TheDC Interview: Thriller author Brad Thor

What is your take on how President Barack Obama has handled foreign policy since he became president? What do you think about intervening in Syria?

You mean the whole “If we extend our hand, they’ll unclench their fist” thing? Why don’t you ask the people of Cairo that?

Listen, our president is a foreign and domestic policy disaster. I’m tired of trying to “bring” democracy to other countries. You can’t give it to people. They have to fight for it themselves. Remember when we had to fight for it in the 18th century? Sure the French helped us, but not before they knew it was a sure thing.

The president’s job is to secure America’s interests first. There’s only one true democratic republic in the world and that’s us. The rest of the world, as my brilliant pal Tom Boyson says, is made up of dictatorships, “communist” regimes, and highly socialized nations such as Canada, England, Germany and France.

I think Syria is fraught with peril. Nothing good will come from our involvement there.

Tell us how you got into the business of writing thrillers. 

One of the worst pieces of advice young writers hear when starting out is to “Write what you know.” This is terrible advice. If this was legitimate advice, we’d never have had Tom Clancy (who was selling insurance) or J.K. Rowling (who couldn’t jet off to Hogwarts to learn how wizards are made).

I always tell writers that they should write what they love to read. That’s where your passion is and that’s where you’ll succeed. You can’t be a great writer without being a great reader, and if you’ve been reading in a particular genre for a while you’ll be surprised with how much you know about what works and doesn’t work just based upon what you like (and don’t like).

To write the books you do, I imagine you have to understand the details of intelligence work and military operations. Where and how did you develop your expertise on these matters?

I grew up reading the great Cold War classics of Freddy Forsythe, John le Carré, Robert Ludlum and Clancy. I learned a lot about tradecraft in those novels. I also have many close friends who are active in the special operations, intelligence, law enforcement, and political worlds. They form my key group of sharpshooters who help me with each novel I write.

Where do you get your ideas?

In the shower or on my couch (after a glass or two of wine). In all seriousness, Stephen King once said that a writer is someone who has trained their mind to misbehave. He is 100 percent correct. I am a voracious consumer of news. I am reading everything through a “what if” filter that takes my mind racing in multiple directions with each interesting story I come across.

There’s also an invisible hand – to steal from Adam Smith – that seems to guide what I write about. I just get a feeling that a particular subject matter is going to be the next big thing we’ll be talking about in the public square – like the story behind my new thriller “Hidden Order” – and I become compelled to weave it into my novel.

I think that’s one of the hallmarks people enjoy about Brad Thor thrillers – they beat the headlines.