Thursday, 4 February 2010

** Interview with Andy McNab (author of DropZone)

Last month I wrote a glowing review of DropZone, the new book from ex-SAS member Andy McNab. DropZone is the first in a new series of books from Mr McNab, focusing on the adventures of Ethan Blake as he joins a team of young skydiving addicts who are also involved in covert military operations. Mr McNab was very kind to take time out from doing film work in the US to answer the questions I sent him.

DropZone is very different from your previous Boy Soldier series. How did you get the idea for it?

It was while I was freefalling in Switzerland two summers ago. There was a group of French teenagers who would stay at the DZ for a couple days jumping, then would disappear for a couple of days before reappearing for some more jumping. They were always driven about in an old minibus by an older guy who was in charge.  It got me thinking, what a great cover story this group potentially had. They could be freefalling for a couple of days, then go off and save the world before returning to do a bit more freefall, just as if nothing had happened.  And I thought maybe that would make a good story?

DropZone is the first book in your new series. Do you know how many books you hope to have in the series and have you plotted out the storylines for any of these already?

DZ 2 is nearly complete but for now I haven’t thought of any further storylines. I’m hoping that readers enjoy the first two books so that I can write some more!

What in your opinion are the main differences between writing for adults and writing for Young Adult market?

Not much, that's probably because I'm not that clever. Of course, I have to be more guarded about things such as violence and swearing but I think there is already far too much out there for teenagers that is patronising. They are more switched on than they generally get credit for.  I just write the stories as they come into my head.  It's really just a collection of pictures that I try to put down on paper so, to me, it doesn't matter if it's for a teenager or an adult reader.

What do you see as the main influences on your writing?

I think the main one is the hours of TV I watched when I was a kid. I don't think in chapters, but in scenes. To me, the end of a chapter is a commercial break.  When I write I just try and get a group of scenes in line so they make sense!  As for technique and trying to give the reader a sense of place, Joe Simpson's book, Touching The Void has had a big impact on me. The way he describes being wet and cold and at the same time what was going on in his head is excellent.  I must have read the book at least 20 times.

The skydiving you did with the Air Troop obviously helped you a lot with the research for DropZone. What other research did you have to carry out?

I have 1832 freefall jumps and maybe 200-ish static line jumps. I didn't start jumping until I joined the Special Air Service where I learnt how to static jump out of C130 Hercules aircraft to earn my wings.  Then I was sent to Air Troop where I learnt how to freefall. I just loved it and it became a passion that I carry on now as a sport. So I suppose that’s all the research I’ve done.

DropZone has some really interesting characters. Are any of them based on people you know? Will we find out more about the mysterious Natalya in future books?

Yes, on both counts.  The only way that I can create characters is by basing them on people that I know.  Those in this story are amalgamations of people who I knew whilst I was in the Army. It's just a quicker and easier way of creating characters. Why try to make one up when you already know a good one? Obviously, all of Ethan’s good points really belong to me!

Do you have a favourite author? What really appeals to you about their work?

I know it's a cliché but it’s Charles Dickens. His characters are totally believable and when they are sad, you are. But it's just not the characters, it's the stories and the way that he wraps human emotions around them. Great Expectations, I think, is his best. If you replaced the horses and carriages with cars, and the coal fires with central heating, you would think that it was written last year.

Are there any books or authors that you would recommend fans of your books to read?

Without a doubt, Joe Simpson’s Touching The Void and Dickens’ Great Expectations.

Can you recommend one book that you think every boy should read at some point?

It has to be the same books.

Do you feel that it is important that young people should read for enjoyment? Did you read a lot when you were younger?

Yes, very important. I never read when I was a kid, I just watched TV. That was the reason I had a reading age of an 11-year-old when I joined the Army. In fact, the first book I ever read was as an Army recruit and it was written for a primary school kid.  But the feeling of joy and accomplishment I got after reading a whole book was indescribable.

Can you give us any hints as to what we can expect from your next book in the series?

Yep, more freefall - and cage fighting.  What more do you need in life?

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions Andy and I hope this new series is a great success. DropZone is due to be released by Doubleday as a hardcover edition today, 4th February. 


  1. I love The Dropzone collection by Andy and I hope that there are still some more books to come in this great series. 5 star book!! I loved it.

  2. I really liked the dropzone books, I definitely want the author to write some more!