Praise for Joe Buff from NY Times Bestselling Authors:

"Superbly researched and well-written, Joe Buff's novels are the creme de la creme of submarine thrillers."
--Stephen Coonts

"Joe Buff takes the reader through a labyrinth of action and high adventure. A rare thriller, highly entertaining."
--Clive Cussler

"If you want a hair-raising trip to the bottom of the ocean, Joe Buff's the guy to take you there."
--Patrick Robinson

[Joe Buff / JoeBuff.Com]
Welcome to JoeBuff.Com, the Cyberspace Home of
national bestselling author Joe Buff.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS, AND THEIR ANSWERS
by JOE BUFF

(“Version 3.0.” This FAQ will evolve over time. See also the BIO and NEWS buttons on my website for more information on my life and my writing career. Also, for some of my views on current relevant homeland security and national defense topics, please see the Military.com Essays and Non-Fiction Article buttons.)

Dear Site Visitor and Reader:

If you have other questions not answered here, you can e-mail me just by hitting the CONTACT button on JoeBuff.com. I promise to answer every e-mail, though it may take a little while if I'm nearing a publishing contract deadline. If your questions seem like they might be of wider interest, I'll add them below -- with your name if you give me permission.
Thanks!
--Joe Buff

FREQENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

  • To begin with a light-hearted tone, what is Joe's favorite own made-up expression about the whole experience of being a writer?
  • And since you used to work in management consulting and on Wall Street, what's your impression -- as you've now drafted your sixth novel under contract -- of what it's like to be a full-time professional writer?
  • Since your books are a continuing character saga about Commander Jeffrey Fuller, U.S. Navy, and his friends and shipmates and superiors -- and don't forget his undersea-warfare opponents!-- does it matter in which order I read your books?
  • What is the timeline of the books in the series?
  • Why did you start the series six months into the war? Why not start at the beginning?
  • When does SEAS OF CRISIS come out in hardcover? In paperback? The next book?
  • How has your writing evolved from book to book?
  • Does any of your writing reveal military secrets?
  • How much longer do you plan to continue the Jeffrey Fuller series?
  • I own one of your books. How can I get you to sign my copy, Joe?
  • Where do you get your story ideas?
  • Why did you pick the "Berlin-Boer Axis" as the enemy? Why do they use tactical nuclear weapons at sea against us?
  • But wouldn't tactical nuclear war at sea cause severe environmental damage and run the constant risk of escalation to a global thermonuclear exchange?
  • How did 9/11/01 affect your writing? Did you know anyone who was killed at the Pentagon or at the World Trade Center?
  • Why is your next book delayed so long after SEAS OF CRISIS?
  • Might one of your novels be made into a movie?

  • Q: To begin with a light-hearted tone, what is Joe's favorite own made-up expression about the whole experience of being a writer?

    A: “I still can't get over how much longer it takes to write a novel than to read one.”

    Q: And since you used to work in management consulting and on Wall Street, what's your impression -- as you've now drafted your sixth novel under contract -- of what it's like to be a full-time professional writer?

    A: Again I shall answer tongue-in-cheek: "It's just about the hardest work you can do while sitting on your backside all day." But I love it and intend to never stop!

    Q: Since your books are a continuing character saga about Commander Jeffrey Fuller, U.S. Navy, and his friends and shipmates and superiors -- and don't forget his undersea-warfare opponents!-- does it matter in which order I read your books?

    A: Each book is written to be free-standing and self contained. However, the series has the most impact if you do read all the books, since you'll know Jeffrey Fuller and the other main characters better if you know lots and lots about their background, their experiences in the war, and their relationships with each other over time. (I try not to be too repetitious of things from book to book, or at least I try to present something from a different character's perspective each time.) You can read the books in order from the beginning, going DEEP SOUND CHANNEL, then THUNDER IN THE DEEP, then CRUSH DEPTH, then TIDAL RIP, then STRAITS OF POWER, and when SEAS OF CRISIS comes out in January 2006 (hardcover) or September 2006 (paperback) also pick up that book. Or, what might be interesting is to read the latest available one first, and then work backwards, treating each book as a prequel for the ones written after it. Then get SEAS OF CRISIS and go forward as I go forward writing more. (If you're interested, see the BOOKS and ORDER buttons for plot summaries and purchasing links for each completed book.)

    Q: What is the timeline of the books in the series?

