A Conversation with
1) POSEIDON'S ARROW is the fifth Dirk Pitt collaboration between you and your dad, Clive Cussler, dating back to Black Wind in 2004. With the benefit of eight years' perspective, did you find the writing of the new book to be a smoother process than when you first collaborated as co-author?
It's fair to say that I have a greater appreciation for the writing process itself and the effort required to put the books together.¬†I basically see eye-to-eye with my dad in terms of expectations, so that removes a lot of potential detours along the way. Fortunately, the collaborative aspect of writing the stories is an affable affair, which makes the path easy.
2) The Dirk Pitt series will be celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2013, harkening back to its debut in 1973 with The Mediterranean Caper. Since you were still a lad when that first adventure was published, when did you begin following the Pitt novels actively?
I would have been twelve when The Mediterranean Caper was released, and I'm sure I read it within a year of its publication.¬†Like a lot of fans, I read the Pitt books in sequential order from there and literally grew up on the series.¬†I was lucky, though, in that I was occasionally able to hijack a copy of my father's latest manuscript, allowing me a chance at a sneak preview of Pitt's next big adventure.
3) Although Dirk Pitt is not aging in real-time mode, he is noticeably older now, which allows for his adult twins, Summer and Dirk Jr., to take on an increasingly active role in the stories. Do you have a long-term plan in mind that has Dirk senior eventually ascending to more of an emeritus role, with the twins handling the bulk of the action? Or will Dirk forge on full throttle for as long as the series continues?
Pitt is such an iconic literary figure that I can't ever see him being pushed off into retirement to ride a rocking chair.¬†On a more personal note, I really like writing about him.¬†Aside from being a great character, after all these years he's grown to be an old friend and associate. It wouldn't be nearly as much fun without him along for the ride.¬†It's possible the magnitude of his role might vary from book to book, but that would probably be driven more by the storyline than anything else.
4) In the course of writing a 520-page thriller, there must be certain scenes in each book of which you are particularly fond. One that stands out to me in POSEIDON'S ARROW is the bullfight scene, during which Dirk Pitt must rescue a helpless maiden from an enraged bull without the benefit of any weapons or defensive protection other than a tattered cape. That's an encounter you don't see every day‚Ä¶! Can you share with us some of your own favorite set-pieces from the Dirk Pitt series?
There are two scenes from the earlier Pitt books that I always recall with a smile.¬†In Deep Six, the villain has abducted the President and Loren Smith and is fleeing down the Mississippi River.¬† Pitt is forced to give chase in an ancient paddle-wheel steamboat.¬†He recruits some Civil War re-enactors for muscle, battling against men armed with automatic weapons.¬†The anachronistic pitched battle, where the steamboat gets shot up under the strains of a man playing "Dixie" on a shipboard calliope, always struck an evocative note with me.
And in Treasure, who could forget Pitt driving his 1930 Cord L-29 down a ski slope to escape some assassins before crashing into a saloon?
5) The technology that is presented to explain the advanced design of the highly advanced submarine the Sea Arrow sounds entirely convincing to our amateur ears, but are you able to discuss what kind of research you did for POSEIDON'S ARROW to ensure that the science therein would pass muster with some of your more, shall we say, Professional readers?
The base technologies in the book are all real.¬†I sort of combined two distinct technologies on the Sea Arrow, applying a shaftless water jet propulsion system driven by permanent magnet motors, along with an advanced supercavitation effect.¬†The Navy is looking at applying the permanent magnet motor technology in its new Zumwalt-class destroyer currently under construction, while considerable research is being expended to develop a shaftless propulsion drive for submarines.¬†The supercavitation effect was inspired by a Russian jet-powered torpedo that purportedly is capable of underwater speeds approaching two-hundred knots.
6) Knowing that your next Dirk Pitt collaboration with Clive probably won't see print until well into 2014, how long of a respite will you allow yourself before you dive back in to begin work on that next entry in the series?
Work is already underway.¬†We have a rudimentary outline in the works, and I will be putting pen to paper shortly.¬†Hopefully, we'll be able to go to press much earlier in 2014.
7) Can you point to any classic adventure series that over the years may have provided inspiration for your own writing efforts? No doubt one of your dad's favorites growing up must have been those great Doc Savage pulps, but your own reading background must have different touchstones.
Dad always had a lot of Alistair MacLean books around the house, so I digested many of those with affection, as well as thrillers by Jack Higgins.¬†My (second) favorite author growing up, however, would have to have been John D. MacDonald.¬†Next to Dirk Pitt, good old Travis McGee couldn't be beat!