Jonathan Raab is the author of Flight of the Blue Falcon, a military novel that is equal parts funny, tragic, surreal, and absurd. His service with the Army in the Afghanistan War inspired the events described in the novel. He is also the author of The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre, a science-fiction-horror-adventure novel, due out in October 2015 from Literati Press.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Flight of the Blue Falcon. When did you start writing and what got you into writing a military novel?
I started writing when I was little kid—but this novel I started when I was still on active duty in Kuwait on a boring mission. I had a lot of time to write, so I started it there. I finished it after I got out of the military and had some time to reflect on my experiences.
What is your book about?
Flight of the Blue Falcon is about three men who head off to war—a new private, an experienced staff sergeant, and a green lieutenant. Each of them have different perspectives and responsibilities while serving in an infantry platoon deployed for combat operations in the Afghanistan War. Think of it as if Hunter S. Thompson wrote Catch-22.
What was your inspiration for it?
I wanted to tell the story of this generation’s veterans—without it being something political or simple. We’re not all heroes, we’re not all monsters. We were usually tired, pissed off, self-deprecating, and just trying to get through the day-to-day of a long, grinding war.
When you were in Afghanistan, did you ever think you would write a novel based on your experiences?
I figured I would write a memoir. I did, but it wasn’t very good. I was too angry—too raw. Many of the experiences that I wrote down made it into this novel, in one shape or another.
I just don’t want to be “that guy,” the one always seeking attention or affirmation for my service. That may seem a bit hypocritical coming from someone whose writing has primarily been about war and the veteran experience, but it’s true. If I’m going to write about these subjects, I want it to be the benefit of the veteran community at large. I want to tell our stories honestly.
Can you talk a little about The War Writer’s Campaign? What does it entail?
The War Writers’ Campaign is a non-profit publishing company that focuses on the writing of veterans and their family members. Their goal is to tell stories from the veteran community and raise money to donate back to best-in-class veteran organizations.
What has the writing of this book taught you?
It taught me that I’m not as angry about the war and my service as I used to be. It helped me grow up a bit. That doesn’t mean that everything is totally okay and that nothing’s wrong—but it helped me deal with my own response to what I went through.
What type of challenges did you face while writing this book?
It was difficult balancing the authenticity of the military story with the accessibility the average person requires to understand what is happening. This is a book that is for veterans and those who didn’t serve alike. I hope I threaded that needle.
What do you hope readers will get from your book?
I hope they realize that the military is not a finely-tuned machine, and that war isn’t simple or glorious. My political views evolved quite a bit because of my military service. I’m not so gung-ho about sending Americans overseas to fight in places that we barely understand. The way this government has treated its veterans—particularly how the VA has let so many die without care—is absolutely shameful. Is that how we show our appreciation? We fight our wars and then ignore the human costs?
What do you do when your muse refuses to collaborate?
I kick that son of a bitch in the ass and write anyway. Waiting for the muse to inspire you is the surest way to not finish anything.
Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to right. Can you relate to this?
Totally. You can psyche yourself out if you’re not careful. I find that most writers want to be perfectionists—and, therefore, they don’t finish anything. You have to fight that “this sucks” voice that speaks to you. So what if it sucks? Write it anyway, and fix it later. Don’t be a wuss.
Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?
Yes! I’m the editor in chief of Muzzleland Press, a horror culture blog and platform for my publishing company. We specialize in horror and weird fiction, which are my first literary loves. Check us out at www.muzzlelandpress.com.
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