Jonathan Raab is the author of the military fiction novel, Flight of the Blue Falcon. It’s an absurd, tragic, and honest look at wartime service in the National Guard during the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts. He is also the author of the upcoming The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre (due out October 2015 from Literati Press), a paranoid horror-science fiction novel about UFOs, government conspiracies, and what it means to come home.
Three men join a National Guard infantry platoon and prepare for, deploy to, and return from the absurdity that is the Afghanistan War. If the first casualty of war is the truth, this is the truest war story you’ll ever read.
Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about your writing background?
I’ve been writing, off and on, for most of my life. My first major publications came when I was a spokesperson for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, when I published essays on the veteran experience with The New York Times, CNN.com, The Stars and Stripes, and many others.
Currently I’m the editor in chief of a small horror and weird fiction press, Muzzleland Press.
When did you decide you wanted to become an author?
When I was kid, I knew books had power. I was fascinating that someone could sit down and tell a story—true or otherwise—over the course of a book, and communicate such powerful messages to so many people.
Do you have another job besides writing?
I’m currently in the adult education field, and I often do contract writing and communications work.
I read all the time, because there wasn’t much else for an introverted, nervous kid to do. I loved anything with the fantastic—especially horror and science fiction. Not much has changed.
Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
I wrote Flight of the Blue Falcon to tell the story of the Afghanistan War from a National Guard infantry perspective. There aren’t many novels about the Afghanistan War out there. Lots on Iraq, sure, but Afghanistan was a big part of our “War on Terror”, too.
How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?
I often write an outline first, and then write very informally through the first draft. This helps me stay on target, but gives me the flexibility to make mistakes or explore other avenues. The plot always veers away from the original outline, but that’s alright. It’s fun following the story and the characters.
Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her when she refuses to inspire you?
Trying to get the muse to cooperate is a waste of time. Sometimes she plays along. Sometimes she gives you the cold shoulder. You have to learn to write even when she’s not there to help you out. Eventually she’ll get jealous and come on back.
What types of scenes give you the most trouble to write?
There’s not a lot of combat or gore in this book, but the scenes that involve dead or wounded Americans were really difficult to write. They were very emotionally trying, and I dealt with a lot of anxiety because I knew I had to get them just right.
When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?
Books can and should be entertaining—Flight of the Blue Falcon certainly is that—but they should also tell larger truths. If you’re not trying to point out the flaws in our society, in our systems, in ourselves, then you’re not doing anybody any favors.
Do you have an agent? How was your experience in searching for one?
Right now I’m sticking to the small press market, because that’s where I’ve developed my contacts, and there’s a lot more accessibility and author-friendly policies. Maybe someday I’ll need an agent to get in with a big publisher, but right now I’m doing just fine without one.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
You’ll see this all the time, because it’s true: Stephen King said to write all the time and read all the time. There’s no better advice.
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
Readers can keep up with my work at www.muzzlelandpress.com
Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
In October, Literati Press is publishing The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre, my horror-science fiction novel. It represents a lot of my interests: conspiracy theories, the occult, ufology, and the evil that lives just underneath the surface of the American dream. There’s a lot of spiritual themes present in the novel, too. It’s certainly not a standard Christian novel by any means, and it’s not really written for that audience, but those themes are present, for sure.
Anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your work?
As great as it has been being a voice for veterans, I’m recognizing that Flight of the Blue Falcon will be my last project that is exclusively about war and the veteran experience. My next novel has a veteran character as one of the protagonists, and I suspect war will always be a part of my work, but it won’t be the focus. It’s time to move on, as best as I can. I just hope Flight of the Blue Falcon resonates with people, and we learn something from these seemingly-endless years of war.