    A: Each book is one mission deployment or war patrol of Commander Jeffrey Fuller and his submarine, USS CHALLENGER, during an ongoing shooting war. Each book takes place over a very tight and vivid period of non-stop action and tension, sometimes just a single week on the calendar in the future. And each book opens pretty much where the previous book leaves off. Here's the "schedule" of events so far: DEEP SOUND CHANNEL: early December 2011. THUNDER IN THE DEEP: late December, up to New Year's Eve 2011. CRUSH DEPTH: February, 2012. TIDAL RIP: late March through early April 2012. STRAITS OF POWER: May, 2012. SEAS OF CRISIS: June/July 2012.

    Q: Why did you start the series six months into the war? Why not start at the beginning?

    A: A good question! There's an old storytelling maxim, “Start the story in the middle, not at the beginning.” This can make things more interesting and exciting for the reader. My stories are yarns of naval action and adventure, not political thrillers per se. The necessary background of how the war started, and why, is developed for the reader during each of the books. In my first novel, DEEP SOUND CHANNEL, I worked some of this “backstory” into the Prologue, which drops the reader right into the middle of a major tactical nuclear naval battle during the war. Starting with my second novel, THUNDER IN THE DEEP, I added several paragraphs at the very beginning of the book, of italicized narrative to give the reader a self-contained capsule summary of the scenario and the rationale behind it. (See more on this whole approach below.)

    Q: When does SEAS OF CRISIS come out in hardcover? In paperback? The next book?

    A: The SEAS OF CRISIS hardcover came out 1/10/06. The paperback edition came out 9/1/06. The release date of the next hardcover novel that I write hasn't been finalized yet but will probably be in the second half of 2010. I am not yet allowed to say anything about its plot, except that it will definitely be loaded with submariners, SEALs, and Seabees like my earlier books!

    Q: How has your writing evolved from book to book?

    A: Writing is a process. I learn more and more as I go, just like you would playing golf or going trout fishing -- or doing needlepoint or heart transplants, whatever is your profession or your hobby! My main evolutions in my writing style I think have been to a) gradually spend more time on character development and inter-relationships and also flesh out more the geopolitical background, and also to b) add some fresh and new realistic technology and tactics each time (while making the gadgetry more seamlessly woven into the story without using too much jargon). But I think this is realistic about war itself, and I am basically writing about the human experience during war: People get to know themselves and each other much better as they serve together longer. International political relationships change and become more manifest over time as the fighting continues and the risk of escalation increases. Technology is very important in modern warfare, but the technologies are tools for human beings to master and use. Also, in any modern war, new devices and secret weapons are developed and introduced by both sides as the war progresses.

    Q: Does any of your writing reveal military secrets?

    A: Maybe, but if so it's by coincidence. The U.S. Navy has a formal policy of not commenting either way on sensitive classified matters, with good reason. Betraying secrets can get good people killed! All of my technology and tactics in the Jeffrey Fuller series are based on open-source naval and science/engineering reference materials combined with my own creativity and my ability to make connections between different things that have been said or written in public. In some cases, a genuine secret can be pieced together from separate items of info that have each on their own been rated as unclassified. In other cases, a good knowledge of science and math, of military history, and of the tone and direction of current professional military discussions and writings, allows one to make educated guesses that could be accurate. But the Navy won't say and I won't ask! I have too many friends in the Silent Service, in the SEALs, and elsewhere in the military that I would never do something to endanger their lives!!!! Loose lips sink ships! That's as true today as it ever was. As mentioned in my BIO, I did spend several days at sea aboard the Los Angeles-class fast-attack sub USS MIAMI, SSN-755. Inevitably, I was allowed to see things that were classified. I was told to keep my mouth shut, and I intend to take these secrets to my grave -- which hopefully won't be for a long, long time! For several hours on the MIAMI we conducted a training exercise in which P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft tried to hunt for and locate us using sonobuoys. So I got to feel first hand what it was like to be the hunted, the target of a possible enemy attack. And let me tell you, even knowing it was “just” an exercise, it was scary!

    Q: How much longer do you plan to continue the Jeffrey Fuller series?

