Williscroft drew on his experience for ‘Operation Ice Breaker’


Robert G. Williscroft is a retired submarine officer, deep-sea and saturation diver, scientist, author, and lifelong adventurer. He holds degrees in marine physics and meteorology, as well as a doctorate for developing a system to protect SCUBA divers in contaminated waters. An author of nonfiction, Cold War thrillers, and hard science fiction, he lives in Centennial, Colorado.


Tell us the story of this book. What inspired you to write it? Where does the story/theme come from?

As chronicled in “Operation Ivy Bells”, in real life, in the Navy, I was made the officer in charge of the Test Operations Group – TOG, a saturation dive team specially trained in underwater espionage. marine. In a highly classified mission, we stranded the USS Halibut at the bottom of the Sea of ​​Okhotsk to gain access to Soviet undersea communications cables.

I spent much of my Navy career in submarines under arctic ice and in saturation diving mode. “Operation Ice Breaker” stems naturally from that and my experience researching the High Arctic during my years at the University of Washington.

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After my time in the Navy, I transferred to the NOAA Corps and spent three years in the Arctic (above water) and one year at the Geographic South Pole. This, combined with my previous experience on and under the ice, uniquely qualifies me to tell the story of the “Operation Ivy Bells” crew laying acoustic panels under the Arctic pack ice, while being chased by a Soviet submarine trying to impede their mission.

Put this excerpt into context. How does it fit into the whole book? Why did you select it?

The excerpt is the entire prologue of “Operation Ice Breaker”. It introduces the reader to Mac McDowell and explains how and why he became involved in saturation diving. It also establishes the backstory of the USS Teuthis, the specially modified submarine that plays a central role in this novel and the following ones in this series.

Incidentally, the snippet story actually happened to the USS Von Steuben, although it was later converted from Polaris missiles to Poseidon missiles. My first submarine as an officer was the USS Von Steuben.

Tell us about the creation of this book. What influences and/or experiences influenced the project before you sat down to write the book?

“Operation Ivy Bells” became a bestseller on Amazon and elsewhere. He was screaming for a sequel. Several authors wrote about submarines during WWII and the Cold War, and there are even several books on modern submarining.

No one, however, had written convincingly about submarine operations under the ice. Submarining under the ice is an esoteric skill possessed by a small number of people. I happen to be one of them, and I’m a passable writer.

In fact, after reading “Operation Ivy Bells” and “Operation Ice Breaker”, a retired Navy admiral said that I was “a wonderful writer and a living Jack Ryan, having ‘been there and done that.’ .”

Once you started writing, did the story take you in unexpected directions? If so, how would you describe the treatment of a narrative that seems to have a mind of its own?

While researching arctic material for the book, I came across an article about a mysterious rattling sound emanating from the ocean floor near Fury and Hecla Strait. I had already incorporated into my story an event where divers placed an automatic transponder deep in the waters of Boothia Sound, very close to where the actual sounds were discovered in the present day.

I went back in history and made the necessary modifications so that the transponder was powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) with a lifespan of 50 years. Then I placed the article in an appendix to the book. This adds tremendously to the realism of the story.

What were the biggest challenges you faced or surprises you encountered while finishing this book?

From my own background, I know a lot about the Arctic, but no one really knows everything, especially the exact location of the small islands and other obstacles in what is called the Northwest Passage.

For my story to be realistic, I must ensure that every sounding, every thickness of ice, every animal, virtually every detail that I presented was not only realistic, but entirely within the envelope of what is real in the world. ‘Arctic.

Did the book raise questions or spark strong opinions among your readers? How did you address them?

Because virtually all of my readers are either completely unfamiliar with submarines, saturation diving, and the Arctic, or have limited past experience with either, reader observations tend to cover the interesting and understandable details of scuba and saturation diving operations and details. about the Arctic in general, including polar bears, narwhals, beluga whales and killer whales.

Tell us about your writing process: where and how do you write?

Once I get inspired, I map out the overall story in my mind, then create a chapter-by-chapter outline in Excel. I establish my characters and write a short bio on each so that I can write cohesively about each. Then I actually start writing.

Every now and then a story will meander in a different direction than I originally sketched. When that happens, I change my plan, correct past events to conform to the new direction, and keep writing. I write several hours a day. I write on a Microsoft Surface, so I can take it anywhere.

Are your books available in audio format?

Indeed, they are. Trenton Bennett does the audio production, skillfully reading while adding appropriate accents and foreign pronunciations. My editor, Fresh Ink Group (FIG), adds appropriate music and sound effects, which are especially important for submarines, diving and underwater creatures. All of my books are available in audio, and all of my newer books have the FIG sound effects.

Tell us about your next project.

Besides writing cold war technothrillers – “The Mac McDowell Missions” – I also write hard science fiction. The award-winning “The Daedalus Files” consists of four novels about US Navy SEALS developing a rigid wingsuit for combat operations in low Earth orbit.

I am writing the second volume of “The Oort Chronicles”. “Federation” is a continuation of “Icicle”, sequential stories that examine human-electronic downloads, immortality, government versus private enterprise, and conflict with beings from another star system.

My next “Mission Mac McDowell” will be “Operation White Out”. The USS Teuthis with Mac and his team are conducting a highly classified mission in Antarctic waters and must deal with the political ramifications of Communist North Korean and Chinese interference.


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