Life As An Author
Life As An Author
Andy McNab (Author/Special Forces Expert) gives expert video advice on: You submit your work to the MOD to be vetted for security purposes, what type of thing are they worried about?; Was writing 'Bravo Two Zero' a useful way of dealing with the trauma you experienced?; You run courses for members of the media who have to operate in hostile situations, what type of thing do you teach them? and more...
You submit your work to the MOD to be vetted for security purposes, what type of thing are they worried about?
Yes. The MOD want to look at it. The whole basis of the MOD is they want to just check that there's nothing that affects national security. But sometimes that ranges from the really obscure to where they don't like using a certain make of car during an operation. So basically what happens is they look at the manuscript and they say "well what we'd like to do is cut from chapter 1 line to chapter 86, you know, most of the book." Then what happens is that there's a negotiation. But basically if they explain and tell us what the problem is well I'll take it out and I'll change it. You know it's a thriller, it's not affecting peoples lives.
Was writing 'Bravo Two Zero' a useful way of dealing with the trauma you experienced?
No, it was quite strange really. I'm asked that question quite a lot. After the first Gulf War, I still served in, what we call, the regiment - Special Air Service we called our regiment. I still served in the regiment for three and bit years. During that time, I had to do a lot of debriefs whether it's to the intelligent services or to other armies, particularly the American Special Forces. I wanted to learn about how the interrogations work was being conducted. And without realizing it, I was actually going through that cathartic thing anyway. So when it came to writing the book, it was quite a technical exercise because it was quite. I didn't know it then, but now I'm in the business. It was like a linear story. That's where it's finished. It was quite easy to do the sequence of events. And then put the layers on - of the senses - what is smelled like, what it felt like, what I was thinking. So it wasn't that bit cathartic exercise that people might think.
You run courses for members of the media who have to operate in hostile situations, what type of thing do you teach them?
It's actually not what people think. A lot of these courses, when they very first started was all about getting fired at, and them learning about mines and all that. It's not about that at all. What we teach news crews, and the news crews we take out onto the ground. We got people in nearly 30 countries now doing this. What it's all about is the news crews and certainly camera men have got to get there to take pictures. That's what they do. So therefore, if we can teach them to look at the situation so they can understand what is happening or what might happen. That means they get into a better position to take their film and make their report, whatever they've got to do. So they get a better report and their safe. That's what it's all about. Not all the business that people think these companies do.
Since becoming an author have you been threatened by organisations you operated against while in the SAS?
Yes, that's why I do this in silhouette. Basically I've had three death threats. Two sort of official, if you like. Death threats from organizations that certainly the regiment were conducting operations against in the late eighties and early nineties. And what probably is a fruit out there sort of. Probably, I didn't sign a book for him or something. I don't know what's going on. But, so during the period, there's been three death threats.
Does your public persona make you a lightning rod for nut-cases?
Yeah, absolutely. It's only this past three months that I've actually got a website up and running, and purely because there's some real fruits out there who we used to get letters going to the publishers where "This is Agent X19", "The Count is having kippers with your mother tonight." All of these weird passwords, as there's a lot of them out there. So I've consciously kept out of the way of that, until getting a website where you can still be part of it, but actually there's a little barrier because there's some weird people out there.
How much does the current global political climate inform your writing?
Always. Always the books are trying to be contemporary. That means what you have got to do is what's called "prediction fiction", which is trying to figure out what's going to happen by the time the book is published, but always trying to do that, trying to explain it, for me as well, in a simple way. This is because, sometimes these things get so convoluted you don't know what's going on. And certainly in Kosovo, right now, I spend nearly a quarter of the books with the British soldiers in Basra, because I go there a lot. I've been there quite a few times this year and you spend time with these guys and you could just write a book just on that, really. So try and keep it contemporary. Try and keep it as realistic as possible and by using the characters. You don't have to make it up. All those characters and all that goes on, it's all there. It's all there.
What's the name of your new book and when does it come out?
The name of the new book is Crossfire and it comes out in the end of October 2007. The whole story is based around what's going on at the moment in Basra and in Afghanistan, and it's all based around the way that the drugs are moving around these two wars and everybody is making a lot of money.
Can you tell us anything about 'Crossfire'?
Yeah well, what Crossfire is about is it is about that whole new huge business now of the opium coming out of Afghanistan. Because there's a war in Afghanistan, it's very easy to get it now, the crop is bigger then ever before in the history of opium production and how that affects everybody from soldiers in Basarah who are fighting the insurgents. They are actually paid money to fight and given heroin as well to fight. So a lot of these guys are totally out of their heads when they're coming around fighting and now our soldiers have to deal with all that problem and now that comes into Europe, and mainly the UK - obviously it's been a UK story - and it affects sort of street prices in the UK. It all becomes one thing all one thing, which it is.
What else do you have in the pipeline?
Oh lots of things. I've just finished the script called Echelon, which is an American film and that's all about the counter-surveillance that is going on in Europe and now China is becoming a big player and starting to use the surveillance for industrial espionage, which is great except it's put in outrageous location like Hong Kong and Mongolia and we are going to go there, so that is great. I wrote a series of books, teenage books, well young adults I think they are called now in the business. The first two books, that script's finished as well, co-wrote that and we got through with it very quickly and that's now in with BBC films and so hopefully we're going to start a production on that and about three hours after I do this interview. I'm going back to the BBC, because I'm just playing with an idea now about the army in Basra for a six part drama series with the BBC. So we'll get started.
How do you feel about increasing media coverage in war zones?
The speaker on the video tries to display the pro's and con's of increasing media coverage in war zones. In my opinion on the pro side the speaker suggest the more the general public knows about what is happening in the war, the better. On the con side the writer suggest that the media is anti government so any increased media coverage will be bias against the military. In my opinion increasing the coverage would be bad because the coverage the media presents will create a false illusion of what is really going on in the war. To show the true picture of people getting killed on both side of the fight are sohorrifying the public would be able to look at them. Also no amount of media coverage would be able to show the psychological damage to soldier who actually witness the casualties of war. If the media increases coverage of the war it would be only perpetuating a lie of adventure and excitement instead of showing the realities of emotional scars that will effect young men the rest of their lives
What inspires you?
The same thing inspires me that did when I was in the army. I didn't know it until I got into the Special S service. It sounds a bit corny, but I can't think of anything else. It's the pursuit of excellence, which is what the special forces are all about. I only want to do a good job. It's not as if I want to be the best at that, or be the best at whatever it may be, but what I want to do is, to do it the best I can. This business that I'm in now, whether it's writing books or involved in films, I do it because it's actually a laugh. It's good fun as well. The day that it doesn't become good fun, that's when I'll do something else.