The Iranians fake a nuclear test to draw Israel and/or America into a first strike in Larry Bond's Exit Plan.

All your books seem to be on the bleeding edge of today’s news. Do you ever worry about events overtaking your plots?

All the time. The trick is to choose a security issue where there are tremendous forces in play, but balanced against each other, or somehow held in check. The author’s job is to make one tweak to reality in the first chapter, then elaborate from there.

How did you learn so much about Iran’s nuclear program?

Lots of digging, reading, and asking questions. My coauthor, Chris Carlson, understands the nuclear science, and many of the questions are easier to answer if you understand the physics behind them. There’s a lot of information available on the armed forces of the countries involved, and collecting and organizing it gave us a very good appreciation of each sides’ capabilities. We actually wrote a board war game, Persian Incursion, to explore the dynamics and possible outcomes of such a conflict.

Unlike many thrillers, your book focuses as much on the characters as the cool technology. You are as sympathetic to the Iranian characters as you are to the Americans.

My experience has shown that while external events may get the ball rolling, and everybody loves the cool tech, readers want to see their heroes doing their best to set things right. As an author, I want to make each character as realistic as possible. That may mean he’s sympathetic, it may mean you’ll hate him, but if he doesn’t have believable motivations, then he’s just cardboard.

You were in the Navy. Is this where you came up with your SEAL lore?

In part. I went to Surface Warfare School in Coronado, Calif., where BUD/S School is located. We saw SEALs training and thought they were insane. These guys were either running, swimming, or practicing how to kill things. We were very glad they were on our side.

There’s a joke going around: Q. When will the Israelis start a war with Iran? A. Two years ago. Funny? True?

I like it. There is a struggle underway, with some of it hidden in the world of intelligence and espionage and some of it visible in politics and diplomacy. The rest is potential, mostly unknown, and all of it scary. One small country is hypersensitive (with some justification) about its national security. Another country has dedicated itself to harass, provoke, and threaten the very existence of the first country. This may not end well.