by Fran Mulhern
SimHQ would like to thank Mike for taking the time to answer our questions. Mike’s web site can be found here. We strongly recommend his books if you’re looking for new reading matter! Since this interview, Mike Farmer has taken up his new position as indicated in his first answer below. Mike is a relatively long standing writer friend of mine, and — for a friend and a writer — you could do much worse. Thanks, Mike!
Q. What’s your background in brief?
A. Background: all-state linebacker in high school (American football); grew hair past my shoulders, surfed, played rugby, and majored in Marine Biology for 3 years; dropped out and enlisted in the Army — Air Defense Artillery; made sergeant and the Army let me out to return to university; went through ROTC, changed major to Accounting, graduating with a 4.0 GPA; discounted accounting jobs and returned to military as a second lieutenant of tanks; was a tank platoon leader (Desert Storm) and cavalry troop 2IC in 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Germany on the border; returned to States and was an Operations Officer and tank company commander in 4th Infantry Division (Colorado Springs, Colorado… Fort Carson); assigned to Eglin Air Force Base as Ground Operations Officer for the All Service Combat Identification Evaluation Team (we worked on tactics, techniques, and procedures that could prevent fratricides); attended graduate school at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, receiving a Masters of Science; reassigned to Central Command Headquarters in Florida, therein receiving several trips to Baghdad and Afghanistan as the ground lead for installation of top secret computer networks in theater; recently reassigned to Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina (I’m told that I’ll be working C4I… command, control, communication, computers, and intelligence; start Friday).
Q. What are you currently doing in the army (if you haven’t answered that above) and how do you see your army career progressing? Will you stay until retirement or leave to pursue other things?
A. Answered above. As I have 17+ years in now, I can make this my last assignment, should I choose. And yeah, I’ve “been there, done that, got the t-shirt” enough, as Tom Clancy says, that I can retire and feel I’ve done my part after this one. Of course, a lot is dependent on how the books do (Editor’s note: check this); if I can, I want to buy 200 acres in Wyoming, get a few horses, write 2-3 hours a day, and kick back watching the mountain views.
Q. Why did you decide to start writing? Had you written any short stories etc before Tin Soldiers?
A. I wrote short stories in high school and college as required; made A’s, but never had a desire to be a writer. But I read continuously, at least a book a week no matter what I was doing since junior high school. And therein are the keys to successful writing…a little talent and lots of reading. In 1997 I’d read a little too much bad military fiction and there was little or nothing regarding tank fiction, so…
Q. How long did the first novel take, and was it difficult to get published?
A. Yeah, check the website FAQ for this one, but bottom line is that I wrote the first 1/4 of TIN SOLDIERS in two years, was never serious about it. Decided to finish it and wrote the last 3/4 in two months, writing about 2 hours a day (still had a day job).
Q. Some say that — especially with the advances in attack helicopter aviation – the days of the tank on the battlefield are numbered — how would you respond?
Q. The foreward to your second novel was written while you were stationed in Baghdad earlier this year — want to share anything with us about your tour?
A. Baghdad. The place sucks. Of course, I was almost shot getting in there the first go-round. Until you’re hanging weightless in a C-130 cargo aircraft at night as it plunges towards the ground, you really haven’t lived. Two things stick out in my mind.
(1) The news shows the Iraqi people as unhappy… not true. The vast majority that I met were very grateful not to be under Saddam’s boot heel any longer. With that said, like the Germans, once the threat is removed, they’re probably ready to see us go. Of course they’d likely internally implode if we, the Brits, the Aussies, and the few other real armies pulled out.
(2) Trip to Al Ghareb. The place was like a step back in time. Yeah, I know, we have committed “atrocities” there. First, those stupid pukes (American National Guard “soldiers”/weekend warriors) should be strung up by their testicles or the female equivalent for being stupid. That aside, it compares as nothing to what happened in that prison when Saddam ruled. I walked the torture chambers, heard the stories of family members or watched parents walk in (for no real infraction of the law) and never emerge. You could FEEL it.