Sometimes, I work with writers who make me wonder certain things. Maybe they’re insomniacs and write about stuff happening in dreams, or they’re doctors who write stories about organ harvesting. Or something.
One such writer is Dana Griffin, a pilot who happens to write airline thrillers. His newest release is Blamed, which I had the genuine privilege of critiquing. But I’ve wondered for some time how that works for him. Isn’t writing about plane crashes when you’re a pilot, you know, terrifying beyond measure?
So I asked, and it turned into an interview-type post. Read on and be enlightened.
1. How long had you worked in the airline industry before you decided to write novels based on it?
Twenty-six terror filled years. Not really. An airline pilot’s life is very mundane (see number two below). But I wrote two novels prior to writing airline thrillers that have not been published and had nothing to do with the airlines. They were mainstream thrillers with a paranormal element to them.
Paranormal! Maybe you should weave that into an airline thriller. Ghosts on a plane or some such. Haha.
2. Have you ever been nervous to have co-workers read your books?
Yes. For the same reasons lawyers and doctors probably don’t like people in those respective professions reading their novels. Even though I strive to make them as realistic as possible, I do take journalistic liberty. As a reviewer who said he worked in the industry mentioned, the FAA or airline management don’t send out hitmen to kill off the hero. Therefore, those in the industry will know where I took liberties to make the story more exciting. Although, this same reviewer praised me for “getting the aviation stuff spot on.”
That’s one thing I appreciate about your books. Accurate but not drowning in technical details. Now, let’s get to the question burning most in my mind.
3. I imagine the crash scenes would be tough to write before flying. Do you have to space out writing and working at all?
Hmmm… this may make me seem delusional, but… no. But, when at work and I’m having a momentarily lapse in concentration I mentally shake myself, reminding myself I don’t want to end up like the characters in my novels.
Yes, please spare yourself the Bill treatment, if you don’t mind.
4. Do you worry about the FAA or your airline management taking action against you for how they’re portrayed in your novels?
Not really, but it is something I have thought about since I portray both as being corruptible. Because of this, I considered publishing my first novel under a pen name. Since an author’s real name could be discovered easily, and I put the disclaimer that this is a work of fiction and any reference to people or organizations is entirely coincidental, I doubt the FAA would suspend my pilot license, or my employer would fire me. The authors who portray the FBI, CIA, local police department, employing rogue agents or officers probably aren’t worried about those organizations coming after them. Also, coworkers would remember my books better if the name they knew me as was the author’s name.
Good point. Hoping someone finds you by a fake name is tricky.
5. You must love your job if you’re wanting to spend more time there via writing. Is that true?
Yes, very much. I’m one of those people who feel I have the best job in the world. It also give me inspiration for future novels. All of my books come from my imagination. But snippets of conversation with co-workers, or articles or safety bulletins will trigger a thought that I’ll find myself mulling over playing what if. Also, the time away from home takes me away from the million of distractions that make it hard to shove aside to be alone at my desk. When it comes to playing hide-and-seek or tag with grandtwins or writing, the twins win out.
As grandtwins should.
6. How much of yourself is in Bill’s character?
Oh, this one is easy. I’m a better pilot, skier, and husband than Bill. Seriously, I think a writer has a difficult time making their protagonist nothing like themselves. Like Bill, I wanted to build an airplane for years. I’ve always love creating stuff and enjoy working with my hands. I LOVE to ski, but don’t get to do that much now. Bill allowed building his airplane to consume him. I have that same tendency with my writing. My wife and I have had two golden retrievers, one was named Casey. Both have passed away. We love the dog we have now as much as Bill loved Casey. Like Bill, I also have a hard time understanding people who twist the rules to their advantage having no remorse as to what that does to others. I broke my leg decades ago, but won’t limp the rest of my life. Does that count?
Sure, that counts. I can honestly say I haven’t experienced the same pain I’ve inflicted on my characters. Heh heh.
7. Non-book question: what was the strangest place you’ve had to fly?
Sure, ask a difficult question here at the end. Hmmm… Quito, Ecuador use to be challenging before they built a new airport away from the mountains that was 1,500 feet lower in elevation than the older one that was at 9,700. Reykjavik, Iceland was interesting, but I was only there long enough to get fuel before overflying Greenland on the way back to the U.S. San Salvador, as noted in my novel, is ranked third in murder rates in the world. I don’t leave the hotel there, not because I fear I’ll become a statistic, but the residents can spot us gringos and bother us for handouts or mug us.
And if they couldn’t mug you, maybe they’d kill you. Yikes.
8. Will your books make nervous flyers not want to fly the airlines?
Maybe. But consider, I take situations I’ve conjured up and twisted them to make the characters in my novels act on an evil trait most of us don’t have. Flying on the airlines IS the safest form of transportation in existence. I understand passengers give up all control when they board a flight, and hate turbulence (pilots don’t like either of those things, yet many of us commute on the airlines to work). The chance of the events I portray in my books of happening are as likely as winning the lottery. Which reminds me, did I get this week’s ticket?
Let me in on those winnings when you hit the jackpot, okay?
Well, thanks for letting us peek into your creative process a bit, Dana! I know I learned a lot.
Find Dana and his books on the interwebs!