Welcome to our first Wednesdays With Authors Q&A. This week, Darren Ware’s new book A Rendezvous with the Enemy: My Brother’s Life and Death with the Coldstream Guards in Northern Ireland has been published, so we have taken a few minutes of Police Officer Darren’s precious time to ask him a bit more about the book and his writing.
The book itself will introduce you to the life of a professional soldier; Darren’s brother Simon Ware, who was tragically killed during a massive unpredicted terrorist attack by the IRA in Northern Ireland, 1991. It reveals the operational experience of life as a soldier during the Troubles of the 1980s and 1990s – a bitter war between the British Army and the Provisional IRA.
Here is Darren’s story:
When did you first realise that you wanted to become a writer?
When my brother was killed in 1991 I created a large scrap book with all the info I had gathered. This included newspaper articles, statements from the soldiers, photos, coroner’s report, police reports and much much more. Every year on the anniversary of his death I would go through the scrap book as a reminder. In 2004, I thought that I could do better and take it a stage further and put his story into a book. And that’s when it all began.
What is it about writing that appealed to you?
I spent many hours over the years on and off, writing my story. I felt that during my writing I was telling a story in my own words with information I knew and information I had gathered through many sources. Though it was emotionally hard at times, I enjoyed putting pen to paper and telling my personal story.
Do you have any advice for budding military history authors wanting to get published?
I never sought any writing advice from any author as I wanted it to be my story in my words and written the way that I wanted to put it across. I
had generally been good at school with writing and I enjoy telling what I know. However I did have a lot of encouragement from two particular authors whom I like to class as friends. Ken Wharton, the author of A Long Long War, Bullets Bombs and Cups of Tea and Bloody Belfast. These three books are an oral story of the Northern Ireland troubles. Steve McLaughlin, the author of Squaddie both gave me encouragement to tell my story and not to give in every time a publisher refused to take me on. Both Ken and Steve have given me a lot of faith in what I have achieved. So my advice would be not to give in if you get refused from one publisher. Keep at it and you will find one eventually.
How much research did you do for the book? Can you give us some tips on this?
A lot of my early months and in fact maybe a year and a half was spent researching. I was also serving in Northern Ireland when Simon was killed and a few months after, I visited Bessbrook Mill where he was based to find out what I could and to see the area. This formed the foundation for the scrap book. Then in 2004 I managed, through the use of internet military websites, to make contact with more than 60 soldiers who had knowledge of the incident and I expanded from there. I was invited back to Northern Ireland by Simon’s regiment and I did a lot more research. It was during this visit that I gleaned a lot more info and actually visited the scene of the explosion and stood in the crater where he was killed.
What fascinates you about revisiting the past and bringing it to life in a book? Have you always been interested in history?
I have always been military minded and wanted to join the army from a young age. I was at school during the Falklands War in 1982 and the Iranian Embassy siege in 1980 and was very interested in that. Having served in the army in the late 80s for ten years the main deployment was Northern Ireland. I did two tours (1989 and 1991) and always paid a very keen interest in the British Army’s deployment to Northern Ireland. I have read many many books on the history of the troubles and there are not many that depict one story of any individual soldier’s life and that’s what I wanted to do.
Why did you decide to write this book? What prompted you to put this story down on paper?
I wanted to tell my story of my brother’s death in Northern Ireland at the hands of the IRA. I wanted to let the reader know how violent his death was, how hurtful it was to me, my family and friends and to let people know what happened.
How long did it take you to write it?
I started with a lot of research at the beginning of 2004 which took several months. I then wrote the basic skeleton of each of the 15 chapters and continued to re read them and add more meat to the bones. As people were answering my research questions and interviews I would then add that information. All my time spent on it was done around my full time job and bringing up three children and there were times where I did not do any work on it for some months. I guess if I added all this up, it may have taken me 2-3 years to get it finished.
What do you feel is the most important bit of your book? Why should we read it?
The part I feel is most important is Chapter 5 – Contact. This tells the story of the explosion and how the soldiers from Simon’s patrol reacted to it. And also Chapter 9 – The Investigation begins, this tells the story of how the post incident was dealt with and how the bomb was used. I feel that the book should be read with an open mind, I want to tell the story of how my brother was killed. It will also help the reader to understand how the families of all those killed during the troubles may have been affected. This is my personal story of Simon’s death but many similar ones have also occurred.
Where and when do you usually write?
Most of my writing was done in a quiet study and dining room. The initial chapter was written during some lunch breaks at work!
Who are your favourite authors, fiction and non-fiction, and why?
I don’t have a particular favourite author but I do like reading military history books that have been written by soldiers who have been in action and who tell a good truthful story about their experiences. I feel their story is written from the heart and is truthful.
How do you relax? Do you have any hobbies or interests?
This has always been one of my week spots. I don’t often relax as I feel I always have to do things! My partner, Joanna insists that occasionally I should relax for once and do nothing. I do enjoy the time I spend with my children and watching the things they do. I like to keep myself fit by running, cycling and gym work. I like to socialise with my friends too.
Have you read anything lately that you’d like to recommend to our readers?
I have just finished reading Go! Go! Go! The Definitive Inside Story of the Iranian Embassy Siege by Rusty Firmen and Will Pearson. A fantastic book that tells the inside story of the Iranian Embassy siege in 1980 by those who were part of the SAS and the hostages who were held. A fantastic book that I could not put down. I would also recommend A Long Long War, Bullets, Bombs and Cups of Tea and Bloody Belfast: all written and compiled by Ken Wharton. They consist of hundreds of stories of soldiers’ experiences during the troubles in Northern Ireland from 1969–2007.
What are you working on at the moment?
Book wise, I’m not working an anything and have no plans at this moment. A Rendezvous with the Enemy has kept me busy. I have just completed a 3-month helicopter air observer course on the police helicopter so that has kept me very busy too.
I just want to finish by saying that this book is about true fact. I have not exaggerated anything and I have told the story from my point and from many others as we all saw it. I don’t propose to come across as a person who wants to write a good brave war story.I am just telling the story of my brother’s death and how it happened. There is also a little part of the book with a chapter of my experiences too.