Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Depths Of Research And A Giveaway

I always enjoy meeting new authors, learning how they came to write, what propels them to write, and then being able to share that information with y’all. Today I’m delighted to welcome author M.L. Buchman to Thoughts in Progress to answer some of these questions for us.

Buchman is the author of THE NIGHT IS MINE. Thanks to Buchman and Danielle at Sourcebooks, I have 2 copies of his book to giveaway to 2 lucky visitors who comment on this post by 8 p.m. (EST) on Wednesday, Feb. 29. The giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only. Be sure to leave your e-mail address with your comments, if it’s not included in your profile.

Here’s a brief synopsis of THE NIGHT IS MINE: The Night Stalkers, Book 1:
NAME: Emily Beale
RANK: Captain
MISSION: Fly undercover to prevent the assassination of the First Lady, posing as her executive pilot.
NAME: Mark Henderson, code name Viper
RANK: Major
MISSION: Undercover role of wealthy, ex-mercenary boyfriend to Emily
Their jobs are high risk, high reward:
Protect the lives of the powerful and the elite at all cost. Neither expected that one kiss could distract them from their mission. But as the passion mounts between them, their lives and their hearts will both be risked...and the reward this time may well be worth it.

Now for the questions.

Hi Mason, Thanks so much for having me aboard.

Mason - Have to ask the age-old question, what inspired this story?

Buchman - There were actually two inspirations, the one that started me down the path and the one that I only understood after I finished the second book in the series (now in final editing). I started on this story when I stumbled on the U.S. Army’s 160th SOAR, Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Sure we’ve all know of Black Hawk Down and the take-down of bin Laden. But what I had never put together was a secret regiment whose job it is to do the flying.

Who I discovered were the fliers behind the stories. These are the folks who are first over the horizon in a dozen exploits we’ve heard of: Grenada, Panama and Takur Ghar (the backdrop for the Cruise-Redford-Streep movie Lions for Lambs). “Cool!” was my thought. Secret helicopters combined with my on-going quest to write a riveting romance story sounded great. 

I found the nastiest machine they fly, a Direct Action Penetrator (DAP) Black Hawk, perhaps the most lethal helicopter ever to launch into the night sky, and I asked a question: What if the first women to ever fly in SOAR began to fill the seats of a DAP Hawk? Four seats, four amazing women warriors, and the men they deserve, a four-book series based on the real-life Night Stalkers.

The Night is Mine CoverBut something happened as I wrote these stories. I wanted to make them as authentic as possible; not just the action and choppers, but the characters. Because I write for the characters, for that gripping emotional moment. The cool tech is just a setting. The more I researched and wrote, the more I began to respect and perhaps understand these fliers who have chosen this as a career.

You can’t just become a Night Stalker. These people have a minimum 5 years experience and have volunteered 5 separate times: Army, Special Forces… And that’s before they are even tested. If they pass that, they go on to another two years of training. They are as elite as the very top people in any field, they are the Apple R&D lab, the Toyota designers, the movie stars of what they do. Except no one knows about them, because if they do their job right, we never hear.

I became inspired to tell their story, their feelings, their commitment and emotion. Or at least to try.

Mason - What type of research did you do for this story?

Buchman - I have no military background and I set off to write about a secret military organization, so I did a lot. There are half a dozen books on them, total. (I know, because they’re all on my shelf.) I read helicopter operations manuals, a Black Hawk service manual, and an Army manual on hand-to-hand combat and another on what exactly they are and aren’t allowed to do in relationships (I broke a number of those rules, but I tried to be real about it). I became an avid reader of Defence Helicopter and other industry professional publications.

I read accounts by retired SEALs and special forces from almost every conflict in the 20th century. I interviewed gun shop owners about weapons, I signed onto gun-owner forums to ask technical questions, and be laughed at. I interviewed a Coast Guard heli-pilot at an air show about flying to the edge, a retired Marine about how being in and out of action felt, and I had the good fortune to interview a woman who flew Black Hawk helicopters in Iraq as a chief mechanic (and yes, the mechanics are fighters as well with a machine gun mounted at their position). That’s the basics anyway.

Mason - Did you ever consider putting your hero and heroine on a bike and sending them around the world as you did?

Buchman - Ha! I would never wish that on anyone, and, yes, I try to do it to every character. Here’s what I mean. The reason I ended up on that bicycle was that I’d been betrayed by a business partner. I lost my business, my desire to work in my career, and the house I’d spent every spare moment of 7 years remodeling. I didn’t burn out, I flamed out and landed dead broke besides. At a complete loss, I sold everything except my kitchen and my library, I climbed on a bicycle, waved goodbye to everyone and everything I knew, and left. Okay… well it made sense at the time.