    A: If and when the war is won, America and our Allies in the saga will need to "win the peace," and possibly face new enemies. As you'll see in STRAITS OF POWER (August 2005 paperback), and SEAS OF CRISIS (January 2006 hardcover), Jeffrey's superiors are mentoring and grooming him for bigger and bigger things either during or after the war -- if he survives! Having said that, my literary agent of the past 12 years, John Talbot of the Talbot Fortune Agency, has all along been suggesting to me that it's also advantageous for an author -- and exciting for his/her fans -- for the author to sometimes, while writing a continuing series, to also occasionally write a stand-alone book in the same genre. This can help prevent the writer/storyteller (such as moi) from getting stale and also can help him/her practice new authorial techniques -- and introduce to the world some engaging new characters. I know exactly what the plot of my impending seventh novel looks like, but I'm not allowed to say more until much closer to publication date in later 2010ish. I do promise that, whatever my 7th novel will be about (and don't forget there'll also be an 8th, a 9th, a 10th and so on!!!), readers will like what they see!!! ;-)

    Q: I own one or more of your books. How can I get you to sign my copies, Joe?

    A: E-mail me first (just hit the CONTACT button). We'll discuss the logistics of getting me your books plus adequate return postage for me to return them to you. (Your local Post Office can help you on postage questions.)

    Q: Where do you get your story ideas?

    A: The short and humorous answer is, “From my brain.” The longer answer is harder to explain. Like my BIO hints at, I come from a bit of a seafaring family, and thus have been interested in naval matters and military history since I was a kid. As an avid reader on this subject, I have probably since I was a child read literally thousands of non-fiction books and also novels on almost every aspect of war. This ranges from three different translations and interpretations of Sun Tzu's The Art of War, and the memoirs of Julius Caesar, all the way through to the latest issues of The U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, and Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine. Most valuable are the first-person memoirs and oral histories that tell what it's really like to be in a war. Then, I seem to have an active imagination, and I just turn my brain's engine-order dial to Ahead Flank and let her rip!

    Q: Why did you pick the “Berlin-Boer Axis” as the enemy? Why do they use tactical nuclear weapons at sea against us? (Since this is the fundamental scenario of the Commander Jeffrey Fuller saga, I'm going to give you a pretty detailed answer here.)

    A: The “Berlin-Boer Axis,” and the use of tactical nuclear weapons at sea, came out of a discussion at the very beginning of my work with my literary agent, John Talbot. John used to be an editor, and helped edit some of Tom Clancy's books. (And yes, I think Tom Clancy is a creative and business genius, and I've read some of his books twice or even three times!) John suggested that I try to do something a bit different than other military suspense novels that other authors had already published. John urged me to come up with a “new and different” enemy, yet one that might be plausible if you really thought hard and carefully and creatively about true world history. So first, I decided to use an Axis, i.e. a pair of enemy/opponent countries on separate continents but working together. This was because in the last two world wars -- and even now as President Bush has said in his State of the Union Address in 2001 about the Anti-Terror War -- an Axis or alliance of enemy countries or factions has been or is or could be our opponents. This storytelling device, an Axis, makes for more varied and exciting plot possibilities too. Also, I do believe that a pair of countries who plan in secret and prepare well before launching a brutal surprise attack against American forces overseas are more likely to succeed, at least for a while, compared to the chances one country alone would have against us. Along the same lines of reasoning, that enemy is much more likely to get away with it (at first, anyway) if they use the most powerful weapons they can make for themselves -- tactical nuclear weapons, by refining uranium ore to weapons grade using new low-signature methods based on finely-tuned laser beams (this dual-laser isotope separation method really exists right now!). And since history has shown that control of the sea lines of communication is vital in any major war, the combat is primarily naval combat (including SEAL raids against key coastal installations) once the Axis overruns continental Europe and most of Africa...... Now, I think that South African apartheid was one of the most evil things since the Nazi Holocaust. (Apartheid wasn't formally legalized in South Africa until 1948, by the way.) There are people in South Africa right now who look back nostalgically on apartheid and want to bring it back -- this was on the cover of the New York Times recently (mid-October 2002). Also, in Germany, there is a faction who miss the grandeur and status of having a monarchy, and who feel Kaiser Wilhelm got a raw deal after World War One. Both Germany and South Africa did have nuclear weapons programs in the past. (West Germany build and operated a nuclear-powered merchant ship for a while in the 1970s.) Germany and South Africa did both have tyrannies in power in the past. They both had standing armies at one time (South Africa fought long and hard and well against communist insurgents along her borders to her north; she had and has a major armaments industry; under apartheid all white males were obliged to service two years in the military). And they both fought bitter wars against the U.S. and UK in the past (remember the Boer War?). But I want to emphasize that my novels are novels, not necessarily predictions, of course. I want to unsettle readers a bit, shake them up, challenge their preconceived notions on who are our friends and who are our enemies in the world now and in the future. I have nothing against South Africa or Germany! And the German “shadow oligarchy” who seize control in 2011 are definitely not, repeat NOT Nazis. They are reactionary ultra-nationalists, a military-industrial-financial conspiracy -- and the restored Kaiser's heir is their figurehead, not their ringleader!! (Russia is “neutral” in this war, playing the Axis off against the U.S. and UK shrewdly and aggressively. In the saga, Russia imports weapons and oil and natural gas to the Axis, but not nuclear warheads themselves. This importation of weapons by a neutral to one side in a shooting war is perfectly legal under international law, by the way. South Africa gets petroleum products from the rich deposits in the countries she has conquered to her north. And it is a true fact that under “old” apartheid, during the trade embargoes, South Africa was able to produce large supplies of gasoline from her very rich domestic deposits of coal.) In closing on this topic, I want to also emphasize that the United States military right now is concerned that we may very well be involved in another big shooting war in the next twenty or so years but we can't be truly certain who the enemy will be. As I learned at a Current Strategies Forum conference I was invited to in June 2002 at the Naval War College (Newport, RI), what the military does in that case is to invent possible scenarios and play them out in conference rooms and on computers, i.e. wargaming, to learn lessons and prepare best for the challenges and uncertainties of the future. This is one aspect of my Commander Jeffrey Fuller series: It's a serious wargaming exercise, conducted with as much discipline and professionalism and hard work as I and my agent and editor and my Navy manuscript critiquers can muster! I hope you enjoy my special way of celebrating the heroism and dedication and personal sacrifice of America's and our Allies' men and women in uniform (and friendly intelligence operatives and resistance freedom-fighters too). And I hope you find it thought-provoking and inspirational, as well as fun and scary, to read my depictions of how courage and hope and faith can prevail even in the grimmest imaginable future conflict in which civilization as we know it might have a chance to survive if the good guys (and gals) win!

