew how important social media is. It know is to some extent, but how much? I'm still a neophyte. I've only recently started my own Facebook page, and my web page is just a simple brochure site. And did I mention my college degree was in computers? They were steam-powered when I was in school.
I believe electronic media in general, including email, facilitate communication, and this allows a reader to and author to have a personal link which helps both of them. It is work for the author, because real communication takes time and effort, but it provides value, and not just in sales.
No blogs, and I try to put up something on my Facebook page once a week or so. I still have to ask one of my daughters for help when it's being obtuse.

Product DetailsMe: This question, courtesy of Jeff Hall: “I'm a shortstory-ist. Writing a novel is like a crazy long marathon, only harder. How do you maintain a clear sense of that first passion that inspired you, throughout a 200 thousand word journey?”
 Larry: I've written a few short stories, but they tend to turn into novellas. I may just be a wordy SOB. My first few contracts specified 250K-word novels. They were war epics, with a cast of thousands and lots of room to run around and blow stuff up. Then my publisher started to ask for shorter books, standard length. That was fine with me, because it fewer words is less work, but the smaller size meant fewer, but better characters, and tighter pacing. I aim for 150K, and usually come in about 175K, which is OK.
Because I'm usually dealing with multiple characters I like to outline a story and create a detailed blocking. That's one kind of "passion" - creating the overall storyline. That's a lot of fun. The second kind is the day-to-day wordsmithing, which I also enjoy. Seeing the whole emerge slowly can be an exercise in patience, but it always happens, and it feels very rewarding.

Me: You show a tremendous connection to your subject matter, as evidenced by your dialogue and characters. Talk about your research.
Larry: I love to research, and it's a lot easier than it looks. It's one of the first things I learned from Clancy. When we were working on RSR, and we wanted to write scenes about the Politburo (still very mysterious in the '80s). Tom organized an interview with Arkady Shevchenko, whose book, Breaking With Moscow, has just been printed. Tom had our agent contact the publisher, and they set it up. No problem. We learned a lot, not only from what he told us, but from the man himself. I tell English students, "Go and find out." It's a lot easier to remember things you've learned than make it up, and you meet some fascinating people along the way. And you always find out things that you need to know that you didn't know you needed to know. Plot opportunities.

Me: What makes a story or character successful enough to go beyond the story itself into a continuing franchise?
Product DetailsLarry: Creating a franchise or series is about telling a story that wouldn't fit in a novel. If RSR was being written today, it would be a series. Like those mega-books I used to do, there's room to explore all the corners, as long as there's something interesting to see. First requirement: Big story.
Setting up the characters is more demanding. Protagonists are supposed to experience character growth in the course of a story, and if they're in several books, then the character growth has to be ongoing.This can be hard to maintain, since life-changing experiences don't happen to everyone one after another. Second requirement. Make the characters real, even flawed, and leave a lot of room for growth.
Third requirement: Fast typing or patient readers.


I'd like to thank Larry for his time and energy in doing this interview. How he found the time, with his schedule, I have no idea.
 Don't believe Larry needs a vacation? Check out his Published Works
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