Jonathan Raab is a veteran of the Afghanistan war, where he served as an infantryman assigned to a combat advisor team. He is the editor-in-chief of Muzzleland Press and an editor for the War Writers’ Campaign. His work has appeared in The New York Times’ At War Blog, CNN.com, the Military Success Network, Literati Presents, The Stars and Stripes, and many others. His second novel, The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre, will be available in late 2015. He lives in the Denver metro area with his wife Jess and their dog, Egon.
Connect with Jonathan Raab on the Web: Website / Facebook /Twitter
Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about Flight of the Blue Falcon and what compelled you to write it.
Jonathan Raab: It’s a novel about an infantry platoon deployed to the Afghanistan War, told through the perspective of three soldiers at different levels of the platoon. It’s as funny as it is tragic. I wanted to write something that reflected my experiences serving in the National Guard during a time of war.
M.C.: What is your book about?
J.R.: It follows three different soldiers as they prepare for, deploy to, and return from the war. I tried to capture many of the the surreal, frustrating, and exciting parts of serving in a combat unit.
M.C.: What themes do you explore in Flight of the Blue Falcon?
J.R.: It’s about the insanity of war, for sure, but it’s also very much about how people deal with going through the big Army war machine. It’s also indirectly about how our society deals with war (or doesn’t), and how it treats (or ignores) those who come home. Sometimes veterans come home and have things to say, and those things aren’t very comfortable to hear.
M.C.: Why do you write?
J.R.: I write because it’s a compulsion, really. I’d get depressed if I didn’t.
M.C.: When do you feel the most creative?
J.R.: Usually after a brief hiatus, and I haven’t written something in a while. Then the ideas start popping up.
M.C.: How picky are you with language?
J.R.: I have an editorial background, so it’s important that I get the words right, both from a stylistic and technical standpoint. But when I’m writing my first draft, I don’t agonize over each word and sentence. That comes later, in the editing phase.
M.C.: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
J.R.: No. That sounds terrifying. I do experience moments of inspiration that come out of nowhere, but I’d prefer to credit my mind, or God, rather than some sinister alien intelligence. But now that you’ve got me thinking about… That’d make a good story, yeah?
M.C.: What is your worst time as a writer?
J.R.: When I get a rejection notice, which happens all the time. But that can also be my best time, as I can either quit, or drive on. So far, I’ve been driving on.
M.C.: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
J.R.: If writing ever compromised my faith or my relationship with my wife, I’d have to leave it behind. It would hurt, but it would be worth it.
M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
J.R.: The first time I got a nonfiction piece published was a huge, huge moment for me. It set me on the path I’m on now. It was totally thrilled.
M.C.: Is writing an obsession to you?
J.R.: Obsession, passion, love, albatross around my neck… All of the above.
M.C.: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
J.R.: Of course. My writing started to improve when I used more and more of my real-life experiences in the characters and plots. Unfortunately, now that my friends and family know that, they tend to read my work looking for themselves. That’s not a good thing!
M.C.: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?
J.R.: Writing is a way to process experience, to process reality. It helps you work through your own issues. Writers write because, yes, otherwise they might not be able to deal with things. It’s a coping mechanism, for sure, but it can also be used for healing—both the writer, and the reader.
M.C.: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
J.R.: My own small press’ website is www.muzzlelandpress.com. You’ll find any and all updates related to my writing there.