Interview with Mark Berent

When did you first start writing?
I first started writing when I was in the United States Air Force. I had had some interesting combat experiences. I selected one about a Python mascot we had in An F-100 fighter squadron at Bien Hoa Air Base in South Vietnam. I wrote it in a humorous style and was amazed when the Air Force Magazine accepted the article. Like all new authors I was quite excited to see my first byline. They then published two more articles I wrote about air combat on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.

Shortly after that I retired from the Air Force and traveled internationally on assignment for the Air Force Magazine and the Asian Defense Journal as a pilot/reporter. During that time I wrote dozens of articles about various foreign military airplanes that I flew such as the Swedish Viggen, the Royal Air Force Jaguar and Hawk, the German Tornado and Fanjet, and trainers from Switzerland and Brazil.

During that time, I was living on a horse farm in Northern Virginia when I received a call from a literary agent in New York. He thought I should write a novel about my experiences in the Air Force during the Vietnam war. I put him off for several months because I really did not think I could write fiction.

Through circumstances, that I may relate here at a later date, I started to write. After all, I spent my Air Force career as a fighter pilot and we are known to take chances.
Who are your favorite authors?
I was a voracious reader starting as far back as I can remember, grade school probably. In later years I discovered John D MacDonald and WEB Griffin. Each influenced me in a different way. McDonald for his descriptive powers and Griffin for his episodic style.
For reasons I keep to myself, I have never been a Hemingway fan.
What is your writing process?
"Process" can be either the physical approach or mental approach to writing.

I had written all my articles in longhand which my wife typed out for me. It was a time-consuming process to correct and retype product suitable for submission. I purchased a computer with a word processing program and found I could compose on a keyboard though I am not a typist

My mental process for all my articles and books is quite simple; I see everything as if on a screen just behind my eyes and, if I listen carefully, the dialogue just seems to spring out. Sometimes characters appear from nowhere and I watch and listen to them.

Of course, it is never that easy. I do outlines, character capsules, plot lines, and incredible research. In fact, when I wrote these books there was no Internet. I had to travel all over the country interviewing people, going to the USAF Air University library in Montgomery, Alabama, and purchase many books about the real characters in my historical novels.
What do you read for pleasure?
I definitely read for pleasure. I have always been a voracious reader but the last few years I have read mostly page-turners.
What motivated you to write about the Vietnam War?
Although historical fiction, my books are about the men and women who gave everything they had in a war they weren't allowed to win. I just had to write about them. I had to inform civilians exactly how it was for us on the line in the Vietnam war.

FAC pilots, Phantom crews, Thud, Hun, and Buff crews, gunship pilots and gunners, green berets, grunts, carrier jocks, MAC contract stews, boomers and tankers, from corporals to colonels; the whole nine yards about the day-to-day heroism and heroes we all know and loved . . . and some we hated. By way of contrast, LBJ in the Oval Office and McNamara in the Pentagon E Ring are included and the words they spoke as they picked strike targets over lunch are included in great detail, yes indeed. As are those of Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden.

But there is the dark side of why I am a military writer. The dark side that surfaces in untoward moments when bad memories spring unbidden from a well I try to keep capped. Moments when others, not of the sky, hear my harsh laughter and see the frost in my eyes. It is the side that bears extreme malice and near-consuming rage toward those who wasted the lives of my fellow airmen on missions that accomplished little except strengthen the enemy's resolve. Missions that gratified only the arrogant civilian Caesars who, at White House luncheons, picked not only the targets but the bomb loads and the ingress and egress routes as well. It is the side that detests those members of the media who trivialized and scorned our efforts, it is the side that despises that wretched movie female who made broadcasts from Hanoi and called our tortured POWs liars, it is the side that bears hard anger toward some of our own men in uniform who saw war only as a career enhancing program. It is also of these contemptible people I am compelled to write.

