Author Pen Name: Jeff Edwards
CA: What genre(s) do you write? Why do you write the stories that you write?
JE: I started out writing high-tech detective novels. They were sort of science fiction murder mysteries. These days, I write military thrillers. It took my agent a long time to convince me to try writing a military novel. I served in the Navy for twenty-three years, and he thought I should put that experience to use in my writing. At first, I wasn’t interested. I’ve always enjoyed reading military thrillers, but I didn’t think I could write one. To my surprise, I loved it. They give me room to touch on just about everything… Humor, fear, suspense, action, philosophy, history, irony, and nearly anything else I can think of.
CA: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
JE: I knew pretty early in life. I was about eight years old when I decided that I wanted to write books.
CA: Who or what was your inspiration for writing?
JE: My father. When I was a kid, my dad used to tell us stories about a bear named Oliver, who drank chocolate milk, and went on wild adventures. My dad passed away when I was seven, and I think I decided about a year later that I wanted to carry on the storyteller tradition.
CA: What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
JE: It depends on where I am in a particular book project. When the book is in the early stages, I do most of my writing at night, while my family is sleeping. At some point, when the end of the first draft is starting to come into view, I’ll usually go away somewhere for a week or two, and write for 16 or 18 hours a day.
CA: Your book is about to be sent into the reader world, what is one word that describes how you feel?
JE: Hmmmm… Torpedo has actually been in print for about three years. It’s won a number of awards; it’s sold thousands of copies; it’s been recorded as an audiobook; it’s been translated into Japanese; and it’s been optioned for a movie. So it’s pretty much already been out there in the reader world. With that said, the word that probably best describes how I feel is ‘excited.’
CA: What do you like to do when you're not writing?
JE: Spend time with my family, play guitar, exercise, watch movies, and read, read, read
CA: How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
JE: I’ve written three novels for adults, and one children’s book. I’d have to say that the new book, The Seventh Angel, is my favorite.
CA: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
JE: A little of both. Most of my characters are entirely fictional. When I do base characters on real people, it’s not a one-to-one correlation. I use the salad bar approach, taking a personality trait from this person, and a mannerism from that person, and mixing in some imaginary elements.
CA: How can a reader contact you or purchase your books?
JE: My books are available through my website http://www.navythriller.com/, where you’ll find direct links to Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble online, and my favorite independent bookstore, Mysterious Galaxy. If you want a personalized copy, call Mysterious Galaxy Books at 858-268-4775, and order by phone. Give them your details, and I’ll drop by the store and inscribe a copy for you. If you’re more of a brick-and-mortar person, my books are available in major bookstores, and independents. If they’re not on the shelf, your local bookstore can order them.
CA: How much of Torpedo is autobiographical?
JE: That’s a difficult question to answer. There’s a bit of me in a lot of the characters, but there’s no one in the book who directly represents Jeff Edwards. On the other hand, some of the little adventures that are woven into the story are based on actual experiences.
CA: What the funniest thing that’s happened to you since you started writing?
JE: The Naval Institute Press sent me a rejection letter for a novel called ‘Ice Fire.’
That’s not unusual by itself; every writer gets rejection letters. But I didn’t write Ice Fire, and I don’t know who did write it. Somewhere, some poor writer is still wondering why he never heard back from the Naval Institute Press.
CA: Have you ever received fan mail? If so, what’s it like?
JE: Yes, I do get fan mail. Frankly, I always wonder if the person has me confused with another writer. Maybe I’ll eventually become accustomed to it, but the whole thing feels pretty weird right now. Don’t get me wrong… I am greatly flattered, and I sincerely appreciate every letter and email. But it feels a bit surreal. I’ve actually gotten a couple of fan messages from authors whose work I really respect, and that just totally blows me away. It’s one thing to receive praise from random strangers. It’s quite another to receive praise from your literary heroes.
CA: Is it true that you had to get permission from the U.S. military to publish Torpedo?
JE: Yes. I was still on active duty when I wrote the early drafts of Torpedo, so I had to have permission from the Department of the Navy, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), the Department of Defense, and the State Department to publish the book. They went over the manuscript line-by-line, to make sure I hadn’t accidentally revealed classified information. I wasn’t really worried about that, though. When I write military fiction, I am very careful to stay away from sensitive material. It’s not just a matter of keeping myself out of trouble, although that’s certainly a consideration. My first concern is to do nothing that could endanger our national security. There are real men and women out there every day, laying their lives on the line in the defense of this country. No amount of acclaim or success is worth endangering the life of a single American service member.
CA: A number of Bestselling authors have compared you to Tom Clancy. How do you feel about that?
JE: I think that kind of comparison is inevitable. He’s the high-water mark among authors of military fiction. Anyone who writes military thrillers with a strong technical component is going to wind up being compared to Tom Clancy. It’s just the nature of the game. With that said, I’m extremely flattered. Mr. Clancy is the master of my chosen genre, and I’m a huge fan of his work. But I’m a very different writer, with an entirely different storytelling style. Tom Clancy has his stories to tell, and I have mine.
CA: What sets you apart from other authors in your genre?
JE: It’s got to be my handling of the hero archetype. Major characters in military fiction tend to be these sort of larger-than-life icons. The typical hero (I call them Hollywood heroes), can fly an F-18, defuse a bomb, fight like Jackie Chan, shoot like Rambo, and make love to a beautiful woman while riding a motorcycle. There can be great fun in that sort of literary exaggeration, just like there’s great fun in James Bond. But I never met that guy. In twenty-three years of active duty, I never served with the kind of superhero you find in most military thrillers. Instead, I served with ordinary men and women, who worked together and sacrificed together to accomplish extraordinary things. I guess you could say that I don’t write about heroic icons. I write about the sort of collective heroism you find in real people.
CA: What advice can you offer to people who are trying to break into writing?
JE: Never give up the dream. As soon as you begin to make contact with the publishing industry, you’ll start to hear horror stories about how tough it is to break into the writing business. Ignore all of it. Every successful author started out as an unpublished hopeful. They made it to the top by ignoring the voices of doom, and following the dream.
CA: Jeff, that was an awesome interview! I really liked learning about all the obstacles you had to go through to get Torpedo published, thanks again for being here!