Navy veteran Poyer’s 16th thriller starring Capt. Dan Lenson, Onslaught: The War with China—the Opening Battle, focuses on a possible conflict in the Pacific.
Why are you taking more than one book to cover a war between China and the U.S.?
I saw no way to treat a major war realistically in one novel. So I decided to write it in installments, with points at the end of each volume that would act as fractional climaxes and resolutions, while leaving “what happens next” open, as it would appear to the characters, who have no idea what the future holds. Besides, one book would be so massive, no one could lift it.
What was your intent when you began the series?
I mainly wanted to craft an exciting story that vividly reflected what it’s like to go to sea. For some early books in the series, I drew on specific cruises, events, and locales I’d experienced during active duty. For example, The Circle was inspired when USS Bowen deployed north of the Arctic Circle in winter, with orders to find the biggest storm around and stay in it as long as we could—this was to test the durability of a new sonar system. So I didn’t have to research what Arctic storms looked and felt like!
Do you see your Lenson series as being in the tradition of C.S. Forester’s Hornblower series or Patrick O’Brian’s work?
I’ve read most of Forester’s novels and several, though not all, of O’Brian’s. I’ve done my homework in the genre and regard myself as sailing in the wake of these writers.
Lenson, a very thoughtful officer, often goes against his superiors in his quest for justice and honor. Did you envision him in this role when you began the series?
Some of my readers have called Lenson naive, or not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I prefer to think of him as a Myshkin character. He tries hard to do what’s right, in often difficult circumstances. When situations go south, he puts himself last. Even when good things happen, there always seems to be a downside, a spoiler, or other unanticipated consequence. In part, that reflects the demands of storytelling; complications and setbacks drive narrative tension. Plus, I find flawless superheroes both unbelievable and uninteresting. A protagonist with flaws and doubts, as well as multiple and escalating external challenges, not only involves the reader but also reflects my own experience of life at sea.
Do you ever contemplate retiring from your writing career?
I think I’ve been very fortunate, and it’s the publishers, booksellers, and above all the readers who’ve brought me this far. As long as they keep asking for fresh stories, I consider it my duty to continue to stand literary watch.