My books have won critical acclaim from Tom Clancy, Chuck Yeager, Dale Brown, WEB Griffin, Steve Koontz, and numerous newspaper and magazine critics.
How old were you when your first book was published?
I was 58 years old. I wrote a book a year for five years to complete my Wings of War series. I firmly believe one is never too old to start a new venture. Remember Grandma Moses who began painting in her 80s. To take a break from my writing I started running. As a result, I ran my first marathon at 59. I kept running marathons up to my late 60s. Read my short story, The Graduate, and you will see I started riding horses after a 60-year layoff and wound up on a roundup in Montana when I was 74.
When did you get started with Smashwords?
In May 2010 I found a comment about it on the Internet and followed up. It took me about a week to learn how to properly format the manuscript. During that time I was amazed how fast Mark Coker responded to my queries.

After I uploaded all five books, I decided to upload eight nonfiction stories I had written. I do not charge for them but include at the end of each a blurb about my books. Three of them are the articles I wrote for the Air Force Magazine. As you know, when a magazine buys an article or a story they retain the copyright. Years ago I contacted the editor and he was kind enough to return the copyrights to me.
Published 2014-09-22.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Pretty Don't Win -- A Very Short Story of Minnesota Dirt Track Racing in the 50s
Price: Free! Words: 1,140. Language: English. Published: July 12, 2017. Categories: Nonfiction » Sports & outdoor recreation » Motor sports
Young college freshman learn the dangers of untrained stockcar racing in the early 50s.
Lets Kill the Dai Uy (Tiếng Việt cho thuyền trưởng)
Price: Free! Words: 2,080. Language: Vietnamese. Published: November 16, 2013. Categories: Nonfiction » History » War, Nonfiction » Biography » Military biography
This is the Vietnamese version of a hilarious tale of an Air Force combat fighter pilot in Vietnam who goes out on patrol with a special forces team he has supported many times from the air. Seeing the pilot is having a hard time keeping up, one of the Chinese mercenaries called Nungs, says to the team leader, "Let's kill the Dai Uy." Dai Uy is Vietnamese for captain.Read on to see what happened.
To War in Style
Price: Free! Words: 3,090. Language: English. Published: August 29, 2012. Categories: Nonfiction » History » War, Nonfiction » History » Military
In January of 1973 we in the Defense Attaché Office in the American Embassy, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, found ourselves in an unusual situation. In Vietnam, all US forces were ordered to cease fighting and that included air assets as well as the ground troops. Yet we had authorized air support until August 15. This article is about what occurred during that time.
Beyond the Clouds; Why I Became a Military Writer
Price: Free! Words: 2,280. Language: English. Published: June 14, 2012. Categories: Nonfiction » History » Military, Nonfiction » History » Biography
Mark Berent is a well-known author of many Vietnam airwar books and articles. In this article he recounts the people and events that motivated him to write. As he says: "They're out there now, somewhere beyond our eyes, beyond the clouds, rolling and soaring in towering cathedrals flying beautiful airplanes that need only the fuel of their love. These are the men I honor...
Rho Magna, the Laotian War Dragon
Price: Free! Words: 3,860. Language: English. Published: May 17, 2012. Categories: Nonfiction » History » War, Nonfiction » Psychology » Stress
Combat fighter pilot Mark Berent writes of a dragon-shaped karst mountain in Laos along the Ho Chi Minh Trail that bristles with physical and psychological danger. He writes of it as he first saw it on an F-4 FAC mission from Ubon RTAFB in 1969. Then he adds an excerpt from "Phantom Leader," one of his historical fiction books about war and politics in the Vietnam era.
Let's Kill the Dai Uy
Price: Free! Words: 1,970. Language: English. Published: March 28, 2012. Categories: Nonfiction » Biography » Military biography, Nonfiction » History » Military
This is a hilarious tale of an Air Force combat fighter pilot in Vietnam who goes out on patrol with a special forces team he has supported many times from the air. Seeing the pilot is having a hard time keeping up, one of the Chinese mercenaries called Nungs, says to the team leader, "Let's kill the Dai Uy." Dai Uy is Vietnamese for captain.Read on to see what happened.
The Graduate
Price: Free! Words: 2,220. Language: English. Published: April 1, 2011. Categories: Nonfiction » Sports & outdoor recreation » Equestrian
