YAY!! Andy was willing to answer our questions about the War Torn sequel ‘Battle Lines’ that was published this month. Of course we also had some other prying questions for him…so below his answers. Enjoy!!
Grey Man’s Land Interview with Andy McNab
GML: Hi Andy, thanks for answering some of our questions again, with the release of War Torns sequel ‘Battle Lines’ this month.
First of all..how was working with Kym again?
AM: “It was great! Her experience is different from mine and its so useful getting a different person’s view when you are writing. Also, the female characters are so important in this book that it was vital to have an authentic female voice in the narrative.”
GML: Kym being the ‘social’ one in your collaboration, did she do the family stuff again?
AM: “We both did really. We spent time in some camps talking to families and Kym did some further visits and meetings, but I went out to Helmand in the Spring and spent a lot of time talking to some of the lads about the issues surrounding home, balancing these contrasting aspects of their lives, communications and how they felt about stuff basically.”
GML: When War Torn was released you promised us a sequel with the same characters and some new ones. What can you tell us about the people in ‘Battle Lines’?
AM: “I want you to go and buy a copy! But briefly, Dave Henley and his wife Jenny are still at the centre of the book and we follow their lives and those of the families around them, many of whom were in War Torn.”
GML: Characters in your books are often based on people you know, or have met. Are you expecting requests of ‘royalties’ again?
AM: “Ha ha, hopefully not! I’ll have to start saying that every character is a version of me, the good parts of course! There are lots of people that have helped me research and create these characters, and lots of people’s experiences woven into the story, but that is the nature of authentic and realistic fiction, I want it to be based on truth and real experience, that is, hopefully, part of why people want to read my books.”
GML: On the cover of the book it says ‘Sometimes your toughest enemy is yourself’ What does that mean?
AM: “It is a reference to the idea that serving soldiers are in a situation where they have two completely contrasting parts of their life, on the one hand they are out on patrol, literally risking life and limb and watching their mates getting injured or worse alongside them, and on the other, they are on the phone or email to their families at home hearing about the kids playing truant, the car failing its MOT or their relationship going to shit because they aren’t there and they can’t do anything about it. It is incredibly frustrating and a difficult balance to get right. Much more tricky than in the era before instant communications. Nowadays the lads hear about everything going wrong at home and are completely powerless to do anything about it, whereas in previous times, at least they didn’t know about it!”
GML: Can you relate to this yourself?
AM: “Yes, I had a few relationships whilst I was a serving soldier, I found it difficult to get the balance right and I got it wrong a couple of times!”
GML: The first book didn’t have a moral message, you said when War Torn was published. Did you avoid politics again in this sequel?
AM: “Yes, it isn’t about politics, it is about people, life struggles and the difficulties facing not only serving soldiers but also their families back home. If there is one political theme in the book, however, it is the continuing need for more civilian acknowledgement and training for service leavers suffering from PTSD. The difficulty comes with the fact that it often doesn’t come to light until after those afflicted have left the army. This is where problems arise as neither families nor the National Health Service have the experience or training to deal with these problems. It’s not through a lack of interest or awareness, but simply that the experiences that have led to this are so extreme and unique to serving soldiers.”
GML: Often, even recently, you express your worry about unemployment of ex-army personnel and its consequences, hence your work for ForceSelect. Is this subject implemented in ‘Battle Lines’?
AM: “I haven’t really focused on this issue in Battle Lines, I think there is a danger in throwing too many themes at the reader all at once, perhaps that is one for a different book.”
GML: The original idea was to write about the difficulties of contact with the home front, as in present days there are many ways of contact possible. How did that turn out in ‘Battle Lines’?
AM: “It turned out as I hoped. There is a storyline in Battle Lines concerning a classic case of Chinese whispers and rumours of what people are or aren’t getting up to at home. This is the basis for lots of angst for those serving, as you might imagine, and is just one example of how improved communications aren’t always a good thing for the morale.”
GML: Indeed, today there are mobile phones, Internet and probably ways of contact I don’t know about. How was that in your army days and are these improved communications really an improvement? Or should we go back to ‘All Prohibited except Smoke Signals’.
AM: “I can’t confess to have done quite as much communicating with people at home as I might have done when I was serving. Perhaps this was why I had a couple of failed relationships! But I’m sure I was therefore spared some of the grief and worry that other guys go through. I’m not saying we should go back to having no contact at all with families at home. That just wouldn’t be acceptable to people in this day and age where you can skype anywhere in the world and the majority of us are permanently online and on the end of a mobile. The point I want to make is that this technology doesn’t come without its problems and should be used and treated with respect.”
GML: There has been mention of War Torn being turned into film. Which is a nice bridge to all the other movie stuff.
You were in Cannes this year. What was the result apart from meeting Robert the Niro again.
AM: “I’ve got a couple of projects in pre production at the moment. We’ve got Echelon, the Nick Stone film which is coming along really well and there should be more exciting news on that before too long, and also Red Notice, featuring my new character Tom Buckingham. That is motoring and again, watch this space for announcements!” (GML: WE WILL, WE WILL!!)
GML: This new character ‘Tom Buckingham’, the lead in a new book ‘Red Notice’, which will be published in October…please tell us..Who is he?
AM: “Tom is a serving SAS soldier. He’s very different to Nick Stone in his upbringing, outlook and way he operates. Whereas I based Nick Stone loosely on myself (as everyone knows), Tom is based on a close friend of mine, someone I admired hugely. I will tell you more about this in the Autumn when the book comes out. The other big difference with Tom Buckingham is that I have changed my narrative structure with this book. Whereas the Nick Stone books are in the first person, ie you see everything happening through Nick’s eyes and if he can’t see it then you don’t know about it, I’m using the third person now so as well as seeing everything that Tom sees, we get to see what is going on elsewhere, what the ‘baddies’ are up to, how the politicians are handling the situation, it is more of a 360 narrative picture, I’m really enjoyed doing it.”
GML: And we will enjoy reading it! But now……The new Nick Stone novel has been postponed until next year. It’s obviously not really common knowledge yet since there haven’t been reports of riots in front of publisher Transworlds office. What’s going on??? Your fans are not pleased. One even wonders how to know it’s autumn this year!
AM: “Don’t worry, the new Nick Stone is coming out, I promise. I’ve more or less written it already! It is going to be called ‘Silencer’ I hope and it is set in Colombia and in Moscow, going back to some old operations and then bringing us up to date with Nick and the big changes that were just happening at the end of Dead Centre….
It just got pushed back to give more space to ‘Red Notice’ which people seem to be getting really excited about, which is all good.”
GML: Andy, as always we’d like to close our interview with a silly question. This time we’d like to know… you’ve been surfing quite a lot lately. Who can join you on your surfboard any time and why? (And please don’t say your neighbor Katie Price, as she’s capable of floating without a board.)
AM: “We’ve all seen the photos of Cameron Diaz on her surfboard…. But for someone slightly different, I gather Obama can surf. He grew up in Hawaii so should be able to! I’d quite like to go out surfing with him and chat about a few world policies!”
GML: Wow! Thank you so much for the interview again Andy and we’ll be looking forward to hearing from you again soon!!
Hope you all enjoyed! Happy Holiday Season!!
Lynn & Grey Man’s Land