Story Behind the Story

If you’ve already read the story behind Divided We Fall then you know about how I came up with its sequel, Burning Nation.  Feel free to check that out on in the Divided We Fall section.  My plan for Burning Nation was that it would be a novel about military occupation.  I wanted to do a sort of adaptation of the United States occupation of Iraq in the Iraq war, but with our heroes as insurgents and with American soldiers we respect forced to try to make the best out of an impossible situation.  To that end, some Idaho residents are cuffed with plastic zip ties the way some Iraqis were.  PFC Daniel Wright and Specialist Shawna Sparrow are captured and subjected to interrogation methods similar to those used by Americans on their prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.  I wanted Burning Nation to be a frightening plausible twist on real life events.

I also wanted the book to ask the reader to think about our constitutional rights and what might happen to those rights when America faces a significant crisis.  This is why President Laura Griffith and American soldiers in Idaho place significant limits on freedom of speech and assembly as well as on other rights.  I wondered how a modern day president would react to a state blatantly, and potentially violently, defying federal law.  How would anyone in President Griffith’s situation deal with a state that had declared its independence and was prepared to fight for it?  I don’t think our laws provide many answers to that question, and so I wanted to bring the drama of the conflict resulting from such a situation into Burning Nation.

While my military experience and research gave me the understanding of explosives and weapons that I needed to write the many action sequences throughout Burning Nation, one aspect of the novel I really struggled with was the title.  At first, I had planned for the first book to be called Incendiary, and the second to be Flash Point, in keeping with an explosives and fire theme.  I just didn’t know what to call the third book.  Then, I thought about calling the first book Divided We Fall.  My editor loved that idea.  The problem was that the phrase “Divided We Fall” is a peculiar sort of backwards phrase that almost always goes with the phrase “United We Stand.”  Even if I assigned “United We Stand” to book three, what would the second book be called?  I cooked up lame ideas like, Fallen We Fight, Burning We Bleed, and Fighting We Bleed.  The problem is, unless you’re Yoda, the sort of backwards language in “Divided We Fall” and “United We Stand” really only works in those two phrases, so we abandoned that structure for the second and third books.  One day I was in a restaurant and saw on the menu a drink called “Lost Nation.”  My editor liked it, but wanted the title to sound less native American, so Burning Nation became the title.

It was great fun working on Burning Nation.  It’s definitely an intense novel with even more action than Divided We Fall.  The characters we come to know in the first book suffer a lot together in Burning Nation.  Some of them don’t make it, and the book brings in some new characters that will have a lasting impact into The Last Full Measure.  I hope people enjoy reading the book as much as I did writing it.