Bestselling author Bob Mayer talks to me about his writing and the experiences that led him to writing such incredible work.
Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards writing?
I’ve been writing for a living for 30 years. My style has evolved over time. Initially I was very plot oriented and outlined quite a bit. The last couple of years I’ve shifted more to what I call streaming—which is setting up my characters in a setting and throwing obstacles in their path and just writing. I feel I’ve written enough that I can do it more ‘on the fly’ although that requires more rewriting and thinking than outlining does.
I started writing just to write. I didn’t think about getting published. I’d read so much it just seemed a natural outgrowth of that.
What is your career background and how did you get into writing novels?
I served in the Army for a number of years in the Infantry and Special Forces. After I resigned my active duty commission and was in the Reserves, I moved to Asia to study martial arts. I had some time on my hand, the original 512k Mac, and just started writing. I finished two manuscripts without thinking about selling them. Then someone read one and said, “This is like a real book!” And then I went through the long, arduous process of getting published.
Please tell me about your books and why readers enjoy them.
I write across a range of genres so some of my books should appeal to everyone. I’ve hit bestseller lists in thriller, romance, historical fiction, nonfiction, suspense and science fiction. My bestselling series are The Green Berets (military thriller) and Area 51 (science fiction). I’ve tended to write in areas that interest me. A lot of my focus is on history, psychology and the evolution of the mind. I also enjoy delving into myths and legends, which I did in the Area 51 and Atlantis series. I plumbed history with the Time Patrol books.
Are there any particular mediums or narrative troupes you like to use in your writing and why?
Not particularly. Point of view has been a struggle but I’ve settled in omniscient voice. My latest manuscript, which I just completed, is omniscient voice but following one character for the entire book which is something new for me.
I do like to move in time and place. For example, each Time Patrol book features six missions on the same day, such as Independence Day, but in six different years. So each book is essentially six short stories inside of an overall novel, which was hard but great fun to research the history and ask “what if?”
What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?
I enjoy reading writers better than me. Some favourite of my authors are Kate Atkinson, Richard Russo, Michael Connolly, Larry McMurtry, and Pat Conroy. I read a lot of nonfiction because history fascinates me. Also, I lean toward reading books for research rather than the Internet. With the Internet you have to know what questions to ask. With books you find the questions (and answers) you never thought to ask.
If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?
I have collaborated and it is an interesting experience. Jenny Crusie and I wrote three books together with our best being Agnes and the Hitman. I learned a tremendous amount about writing from her. Much of which I put into this most recent book, New York Minute.
Ultimately, writing is a very personal experience. What I focus on these days is a writer’s process. I study other authors for how they create. Not just authors, but screenwriters—in essence storytellers. That’s our job. The oldest profession.
Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?
New York Minute launches a new series for me featuring a special character, William Kane. I’m pitching it as First Blood meets Breaking Bad. The first book is set in New York City in the summer of 1977, during the long hot summer of Son of Sam and the blackout. I grew up in the Bronx during that period. My character is also a graduate of West Point and Special Forces veteran (both of which I’ve done). So it’s rather personal.
This is a breakout book as I have a unique cast of characters inhabiting the world. I’m at work on the second book, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. My agent will be marketing New York Minute when I send it to her and I’m very excited about it.
Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to going forward?
Kate Atkinson has a new book out, Transcription, I will read as soon as I finish this biography of William Tecumseh Sherman.
Anything you’d like to add?
Thanks for giving me this opportunity. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and am more enthused about writing today than I have ever been. I’ve been compiling experience, craft and expertise and continue to strive to become a better storyteller.
Thanks for taking the time Bob- you can find out more about Bob and his work on his website HERE.