    Q: But wouldn't tactical nuclear war at sea cause severe environmental damage and run the constant risk of escalation to a global thermonuclear exchange?

    A: Absolutely, positively, yes! I go into this more and more in each book. I won't give away the plots, but the danger of the tactical nuclear fighting spilling over onto land, or of escalating into intercontinental strategic H-bomb war, is ever-present and is an important part of the saga. I'm not writing “comfort food” here, folks -- I'm trying instead to help you think the unthinkable, because I do believe that information is power, and forewarned is fore-armed.... Also, environmental damage is definitely very bad in this type of war scenario, and gets worse as the saga progresses -- which is one more powerful motivation for Jeffrey Fuller and the good guys to make sure they win ASAP! But, dear reader, let's look at some facts of real history: The U.S., in the early Cold War, set off about 100 nuclear weapons in the continental U.S. homeland, mostly in Nevada, in the open air. The total yield of these in-atmosphere blasts was about 1 megaton. That makes the average yield of each separate test be about 10 kilotons, which is almost the power of the Hiroshima bomb! There was certainly environmental damage, and some increase in cancers. But life went on. And then there were the hydrogen bombs we and other nuclear powers set off outside the U.S. -- like at Bikini Atoll -- before open-air tests were banned. The biggest single H-bomb set off in the air was by the USSR: over 50 megatons! Also, a number of submarines have sadly been lost at sea, some of them with nuclear warheads aboard and/or with radioactive reactor cores. And again, for better or for worse, life goes on. People do eat seafood, and they do go to the beach. But this is NOT to minimize the damage and the horror. FYI, I studied carefully several official reports by the Japanese government about the health aftereffects of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I read several memoirs by survivors, and I felt their pain. I also read three different books about Chernobyl, and several technical reports about Three Mile Island. I do not intend in any way to dismiss the true horrors of tactical nuclear war. But tactical nuclear war at sea is one specific form of warfare recognized by the Pentagon. A one-kiloton torpedo warhead set off deep in the ocean does much less damage that a ten-megaton warhead set off in a test or (God forbid) over a major city -- nuclear weapons are not all the same! (Russian submarines near Cuba are now known to have carried tactical nuclear torpedoes during the Cuban Missile Crisis, with orders to use them in extreme circumstances if attacked by American forces.) And the USSR was known to hold troop exercises often in East Germany on a simulated tactical nuclear land battlefield. And so on.... My stories are meant to show the true horrors of war to their fullest. (Oops, no pun intended on the name Jeffrey Fuller!) I do want to challenge people's notions of the risks and dangers of major future wars. (Pun on the name USS Challenger definitely intended!) In the Jeffrey Fuller saga, yes indeed, and more and more as the war progresses, the seafood industry suffers and food shortages arise, the beach resort industry is devastated, and people in the U.S. homeland carry gas masks and take iodine tablets and every home has a Geiger counter. War isn't hell. It's worse than hell.

