“I hate writing”: interviewing Kevin Maurer

By day, Kevin Maurer is a print journalist and editor, but he's becoming better known as the author of "Gentlemen Bastards," and co-author of "No Way Out," "Lions of Kandahar," "Valleys of Death," and "No Easy Day." He's an award-winning journalist who has covered US Special Forces and been embedded with troops six times in Afghanistan. He's also a super guy.
Chris September 5, 2012 No Comments Interview

Kevin Maurer jokes that he has a new title these days: Partner in Treason. What might be a cute play on words for some—especially for a writer who has co-authored three books—is for Kevin a sly, knowing twist on the controversy surrounding his latest effort, “No Easy Day.” It’s a book he wrote with a former Navy SEAL (pseudonym MarK Owen) who was on the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The Department of Defense didn’t clear the manuscript and threatened to shut down publication of the book, citing fears that it contained secrets concerning national security.

Thus, Kevin Maurer is a Partner in Treason. But only jokingly.

He can’t say much about that book right now, except that it’s a story about “the guys” involved with the raid, not a tell-all that reveals secrets.


When we booked Kevin for Crossroads, it was because he came recommended by Nathan Edmondson, the Macon-based comic book writer of “The Activity,” a series Kevin liked so much he reached out to Nathan to express his appreciation of the little details most other writers wouldn’t know to use. Kevin spotted them because he’s been embedded six times with troops in Afghanistan. In fact, his other books—“Lions of Kandahar” with Major Rusty Bradley, “No Way Out” with Mitch Weiss, a Pulitzer Prize winner who is also coming to Crossroads, and  his own “Gentlemen Bastards”—are connected to Kevin’s on-the-ground experiences with America’s special forces.

What may be more impressive that that is Kevin got his start writing freelance CD and concert reviews for websites. Or that this political science major left college saying, “I liked reading more than writing,” and means it still.

“I hate writing,” he says, adding that his writing partner on “No Way Out,” Mitch Weiss, calls writing “death by a thousand cuts.”

You really hate writing? How can you write so much when you hate it?

“But I must like it,” he admits. Here he makes the point that he enjoys the product more than the process, comparing it to exercise. “No one really likes to go to the gym. They like the abs, the muscles.”

So it’s the payoff. He likens writing to hitting a ball perfectly, that complete feeling that you can only get after hours of practice. But it’s more than just a job well done that Kevin enjoys. In fact, he says he became “addicted to freelance” because it was the perfect way for him to drop in and out of different settings, to “experience things without having to commit.”

And that, almost literally, is how he ended up in Afghanistan, embedded with troops and covering Special Forces. Freelancing–and in a similar way, journalism–is a way for Kevin to walk, if not a mile then a quarter mile, in someone else’s shoes.

Of course, that’s not all it is. Through writing, he connects back to other people. The process may take place in isolation but there’s a payoff when the finished product is in someone’s hands.

“You want to be read,” he says. “You want to know all that blood and stress is for something.”

For those wanting to write, he has some advice that applies to whatever genre or format in which you’re working.:

  • “Writing well is writing with authority. Be patient. It takes a while to get that authority.”
  • “You better like your project. You better want to live with it for a year or more because you’re going to be sneaking time to write at work and at lunch. You’re going to be writing after work and probably before work.”
  • “Be willing to write badly.”

Kevin will be joining us at Crossroads for the Freelancers Summit on Friday, October 5, 2012, but he’ll stick around for the weekend, joining panels and such on Saturday, October 6 too. If you haven’t already registered, you probably should. There’s a whole lot more to learn from him and the other great writers who’ll be joining us that weekend.


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