"The Graduate" is a short story about a retired fighter pilot who, at 74, went back to college, Cowboy College, that is.
Ramrod the Combat Snake
Price: Free! Words: 2,700. Language: English. Published: March 31, 2011. Categories: Nonfiction » History » War
Until the day a friendly FAC presented us combat pilots with a mascot, all any of us knew about snakes was that they were slimy creatures that could poison you, eat you, twist your bones, or crush you at their leisure. But that was before we came to know and love our squadron's resident reptile, whose name was ... RAMROD
Trolling for Guns on the Ho Chi Minh Trail
Price: Free! Words: 2,030. Language: English. Published: March 31, 2011. Categories: Nonfiction » History » War
As the Vietnam war interdiction campaign spread to North Vietnam, Laos, and eventually Cambodia, the slow moving FACs in their small prop planes began to encounter intense ground fire. It was then, in 1967, that the jet FACs began to take over in high threat areas. A former commander of the famed 8th Tac Fighter Wing Wolf FACs poignantly reminisces about these men and the mission.
Night Mission on the Ho Chi Minh Trail
Price: Free! Words: 2,880. Language: English. Published: March 30, 2011. Categories: Nonfiction » History » War, Nonfiction » Biography » Military biography
The weather, the built-in hazards of night refueling, target identification, and the mountains hiding in the dark are all enemies- and of course, there's the enemy, too. These pilots have a saying, "And if the big guns don't get you, the black karst will." But then back on top in the moonlight, a man finds brief moments to think his own thoughts before cracking a low ceiling back at home base.
Storm Flight
Series: WINGS OF WAR, Book 5. Price: $3.00 USD. Words: 184,460. Language: English. Published: November 26, 2009. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » War & military adventure, Fiction » Adventure » Men’s adventure
Storm Flight is touched off by a daring raid on the Son Tay prisoner-of-war camp that reveals some startling information. With American prisoners in terrible jeopardy and crucial national secrets in danger of being discovered, the characters we have met in Berent's earlier books are put to the ultimate test. They must call upon all their skill, leadership, guts, and strength.
Eagle Station
Series: WINGS OF WAR, Book 4. Price: $3.00 USD. Words: 141,930. Language: English. Published: November 26, 2009. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » War & military adventure
Eagle Station, fourth in his Vietnam War series, Berent raises the stakes, creating his most electrifying tale of war to date. Staring with a hair-raising cliffside helicopter rescue under heavy fire, and racing toward a climactic ground battle played out in the dark of night, engaging top secret USAF special operations gun ships, A Japanese-American overcomes prejudice and becomes a top pilot.
Phantom Leader
Series: WINGS OF WAR, Book 3. Price: $3.00 USD. Words: 156,790. Language: English. Published: November 26, 2009. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » War & military adventure
The men shifted and positioned themselves, holding their lances butt down. He drifted into them with alarming speed. Three miles away, his shot-up F-4 jet fighter carrying his dead backseater crashed into a low green hill, and exploded into a towering red and black fireball. He was Major Algernon A. "Flak" Apple, the first black Air Force fighter pilot to be shot down in North Vietnam.
Steel Tiger
Series: WINGS OF WAR, Book 2. Price: $2.00 USD. Words: 172,000. Language: English. Published: November 25, 2009. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » War & military adventure
USAF Major Court Bannister, SF LtCol Wolf Lochert, and USAF Lt. Toby Parker are at new posts: Bannister in Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB; Wolf Lochert at Lang Tri, Vietnam carrying out covert operations in Laos: Toby Parker in pilot training at Randolph AFB. A Russian fighter pilot trains North Vietnamese pilots. Israeli fighter pilots decisively defeat Egyptian forces in the 1967 war.
Rolling Thunder
Series: WINGS OF WAR, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 153,080. Language: English. Published: November 25, 2009. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » War & military adventure
Rolling Thunder is an historical novel about the decisive role politics played during the Vietnam war. Its characters range from men in the field to the Pentagon and the White House. Fighter pilots and Special Forces warriors try to do their best but are hampered by President Johnson, Secretary of Defense McNamara, and their staff members who despise the military.