Please Welcome Chris McNab to Serendipitous Readings. This is the first ever interview that Nick my son has done, and I think he did a wonderful, intelligent job of it!
You have a doctorate. What was the main focus of your doctorate? – My doctorate was actually in postmodern theories of literature and history, which I know is a long way from anything to do with knives and swords. My first degree was also a combination of history/literature, and I focused a lot of my attention on military history specifically.
What was it that made weapons and fighting techniques so interesting to you that gave you the desire to write about it? – As a father of two children, I have no love of war whatsoever. In fact, the things that happen in war seem to upset me more the older I get. And yet, the reason I find military history so fascinating is that in war you see the absolute best and the absolute worst in human character, and all the shades in between. You also see history literally in the making. From a technological point of view, however, war is often, sadly, a time of great innovation and creativity. I find weaponry interesting for this reason alone, but also for the way that the weapons soldiers use can literally decide the outcomes of battles, or at least individual survival. In the civilian world, objects are typically disposable. For soldiers, weapons can make the difference between life and death.
Do you have any military or weapons experience? What would that include? – I have never been a serving soldier, and have enormous respect for those who do serve in the military. I am very familiar with using firearms (both military and civilian), however, and have written several books on this topic. I also practised martial arts for many years, which brought me into contact with bladed weapons, in which I have always been interested.
Why was it that you write the Knives and Swords book? – The Knives and Swords book was a cooperative venture between myself and Dorling Kindersley, a publisher for whom I have always enjoyed working. In the modern age we have become used to weapons delivering ‘death from a distance’, so the prospect of fighting at close-range with a blade only both horrifies and fascinates me. An added interest in the topic was the undeniable craftsmanship in many of the blades, which makes them objects of beauty in their own right.
On average, how long does it take you to write a book? – That’s a very good question, and the answer varies wildly. Depending on the type of publisher and project, my writing schedules vary from a few weeks (I recently wrote a 40,000-word book in 10 days, for example) to about a year. Publishing is a tough industry, and deadlines are frequently very short. If I am undistracted (which is a big ‘if’), I typically write about 3000 to 4000 words a day when I’m working on a book.
How long did it take you to write and compile Knives and Swords? – This project took about six months in total. As well as writing, one of the biggest challenges was compiling all the excellent photographic material, working out what to keep in and what to leave out.
What is next in terms of writing? Have you started on another book, can you give us a tidbit about it? – I am writing a book at present. The publishing industry is a bit sensitive about giving away details in advance of publication, so suffice to say that it is an in-depth study of a major special forces hostage-rescue mission. Other books are also on the horizon soon. I’ll keep you posted.