I went from consulting in the Fortune 100 to being able to pick up my whole life with one hand, tent included. Over the next 18 months I met wonderful people and saw incredible places in 15 countries on 4 continents. I also became a writer, starting my first book while flying from Korea to ride across the Australia Outback. I learned a lot, I grew immensely, and I decided what I wanted from the future. My wife, my kid, my steady career, and my writing all came from those choices. It worked.

So, I try to throw my characters off the deep end. Down to where they are that near despair and they see no way out, at least not one that makes sense. But I chose to champion the human spirit (a motto right above my writing desk), and they struggle, as I did, to rise and to triumph. That is the journey that fascinates me and I try to instill in my writing by dumping it on my character’s heads.

Mason - What one piece of advice would you give a beginning writer that you wish someone had given you when you first began writing?

Buchman - One… I can think of a thousand! If I had to chose just one, it would probably be this: “You can’t edit a blank page.” Nothing replaces putting your butt in the chair each and every day. Nothing replaces creating the words in the first place. You can’t learn, you can’t grow, you can’t improve if you don’t practice the craft. Good fiction writing isn’t inherent in our souls, read Stephen King’s On Writing if you doubt that. Fill the page with words, then you’re getting something done. For every thousand people I meet “with a book in them,” I’d bet only one actually sits down every day and fills a page with actual words. BTW, you also can’t sell a blank page either.

Thanks again for having me aboard.

Buchman, thanks so much for guest blogging. I’m in awe of what you go through to enrich your characters. All the extra effort makes a world of difference in the end making the characters realistic.

Now for a bit of background on Buchman. He has worked in fast food, theater, computers, publishing, and light manufacturing. It's amazing what you can do with a degree in geophysics. At one point he sold everything and spent 18-months riding a bicycle around the world. In 11,000 miles, he touched 15 countries and hundreds of amazing people. Since then, he has acquired a loving lady, the coolest kid on the planet, and lives in Portland, Oregon. For more information on Buchman and his writing, visit http://www.matthewlieberbuchman.com/

Do you enjoy stories that involve women in roles traditionally held by men? Thanks so much for dropping by today. Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of THE NIGHT IS MINE


  1. M.L., thanks again for guest blogging. I enjoyed learning what you go through for your characters. Wishing you much success.

  2. Not entering to win, but the tech of my books is just the setting for the characters as well.

    1. Alex, I know you also do a good bit of research for your books and it pays off well.

  3. I do enjoy reading stories about women who have stepped into a role traditionally held by a man - at least for ones that they can physically and mentally do - I do believe that there are some roles that women won't be able to step into due to certain physical requirements but that should be the only issue. The Night is Mine sounds interesting and it sounds like Mr. Buchman did a lot of research for it - I like well researched books:)

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    1. Maria, I completely agree with you about women being able to fill roles traditionally held by men limited only by physical abilities. The author did do a great deal of research for this series making it very realistic.

  4. Women cannot fill all roles that they aspire to in a man's world. There are limitations. Otherwise their abilities are comparable. Many thanks. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  5. Maria,
    I'm always surprised at the roles women can fill when you least expect them to be able to. Firefighter training is brutal and I've watched grown, powerful men fail. I also had the good fortune to be friends with the first female fire Captain on a major city's force. The Black Hawk flier I interviewed as part of my book research, a woman. A highly skilled research diver... I think there are preceptions of what women can't do, and I certainly attribute more common sense to women on what not to waste their time doing, but I don't know that there are all that many endeavors that women actually can't do.

  6. What a wonderful interview. I've heard so many times that you should throw your character off a cliff and see how they swim. Putting them on a bicycle sounds tame in comparison, but adding "and send them around the world" puts a whole different meaning on those words.

    1. I like the thoughts of throwing one's characters off a cliff to see what happens. There are so many possibilities.

  7. If its a good story and written well I dont care who is what role. Its all about the characters and story for me.

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

  8. Cliff, bike, quit, pursue a dream, run... All those good "change" verbs, that moment of madness where the only thing that makes sense is to leap and take the consequences. I love that moment. It fascinates me.

    As my writing mentor says, "When you don't know what to do with your character, have someone show up at the door with a gun." ie. Do something that changes the dynamic... drastically. For me, the symbol of that change was getting on a bicycle, but the layer behind that was that I'd just lost my business, my career, my willingness to work in my profession, and my house. That's a seriously life-changing gun that showed up at my door. I try to aim that feeling, that emotion, that depth of experience at my characters. Hopefully it makes them a bit richer. :)

  9. Donnas (DonnaS?),
    I couldn't agree more. For me it's all about characters and story (and in that order). That's why I read, that's why I write!


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.