Joshua Hood is a real life hero. As a former paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division and current Sniper team leader with a full time SWAT team, he lives the life that I often read about in fictional thrillers. Yet he’s also the most humble, genuine person I’ve ever met. I was already a fan of Joshua and his debut novel Clear by Fire, which he was kind enough to send me an advance copy of, before I found out that he’s also a huge fan of Vince Flynn.
Joshua and I bonded through our admiration of Vince Flynn and our love for Rapp. When I approached him about doing an interview for this website, I never envisioned having such a long and in-depth conversation about Mitch. In fact, I have enough material for a followup, or second part to this interview, which I plan to publish in the future.
Josh knows his stuff when it comes to Vince Flynn and the Rappverse. I enjoyed picking his brain and getting his take on things. I hope you will all enjoy reading this interview as much we enjoyed doing it!
Is Vince Flynn your favorite author?
“It depends on the genre… but if I walk into a bookstore and there’s a new Mitch Rapp book, I’m buying it. When it comes to pure entertainment, yeah, Vince Flynn is my number one favorite.”
What other authors do you like?
“I have varied taste. I like Brad Taylor and what he does, he tells a very good story. Growing up I read a lot. I also like Joseph Conrad and Heart of Darkness.”
When did you first discover Vince Flynn?
“I first discovered Vince Flynn in 2004. My section sergeant was reading Term Limits and told me Vince Flynn was his favorite author. I asked to read it when he was done with it, and I said, ‘Man, this is a great book,’ after I finished it.
What was so impressive to me was the details that Vince Flynn got right. For instance, in the book Memorial Day, Vince wrote about a raid involving Delta Force and mortar teams. Well, I was a Mortarman, and one of the guys in my platoon was a huge Vince Flynn fan. He told me that Vince was always spot-on and nails every detail. I told him, ‘Yeah, I know, I read Term Limits,’ and he says to me, ‘No, dude, he talks about the ballistic computer.’ That blew me away. For an author of his caliber to go that far – to find out about the computer you need to shoot a mortar – I had to read it.
He was on point about everything, every detail. And that’s something I ended up learning and taking away from Vince’s writing. If you’re going to do something you have to do it right, even down to the smallest details. Every time a Vince Flynn book came out, I had to have it.
Okay, so Term Limits was your first Vince Flynn book. What was your first Mitch Rapp book?
“Transfer of Power. I read them in order”
So you were reading Vince’s books before he went back and wrote the prequel books, American Assassin and Kill Shot. Were you a fan of him going back and telling Rapp’s origin story?
“It was something that I always wanted him to do. I think it’s very unrealistic when authors write characters that star in ten books and never get hurt. You know what I mean? Mitch Rapp is human, he goes through stuff, he gets shot – it’s the same with my character, Mason Kane.
I loved how in Consent to Kill, Vince talked about Rapp going for a run and how his knee hurt. Little things like that. It’s something I try to do in Clear by Fire, to carry injuries with Mason into my second book. I just love that Vince made a character that was awesome, but also human. It’s not realistic when you’re writing a character, for them to do the things they do – like Jason Bourne getting in a car wreck and walking away from it unhurt – without injury.
When you get punched in the face, it hurts. Period. It doesn’t matter if you’re Mitch Rapp or Mason Kane, getting punched in the face hurts. I think Vince had gotten to a place where Rapp was hurt (both physically and emotionally) enough times, and hardened because of that.
So yeah, I loved when he went back and told the origin story. I wanted to know where Mitch came from. We already knew he went to Syracuse and that his girlfriend was killed in Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie. But I wanted to know how a man that was never in the military got his particular skill set.”
That carries perfectly into my next question! I find it interesting that so many members of our military are fans of Vince Flynn, yet he was never in the military. Neither was Rapp, by the way. Mitch didn’t receive any formal training what-so-ever, except from Stan Hurley – which was off the books. So what is it that our servicemen enjoy about Rapp?
“Well first of all I think it’s very cool, and I think servicemen appreciate, that instead of a guy who has never lived the day-to-day life of a soldier pretending to know what it’s like, he takes his character in another direction.
Vince wasn’t in the military, neither was Rapp. I respect that. He stayed true to who he was. There was nothing in Rapp’s training that anybody can say, ‘It’s not like that in real life,’ because he was taking things that really happen and inventing a world within them. He never tried to be something he wasn’t. I think most serviceman respect that.
Rapp was killing terrorists, taking out bad guys, but he wasn’t – look, a lot of SEALs and Delta guys that have been there and spilled blood, and given time away from their families, they hold what they have earned very sacred. They don’t always appreciate someone that hasn’t been there and earned it, writing about a fictional character when they don’t know what it’s like. Vince didn’t do that with Rapp. Mitch isn’t ex-SEAL or ex-Delta, but he’s still a bad dude and Vince was always true to himself and Rapp.”
Which Mitch Rapp book is your favorite?
“That is a tough one. It’s like trying to pick which one of your kids you like the most! If I had to pick, I’d say my favorite one is The Third Option. I want to make this completely clear, I did not steal anything from The Third Option. But what I loved about it was … I was so interested into what would happen to a man of that skill set, who thinks he’s been betrayed and is left on his own. Everything that happened in that book is so believable, and it could all happen very easily in real life.
The arms dealers selling weapons to Saddam, we know that’s happened in the past. Mitch getting betrayed – and Rapp is still so fresh as a character that it shows what a bad dude he is – but he’s going to take care of business all by himself. When I was reading it, I thought Irene Kennedy and Scott Coleman set him up, and he was going to kill both of them. Then he obviously realizes that they didn’t. That was the book where I really fell in love with Irene. On top of it all, Stansfield is dying of cancer and you’re wondering if Kennedy will be the one to take over. I enjoyed all of that.
