RICK CAMPBELL, a retired Navy Commander, spent more than twenty years in the Navy, serving on four nuclear-powered submarines. On his last submarine, he was one of the two men whose permission is required to launch its nuclear warhead-tipped missiles.
Upon retirement, Rick was offered a two-book deal (which has been extended to a six-book deal) by Macmillan / St. Martin’s Press for his novel The Trident Deception, which was hailed by Booklist as “The best submarine novel written in the last thirty years, since Tom Clancy’s classic – The Hunt for Red October“. His first three books were Barnes & Noble Top-20 bestsellers, and his fourth book—Blackmail—releases in June 2017 at brick-and-mortar and Internet stores everywhere.
Rick Campbell Interview
by Sarah Baker
Rick Campbell is a decorated military veteran who served aboard four nuclear powered submarines, at the Pentagon and in the Undersea Weapons Program Office during his three decades in the Navy. Campbell has since taken his experiences and used them as the inspiration to write a best-selling series of submarine-centric military thrillers, considered by many to herald the second coming of Tom Clancy.
Tell us about your writing process. When do you like to write? Where? Do you use a computer or write longhand? What do you advise to deal with writer’s block?
I need large blocks of time to write. I’m not the type of writer who can write in short 20 or 30 minute spurts. I need a minimum of 3 hours to get into the scene and get a decent amount of writing done, and when I really buckle down – with a deadline looming – it’s not uncommon for me to write 12 or 14 hours a day. I do my writing on a computer. I can’t imagine doing it longhand, with as many revisions as I do. For writers block – I don’t know, because I don’t have any issues when I get to the writing phase. I’m a heavy-duty plotter, so I get plotter’s block instead, going sometimes a year without being able to nail down an adequate plot. When that happens, I’ve learned I can’t force it. The block is usually related to stress, and I’ve found that whenever the issue is resolved, the floodgates open and I can’t write the stuff down fast enough.
Why is the book nearly always better than the movie?
Because a movie can’t get into a character’s head, while a book can. You learn so much more about the characters – their backstory and what motivates them – than you can with a movie.
Which characters did you find most compelling and why?
As far as characters in general go, I prefer real-life characters. Some readers prefer the larger-than-life characters – the Jack Reacher type who can kill five men with his pinky. Not very realistic but quite entertaining, which I suppose is why the superhero movie genre is so successful. I write real-world military thrillers, with scenarios as realistic and probable as possible, and the characters must match.
For my books, the most compelling character is Christine O’Connor. She’s the president’s national security advisor, and in keeping with the reality theme of my books, she’s an everyday White House staffer. This poses a problem when she gets into trouble, because she’s not a spy or former special forces operator like most main characters in my genre. For example, if your standard espionage or military thriller main character gets into a fight with an adversary, we typically read about how the character defeats his opponent. However, if Christine gets into a fight with a 200 pound man, she’s going to get the snot kicked out of her. Her limitations make it more challenging from a plot perspective, but also result in different scenarios than your standard espionage or special forces thriller.
What do you think makes a good story?
Something that keeps the reader up late at night, wanting to turn just-one-more page to find out how things turned out. Also, a story that someone could be reading, then look up and see the same events unfolding on the TV news.