Don Bentley Talks Fatherhood, New Book & More 

Don Bentley sits down with me to talk about his fatherhood journey. He talks about the values he looks to instill into his kids. In addition, Don shares the life lessons he learned from his kids. After that we talk about his new book, The Forgotten War. We even talk about his books he wrote in the Tom Clancy series. Lastly, we finish the interview with the Fatherhood Quick Five. 


Art Eddy: What popped into your mind when you found out you were going to be a dad?

Don Bentley: Probably excitement and terror in equal measure.  I was so happy that my wife, Angela, was pregnant, but also very conscious that I was about to be a Dad.  My own father was a huge influence in my life, and I knew I had some really big shoes to fill.  

AE: What are some of the core values you look to instill in your kids? 

DB: That you can achieve anything if you’re willing to work for it.  That hard work and persistence often trumps talent.  That you have to take ownership for your own life and the choices you make.  That you only really fail when you stop trying.

AE: What is something that you learned from your kids about yourself or about life in general?

DB: One of my greatest joys as a father has been watching my kids mature into adults.  The older two are both in college and my youngest is a sophomore in high school.  They try and succeed at things that I would have never been confident to attempt at their ages.  It makes me proud to watch each of them take big swings even if they don’t always connect with the ball.    

AE: What is one big piece of advice or dad hack you would have for new dads? 

DB: You don’t have to have it all figured out.  Love your kids, spend time with them, and let them see you loving and honoring their mother.  The rest will come.

The Forgotten War 

AE: Congrats on your new book Forgotten War. This book is about two friends Matt and Frodo in a place where they never thought they would be. It is them questioning each other. You served in the Army. Thank you for your service. I wanted to know the balance of personal experience to creative writing when it comes to the Matt Drake series? 

DB: I was once asked during an interview if I was my protagonist, Matt Drake.  I answered that while I was most assuredly not Matt, I’d stood in the room with men who could be.  This is very true.  Matt is a fictitious character, but he is also representative of the men I’ve served alongside or rubbed shoulders with who come from Matt’s world.  Many of those men I now count as friends.  Two of my closest friends, Brandon Cates and Greg Glass, both served in the Ranger Regiment and another, Jason Beighley, served in a special mission unit.  Matt, Frodo, and the rest of the gang would not exist without these great Americans. 

AE: Where did the idea of Matt Drake come from? 

DB: Before my debut novel, Without Sanction, sold in a two book deal, I wrote three books that didn’t sell.  While each of those books brought me closer to Matt, it wasn’t until the third book that his voice appeared.  I’m a huge fan of Nelson DeMille and his iconic John Corey character, who first appeared in Plum Island, massively influenced my own writing.  I also wanted to do something a bit different than what other writers in the genre were doing.  When I looked at the military/espionage/political thriller genre, I saw a lot of assassins, special forces types, and CIA paramilitary officers, but I didn’t see anyone who hailed from the Defense Intelligence Agency and specialized in running and recruiting assets.  I wrote Matt to fill this gap.

AE: Would you ever like to see your book series turn into a movie or TV series? If so, who would you want to play Matt Drake? 

DB: Every writer dreams of seeing their book on the big or small screen, but the odds of this happening are infinitesimally small.  That said, my wife and I have certainly talked about who we’d like to see in Matt’s role.  I’m a huge fan of the TV show Friday Night Lights, and I’d love Taylor Kitsch who played Riggins as Matt.  My wife is a little more partial to Kit Harington who played Jon Snow in Game of Thrones.  She says it’s because of his acting chops, but I’m not so sure. 

AE: Talk about your creative process. Is it the same for each book? Plus how often do you have to keep up with all the changing tech in the military?

DB: Writers are traditionally grouped into two categories—those who know how the story ends before they begin writing and those who don’t.  I fall into the second category, so I normally begin each book with an idea, but little else.  As I write, the story slowly reveals itself and then once I finish the first draft, I look at where I can add more tension and tighten the narrative as I revise.  The military tech comes from two sources.  One, I have a stable of subject matter experts I can poll when it comes to the weapons and equipment my characters use.  Two, I’m a pretty curious person so I’m always browsing the news looking for tech that interests me.

AE: Your Matt Drake book series came before the work with the Tom Clancy novel series. How did writing for the Tom Clancy series come to be? 

DB: The editor for my Matt Drake series also edits the Tom Clancy series.  After I turned in The Outside Man, the second book in my Matt Drake series, my editor asked if I’d be interested in writing in the Clancy Universe as well.  I just handed in Weapons Grade which is my eighth book total and my fourth in the Clancy Universe.  I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to tell stories across several different series. 

The Fatherhood Quick Five

AE: Do you guys have a favorite family movie that you all love to watch together?

DB: My kids are 21, 19, and 16 which means we can’t agree on much when it comes to movies.  That said, we have a family tradition of going to see a movie every Christmas break.  It started with the new Star Wars movies and now extends to whatever we can form a consensus on.  My favorite part of this experience doesn’t involve the movie.  Eight years ago when we started this tradition, we all jammed into the photo booth located in the theater’s lobby on a whim.  The kids were smaller, but it was still pretty cramped.  Now we do this every year and I love it.  We have the photos from each session in our refrigerator and that collection is one of my prize possessions.

AE: Do you guys have a favorite song or band?

DB: Again, finding agreement on anything is pretty hard right now.  That said, my girls are huge Taylor Swift fans, and my wife and I love her earlier stuff because it reminds us of when we started dating at ages 16 and 17.  My son loves country so sometimes we can get agreement there too.  From a straight jam perspective, I indoctrinated my kids into ‘80s greatness at an early age so I think if Your Love by The Outfield or Livin’ on a Prayer by Bon Jovi came on the radio, we could all agree to blast it!

AE: Describe the perfect family vacation.

DB: A couple of years ago my wife rented a small cottage outside of Fredericksburg, TX for a weekend.  It had a firepit, hot tub and was close enough for us to go hiking at one of the state parks.  It was a blast.

AE: Last great book you read was. 

DB: The Long March Home by Marcus Brotherton and Tosca Lee. Not since Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer have a read a book that so accurately captured what it was like to go to war.  I can’t recommend this novel strongly enough. 

AE: What are three words that you hope your kids would use to describe you as a dad?

DB: Loving, hard working, and present.

About Don Bentley 

Don Bentley is the New York Times Bestselling author of the Matt Drake thriller series including Forgotten War. Don also writes in the Tom Clancy Jack Ryan, Jr. universe and has just been signed to continue Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp series. In addition, Don spent a decade as an Army Apache helicopter pilot and while serving in Afghanistan was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Air Medal with “V” device for valor. Following his time in the military Don worked as an FBI Special Agent and was a member of the Dallas Office Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. After leaving the FBI, Don worked for companies that developed technology for the U.S. Special Operations Community. He holds a B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the Ohio State University, and an M.F.A in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. You can visit him online at

About Forgotten War 

Defense Intelligence Agency operative Matt Drake’s brotherhood born in battle with his partner, Frodo, is being endangered by a deadly secret surrounding their time in Afghanistan. As a team, Matt and Frodo have watched each other’s backs through some very dark days. But one thing they’ve never doubted was their commitment to each other… until now. Frodo has been accused of a war crime ten years after leaving Afghanistan. Matt is determined to prove his friend innocent, but what will he do when he finds that his closest friend has secrets he won’t share?

Leave a Comment