Q&A With Steven Hartov

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Q&A With Steven Hartov 

To start off this evening is my Q&A with Steven Hartov. Steven Hartov is the New York Times Bestselling author of The Heat of Ramadan, The Nylon Hand of God, The Devils Shepherd, Afghanistan on The Bounce, In The Company of Heroes, The Night Stalkers, and The Soul Of A Thief and The Last of the Seven, the first two novels in his historical fiction trilogy about World War II.

According to his author bio, Steven Hartov was born in New London, Connecticut, attended public schools in New England and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Boston University. In 1973, he joined the U.S. Merchant Marine Military Sealift Command, beginning a series of adventures that would later appear in his non-fiction pieces and fictional works. 

In 1977, he volunteered for the Israel Defense Forces Airborne Corps, serving first as a paratrooper and later in a Special Operations branch of Israeli Military Intelligence. He subsequently spent 13 more years as a reservist in the IDF, and later as a Task Force commander, rank of major, in the New York Guard. 


Q: In your author bio it says your experiences in The U.S. Merchant Marine Military Sealift Command would appear in your non-fiction works and be inspiration for your fictional works as well. Would you say anyone you made friends with in the US Merchant Marine Military Sealift Command are inspiration for your fictional characters? 

A: My service in the Merchant Marine was just the beginning of my “collection” of characters and personalities for all of my works of fiction. My subsequent service in the IDF and the New York Guard all added personalities to that collection, and many of the folks I met, in both military and civilian life, have been inspirations for my characters. I thank them all for their participation!

Q: What was it like serving in the Merchant Marine and in The Israeli Defense Forces Airborne Corps? I’m sure it must have been dangerous and scary at times. 

A: I was barely 20 years old when I took a leave from college and became a sailor aboard an old refueling tanker leftover from WWII. We sailed the world delivering highly volatile jet fuel to US military bases, and it was the adventure of a lifetime. Most of the other sailors on board were older men, very tough and “salty,” and I was the young college kid who had to learn to live with these “pirates.” Later on, as an American serving in an IDF paratrooper battalion, it was similar to joining the French Foreign Legion. The Israeli paratroopers were some of the toughest soldiers on earth, the training was brutal, and although I had learned the language in rudimentary fashion, everything for me was trial by fire. 

As for danger, such service is dangerous every day. You’re handling high-powered weapons, explosives, and jumping out of airplanes. Compared to the training regimen, combat was relatively easy, although terrifying at times. As most soldiers will tell you, warfare consists of long tracts of insufferable boredom, interspersed with moments of abject terror. 

Q: Do you prefer writing fiction or nonfiction more and why?

A: I actually prefer writing fiction, because I am creating my own “world” and the characters that inhabit that world. Non-fiction can be very satisfying, but demands absolute accuracy, perfect research, and representing true facts without fail. 

Q: What is your advice to anyone on wanting to write great fiction and non-fiction like you do?

A: My advice to fiction writers is to read, read, and read more, primarily of the great fiction masters. Second to that, when you are planning a novel, always outline it first. I discovered early on that without a “road map” to follow, a writer can easily get lost halfway through the manuscript. Thirdly, one should always have a solid idea of how a novel is going to end. In that way, you’re always writing toward a climactic event, and your characters will follow their natural arcs of development. This doesn’t mean that you can’t devise surprises, or deviate somewhat from your outline, but you’ll have the “bones” of the story and can improvise on it if the story suddenly demands it.

As for non-fiction, you’ll do your best work if you’re in love with the story and events, because you’re going to spend an awful lot of time doing research and/or interviewing the real people who participated in that historical event. 

Q: What was it like transitioning from serving both in the U.S. Merchant Marine Military Sealift Command & Israel Defense Forces Airborne Corps to becoming an author? 

A: Well, I grew up in the “Hemingway School of Writing,” which meant that I believed a writer had to have all sorts of adventures and life experiences in order to be able to author compelling tales. Therefore, the transition from military life to authorship seemed like the natural course for me. Also, I continued to serve, both as a reservist in the IDF, and later for seventeen years as an officer in the New York Guard, which meant that I was always in touch with those experiences and emotions. All of my experiences are still very fresh in my mind, so I suppose in some way, I’ve never really “transitioned.”

Q: If you’re writing a new book now, is it fiction or nonfiction? 

A: My new book is going to be Part III of my World War II trilogy, the first parts of which are “The Soul of a Thief” and “The Last of the Seven.” I am firmly ensconced in fiction endeavors now, at least until I find a non-fiction story that compels me to write it.

Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to your work? Hollywood is long overdue in the creativity department!

A: My first novel, “The Heat of Ramadan,” was optioned and purchased by Hollywood, then made into a feature film called “The Point Men.” I wasn’t terribly thrilled with that film, but few authors are!  I have had some producers inquiring as to the rights to my latest WWII novels, but it’s a very long process. Hollywood is indeed long overdue in the creativity department, but I’m sure that’s every writer’s lament.

Q: Not really a question, but I want to say thank you for your service to our country! We appreciate what you did for us! 

A: And thank you for having me as a guest!