Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we interviewed David Grantham, Ph.D., a nationally renowned intelligence professional, having served in various positions on the federal and local levels and the author of Consequences: An Intelligence Officer’s War, a candid nonfiction narrative about his own journey in Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq.(Read the reveiw here).
David A. Grantham, Ph.D. is the author of Consequences: An Intelligence Officer’s War and serves as a Senior Fellow with the Center for a Secure Free Society. Grantham is a leading expert in national security matters and international affairs. He is a nationally renowned intelligence professional, having served in various positions on the federal and local levels.
You can follow him and his work at granthamstrategies.com.
Do you find writing therapeutic?
I found the process of writing incredibly therapeutic. That may have to do with the topic I write about too. After all, I’m recounting my time as an intelligence officer during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, at a time when things were arguably at their most volatile. The act of writing forced me to chase down memories, review old photos, and reach out to former colleagues – all of which caused memories, good and bad, to come rushing forward. I say in my book that it was like someone had opened the door to a closet stuffed full of memories I had tucked away. It all came tumbling out. Sorting through that helped me reconcile my emotions, thoughts, and experiences. All of that together proved to be very therapeutic.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
The most challenging part of the process was certainly adapting to a new writing style. Because of my jobs during the writing process, I jumped from academia to policy writing to narrative non-fiction, all with a background in report writing for the military. So, to shift from all those types of varied structures, jargon, and content to a relaxed, narrative non-fiction proved to be very challenging. The best advice I received, which helped cement that shift to a new type of writing, was to “show don’t tell.” Once I understood that, I was able to revise much of my manuscript and finish well.
After the writing’s finished, how do you judge the quality of your work?
I judged my near-finished product by setting it aside for two months and then reading it again. I was given advice to put away the manuscript for a time and come back to it with fresh eyes. I did that and I could see where major fixes were necessary, where language was poor, and were reorganization had to happen. I also considered the audience. I was convinced that if I could not enjoy my own book after reading it for the 25th time, readers would likely not enjoy it the first time. So I would reread my manuscript and listen to it on audiobook both to judge whether I would enjoy it. I did and felt confident others would too.
What inspired the premise of your book?
I was inspired to tell the other side of war. So many books capture brief moments of intense fighting and drama, but few books accurately capture the other long moments of war – the eating, leisure time, and times of reflection. Those moments, in some ways, better explain war than the fighting itself. Not only that, but few people have heard of the Air Force Office of Special Investigation and its role in intelligence collection during the war. I wanted to shine a light on my former organization and document, in some ways for the first time, the vital role OSI played in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?
Toward the end of my book, I meet with an older Iraqi man who served as a high-ranking officer in the military and who had provided us information in the past. We are meeting so I can explain how he will transition from me to another agent, since I was leaving the country. It’s call the handoff and it can be a delicate situation since we had worked together for some time and now he would rely on someone new. He was experienced in military affairs and intelligence, so he could have been my mentor in another life. So our dialogue had a unique angle to it, in that, I was explaining to him a process he knew very well and yet he needed to listen and let me take the lead so that the process remained fluid. It was a growth moment for me as a person and as a professional. We trusted each other despite our obvious differences in age and experience – and that was the most important thing we shared.
How does your faith life/ethical outlook inform your writing?
My faith is integral to my writing because it defined who I was then and who I am today. I am forthright and transparent about my faith in the book, but I also made it approachable for all audiences. A reader will know early on where I stand in terms of my belief system, but it remains a story we can all relate to.
What makes this book important right now?
The fall of Afghanistan has made my book an important read once again. It was vital for understanding ISIS when that organization was so powerful. But with their collapse came a brief lull in interest around Iraq, ISIS, and those experiences connected to that war. Now, my time in Afghanistan brings new experiences to life and may help answer questions for many of those people unclear as to what just happened in Afghanistan.
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