Interview with Brian Nelson

The Last Sword Maker by Brian Nelson is one of the best thrillers I read this year. With elements of conspiracy, a virus that might wipe out the entire world (ahem!) and spies, this book is a must- read.

Thanks to Michelle of FSB Associates, I got a chance to ask Brian a few questions.

Hello Brian and welcome to my blog The Book Decoder. Please tell me and my readers about yourself.

I’m a generalist by nature. I enjoy learning about different things; and therefore, I have avoided careers that would force me to (over)specialize. I realized this about myself when I was twenty-nine years old and working at the GM headquarters in Detroit as a computer systems engineer. Even though it was a great job and had excellent opportunities, I felt like I was being pulled into a life that wasn’t going to have much variety and I rebelled against that.

I suppose becoming a writer was my attempt to make a career out of an identity crisis. The idea was that each book would allow me to explore something new and different. Once I finished one book, I could move on to the next one and, therefore, the next topic of interest. It’s worked out pretty well so far. My first book, The Silence and the Scorpion was about Venezuela. The Last Sword Maker is part of a trilogy that allows me to investigate a mixture of current events, science, and history. When I’m done with this series, I want to try my hand at travel books, à la Bill Bryson.

What is the inspiration behind The Last Sword Maker?

The books that I loved as a kid were science-based adventures like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and The War of the Worlds. I wanted to create something in that vein, that was exciting to read, but also sparked the reader’s imagination.

Can you tell us about your book The Last Sword Maker?
The Last Sword Maker is about an arms race between the United States and China as they attempt to make a new generation of weapons by combining AI, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology. It’s kind of a mix of Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton. There’s an exciting adventure, but you also feel like you learn about science, the military, and China along the way.

The book has a big cast of characters. It has an American Admiral, Jim Curtiss, who is trying to outwit his Chinese counterpart, General Meng. It has scientists who are working to develop this breakthrough technology but who get caught up in the espionage between the two countries.

Then there are spies, and traitors, and Navy SEALs. All these perspectives make the book very rich and fun to read.


What was the most challenging part of writing The Last Sword Maker?
The most challenging part was making all the characters come to life. This was a big priority for me and, in the end, it was very rewarding. For example, one important character is a Tibetan teenager named Sonam. I knew almost nothing about Tibet or its culture when I set out to make his character, so it required a lot of research. I read books about Tibetan history, Buddhism, and first-person accounts of what life is like for Tibetans since the Chinese occupation in 1950. It was fascinating and it really helped make him a very original character.

One of the biggest compliments I’ve gotten is from several readers who were convinced I must have visited Tibet because those scenes seemed so real.

What are you currently working on?
I’m just finishing up the sequel to The Last Sword Maker. It’s called Five Tribes and will be published in March, 2021. While The Last Sword Maker is about the birth of this new technology, Five Tribes is about how that technology evolves out of control as different groups (tribes) set out to use it for their own agendas. It’s all building toward an apocalypse in Book III, but I have a very different type of end-of-the-world scenario in mind that I think will be very original.

How does a day in Brian Nelson’s life look like?
Since we are in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic, life has lost all sense of normality. At the moment I feel like I’m just trying to keep it all together between teaching online classes, spending time with my two boys, and squeezing in a little writing when I can.

But before Coronavirus (B.C.) I would try to dedicate about five hours a day to writing, but rarely more than that. I’ve found that if I try to do more, then I’m not nearly as productive or creative. I’m not one of those manic writers who lock themselves away for months. Slow and steady works well for me and it lets me keep a healthy balance in my life.

Thank you, Brian. 🙂

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