    Q: How did 9/11/01 affect your writing? Did you know anyone who was killed at the Pentagon or at the World Trade Center?

    A: To answer the second question first. Yes, I do (or did) know several people who were killed on 9/11/01, and I know other people who lost close relatives. I also know people who were there in NYC or the Pentagon and escaped, but lost close friends and coworkers. And I know firefighters who will never forget that awful day. FYI, I used to work in the World Financial Center, and I would walk through the lobby of the World Trade Center's North Tower on the way to or from the subway. To think that the North Tower and the rest of the WTC complex is now gone forever is deeply sad and disturbing and haunting to me personally. Now, to answer the first question, the events of 9/11/01 and its aftermath caused me to take my work as a writer on military suspense even more seriously. I realized that all novelists who tackle issues of homeland security and national defense are now home-front spear-carriers in this terrible new form of war. Our work to educate the public on the threat of war and quasi-war -- and to teach and inform readers about the importance of a powerful military and of strong national preparedness in a major crisis -- now seems more important to me than ever. No, I don't carry a rifle or wear a Draeger rebreather scuba gear, I don't fly a fighter jet or drive an Abrams tank, and I don't go to sea on a ship or a submarine. But the pen is sometimes a mighty weapon too, to paraphrase a very old and very wise saying.

    Q: Why is your next book delayed so long after SEAS OF CRISIS?

    A: Just as I was wrapping up final details for the release of the hardcover of SEAS, in late 2005, my wife of 24 years Sheila was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Originally thought to be stage 3/4, which has a rather low 5-year survival rate, her surgery on December 23, 2005 revealed that the cancer had grown in a unique manner which made it be self contained in the pelvis and her staging was revised to stage 2C, which has a much much better prognosis. In particular, the cancer had not spread to any lymph nodes. But even so Sheila needed chemotherapy, then two different types of radiation therapy, and then the new process called "biotherapy" which uses various anti-hormone medications to suppress any possible recurrence via exploiting biomolecular vulnerabilities in the female-reproductive cancer cells. As you can imagine, helping Sheila through this long and grueling process made it impossible for me to concentrate productively on something else rather less long and grueling: writing my next novel. I did continue to write shorter non-fiction articles, essays, and op-eds about submarine warfare, budgeting policy, and related geopolitics, which can be found in the Military.com Essays and Non-Fiction Articles sections of this Web site. In addition, once Sheila was back in excellent health and in longterm remission, I needed a sabbatical of my own, having published 6 novels in 7 years! Sheila and I have both since returned to full-time+ professional writing, and things have returned to normal+ in our household, for which I thank God every day!!!

    Q: Might one of your novels be made into a movie?

    A: Yes indeed!!! My second novel, THUNDER IN THE DEEP, was optioned by a Hollywood producer in mid-2007. THUNDER is now in development as a major motion picture. Because I do bring a lot to the table on this effort, from my prior career in institutional financial/investment risk mitigation rainmaking and major consulting project management -- and I'm pretty closely connected into the active duty and retired/veteran submariner community -- I've been "promoted" by the Executive Producer on the project from being "just the author" to also being a Co-Producer. I am having loads of fun at this new job, and am also loving the really hard work it involves. My only regret is that the time and energy needed is somewhat delaying the completion of drafting my 7th novel -- but hey, what can you do??!!! Details of the project at this time remain as proprietary/confidential business information. BUT, one aspect of the pre-production development activity is a professional Web site in the making which will go live for the public soon (by Labor Day '09?) to provide ongoing updates about the status of the project. Stay tuned, as there will be information, as soon as available, on my Web site and also on my Facebook profile and via my Twitter tweets, re how to find this THUNDER IN THE DEEP Movie Web site, which will be very interactive and on which I shall spend some of my time interacting!!!

    PS: Again, I invite website visitors and readers to e-mail me by hitting the CONTACT button on JoeBuff.com.... I look forward to hearing from you, and to sharing our views on some of the issues addressed above. And if you have any other questions, just ask!

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