Also, in my opinion, Mitch Rapp is the third option. When there’s a problem and they realize they can’t handle it politically or any other way, they call Rapp and send him in to deal with it.
By the end of that book it just seemed like the word was Vince Flynn’s oyster and he could take Mitch Rapp anywhere, and do anything.”
Did Vince Flynn or Mitch Rapp have any impact on your character Mason Kane, or your writing style?
“No. And I say that because I came into writing knowing that you can’t copy anyone else’s stuff and be successful. The only way to be successful, in my opinion, is to do what you do best and be different.”
Are there any similarities between Rapp and Kane?
“Well, I would say Mitch Rapp is my favorite action hero character because he’s real. He bleeds. He has emotions. You never go into one of Vince’s books just assuming that whatever happens, Rapp will come out on the other side unscathed. The same is also true for Mason Kane.”
How are they different?
“Mason comes from a different place than Mitch does. I’ve always thought of Rapp as an assassin. He’s the guy they send to do the things nobody else has the stomach to do. Reading his books are an emotional experience. When Mitch gets angry, you get angry with him. You root for Rapp to kill the bad guy.
There’s been so many times when I’m reading one of Vince’s books that I realize it’s late and I have to be up at five o’clock the next morning, but I can’t put the book down. I end up saying to myself, ‘I’m just going to be tired tomorrow,’ because I can’t stop reading.
I’ve actually read most of his books in a couple of sittings. I’ll start one of his books and say, ‘Yeah, I’m not getting anything else done today,’ because it’s just too good to walk away from. I hope to get there one day as a writer myself.
Mason is a different character altogether. The biggest difference between he and Rapp is that Rapp signed up to do what he does. Mason was a soldier. He’s a patriot, and he never wanted to be what he becomes. He had the skill set to be successful, and he went to Delta… at his heart Mason is a soldier, and a great soldier.
Things were done to him that forced his hand, he didn’t choose the life that he’s living when you meet him in Clear by Fire. He’s just trying to stay alive. He’s been betrayed by the country that’s been his identity because – and you’ll understand this when you read about him – he comes from a childhood where he had no identity. His father killed himself, and his mother was an alcoholic. He had nothing, and didn’t even fit in with the society he lived in because he’s mixed heritage. So for him, when he found the military, it was something that he’d been searching for his whole life. It gave him direction, he was good at it – and (being a solider) became his entire life. When all of that was taken from him, it unleashed all the rage he’d built up and stored inside.
So that’s the big difference between them. Mitch had a choice, Mason didn’t.
You just touched on Mason’s background, which is something I wanted to ask you about. Why did you decide to give him such a rough upbringing?
Well I believe, personally, that the military takes a lot from you. You have to have a certain personality to actually stay in the military, just because of what the life is, etc. So the purpose for the childhood I built around Mason was to show that for him, the military was better than the place he came from. The military gave him structure, just like it gave Renee structure.
I think a lot of people view joining the military as, ‘I’m giving up so much to serve my country,’ but I can honestly look back at my time in the military and say that it gave me just as much as it took from me. Yeah, there were times where I’d say, ‘This sucks, I shouldn’t have ever enlisted,’ but the military gave me more than it took from me. So I built Mason’s childhood like I did to make him self-reliant. I wanted him to have the basic survivor skills that most people in America don’t have anymore.
Mitch Rapp makes people uncomfortable when he walks into a crowd of average people. Because of the way he walks, talks and acts – there’s just something very vicious about him. You can see something in people that have done that type of work, or had to kill people. There’s a confidence about them, they never think for a second, ‘Can I take this guy out if I need too?’ because they know they can. They don’t worry about people yelling at them, either. They can walk up to people that aren’t doing what they should be doing, and tell them how do it.
Where did Manson Kane come from?
“Well, there wasn’t just one guy that I based him on. I took pieces from multiple guys that I knew and worked with.”
Questions from Twitter:
How did being in the military impact your writing style?
“Well, they say write about what you know. I tried to convey in my book what it’s like to be in a firefight, dehydrated and tired – all of those things.”
Rapp and Kane meet in a dark alley. Who walks out alive?
“I think they would both sense the predatory instinct in each other and keep on walking. Both men are survivors, both are great at what they do.”
What made you pursue writing?
“It was something I always wanted to do. I’m not the type of person to leave my goals unattended. You only live once, why not go for it? Then I started it, got it finished, and believed it was a pretty good book. By the time I got an agent, I had so much money into it that I just refused to take no for an answer.”
Did you ever get severe writer’s block?
“No I did not. I wrote a bunch of stuff that wasn’t very good, but I never had writer’s block. When I start writing a book I become obsessive. I know that sounds terrible, but I can’t stop thinking about it all day long. I’ll be brushing my teeth and wondering what comes next, or what a character should be doing in this scene or that scene.
Make sure to buy Joshua Hood’s book Clear by Fire, which hits bookstores on Tuesday, August 18. Also, if you haven’t already, go to his website and sign up for his newsletter. His first newsletter will go out on 8/17, and includes an exclusive prelude to Clear by Fire that you can’t get anywhere else! I’ve read it already, and trust me, you do not want to miss it.
Because I love to leave you guys with a quote, here ya go.
“A good soldier merely embraces suffering, a great soldier always asks for more” – Joshua Hood (Clear by Fire)