If you’re a fan of hard-hitting action that pops with been-there-done-that authenticity, you should check out Kevin Miller’s terrific Raven One series—a perfect fit for fans of Dale Brown, David Poyer, and P.T. Deutermann.
Billed as “authentic modern-day aircraft carrier combat,” Miller’s work introduces fans to his protagonist, Lieutenant Commander Jim Wilson, and the rest of the Raven squadron. Stationed onboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Valley Forge, on deployment to the Persian Gulf, the books follow the unit of FA-18 pilots charged with protecting America and fighting on the front lines of a new kind of war—a thread kicks off with Raven One and continues, developing further in Declared Hostile and Fight Flight.
Overall, the trilogy stands as one of the most underrated techno-thriller series out there, and an absolute must-read for fans of that genre. If you’ve yet to try Miller’s books, don’t want a moment longer.
Miller, a former FA-18 Hornet pilot like his hero, was kind enough to go on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked him all kinds of questions, ranging from what his writing process is like to what’s next for him. Check out the full Q&A below, then make sure to pick up a copy of Raven One, available in paperback, e-book, and audiobook.
TRBS: Before we get to the RAVEN ONE books, what were you doing before you became a writer, and was writing a book something you had wanted to do for a while?
Miller: In my previous life I was a Navy FA-18 Hornet pilot, and after I retired from the Navy my friend Dave Wooten suggested I write a book about my career. I waved him off – get out! – but he pressed me. After giving it some thought, why not? People often asked me what it was like to fly a high-performance airplane off a ship. How can you answer that question without dominating the conversation? The question deserves a better answer than, “it’s really cool!” so I decided that a novel could convey the adventure and reality of naval aviation, and began to write what would become Raven One in the summer of 2005. When after fits and starts I finally finished it some four years later, I knew I had something special. After more years of polishing, editing, and finding a publisher, we published Raven One in 2014.
Never imagined a career as a writer, and after the military, I went into defense consulting and was a not-for-profit foundation executive. With the immediate success of Raven One and the trilogy as a whole, I’ve found a career that I enjoy and can succeed in.
TRBS: What is your writing process like? Do you outline, have a set writing routine, try to hit a target word count each day?
Miller: With Raven One I just wrote, and sometimes went into areas of action and dialogue I did not envision when I sat down to write. A cool experience as a writer. With the next two, Declared Hostile in the Caribbean and Fight Fight about the upcoming Air-Sea fight in the Western Pacific, I had general ideas of what I wanted but did not formally outline. I should outline, and did with my latest The Silver Waterfall because of course the events of the Battle of Midway are so well known. That said, outlines are good, but allowing one’s self to go off into other areas outside of an outline is okay too. Art more than science.
I’ve written on airliners and in hotel rooms, but typically at home in the morning. As Stephen King suggests in his essential On Writing, 1,000 words a day is a good day of writing, and like him, I’ll go back after the rough has sat for days and weeks and make changes (on printed text, with a pen in the margins).
TRBS: Who are some of your favorite authors, and what books are currently on your TBR pile?
Miller: Herman Wouk. What a winning mixture of technical accuracy and human nature. The man could write. Clancy and Coonts. Captain Edward L. Beach is another. He wrote Run Silent, Run Deep. All have influenced me. Michael and Jeff Shaara are also influencers, as is Pat Conroy.
I’m finally reading Devotion by Adam Makos, a book I should have read as soon as it was released. Anything by Jim Hornfischer, Bob Gandt, and fellow Braveship Books authors Jeff Edwards, George Galdorisi, Ted Nulty, and John Monteith. Also waiting for Paco Chierici’s next one.
TRBS: Now, let’s talk about the books. The RAVEN ONE series is fantastic. How did you come up with the story idea for the first book, and was there one (out of the three) that was particularly challenging to write?
Miller: To convey the carrier aviation experience, I decided on a novel, written in the third person. My hero protagonist would be a senior squadron pilot, caught in the middle between the Commanding Officer (whom all love) and the Executive Officer (tyrannical homicidal maniac). I set it during a combat deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and set out writing vignettes (close air support combat, night pitching deck carrier landings, etc.) Throughout, I developed the character of who became Flip, Cajun, Saint, Olive, Weed, and others. My books entertain first, but also inform, and I tackled how aviators approach flights, the realities of combat, social issues affecting our military, and geopolitics. Raven One is authentic; lots of detail and the jargon of carrier aviation. It’s immersive and the reader must hang on. Many reviewers say the immersive detail in the flying action can be daunting, but add that the realism and sense of actually being in the cockpit and in the ready room is worth it. In Raven One tensions suddenly flare in the Strait of Hormuz, which require action from Flip and the Ravens.
Raven One was an immediate and unexpected hit, peaking at #29 in all of Amazon Kindle. Soon after it was published, I began Declared Hostile, imagining what would happen if the United States actually fought the “War on Drugs” like a real war. Fight Fight was released two years later, my look at how a spark could (and one day likely will) set off a high-end naval conflict in the Western Pacific. Each book explores a social aspect of the military as well as human failures found in all walks of life such as overweening pride or all-consuming greed, just to name a few. The antagonists are also human, flawed, and uncertain as people are at times. All of the books have become highly-rated international genre bestsellers with staying power. Last year Raven One peaked at #33 in the Kindle Store.
The air combat gaming community found my novels and spread the word. In August, Digital Combat Simulator in conjunction with my partners BVR Productions and Baltic Dragon released the Raven One video game, unprecedented for a novel, and fascinating to help develop.
I approach my novels from a geopolitical understanding of the region; why would military power (and specifically carrier air power) be used? I study the make-up of my “enemy” air and naval forces, keep current on innovations in warfare around the world, and then imagine my characters facing these challenges. I set high bars for myself, and yes, researching to understand is a challenge but one I enjoy.
TRBS: Lastly, what’s next for you, and do you have other books that fans of your RAVEN ONE stuff can check out?
Miller: Flip, Olive, and Weed have been with readers in all the novels, and they’ll be in the one I’m working on now; a European Theater naval situation that gets out of hand.
After Fight Fight, I set out to write a historical fiction novel about the epic Battle of Midway, a battle I’ve lectured on and like so many in military aviation am fascinated by. The Silver Waterfall was released in June, and won the 2020 ABF American Fiction award, military category. I wrote it like Shaara did The Killer Angels; no facts changed and as if you were there with the actual men as they fought. Reviewers have been most complimentary, and after I finish the #4 novel in the Raven One series, I may go back to World War II and write another historical fiction account of another epic battle.
The video game is a hit, and more games developed from my novels or pieces of them are envisioned. Regardless, I’ll be writing. Thanks for having me, TRBS.