Countless aspiring writers get clubbed with the old adage "Write what you know," but sometimes the whole point of writing a novel is to find out the answers to questions that lay far beyond your experience . With The Army of the Republic, I wanted to answer some questions I'd had since my first travels in revolution-torn Central and South America twenty-five years ago. Not only the big questions, like Is it justified to kill for a better world?, but the smaller ones, like How on earth do a bunch of students and young professionals acquire the will and the skills to take on the state? So, it was this rather selfish journey of discovery that launched me into The Army of the Republic.
The research was as difficult and fascinating as the book's subject. I accumulated a shelf full of interesting books: how to form a new identity, improvise explosives, surveillance, and body-guarding. I talked to organizers of the 1999 WTO Protests, student activists, 1960s activists, CIA people, and assorted others. I read the biographies and memoirs of now-obscure revolutionary leaders whose exploits had once amazed the readers of newspapers across the globe. Still, I needed to learn more about the gut-level feeling of being inside an insurgency, and for that I needed to talk to people who had been through it.