Exclusive Interview: “Tom Clancy’s The Division: Compromised” Author Thomas Parrott
While it’s been nearly four years since the most recent game came out, and there’s no word on when the next one will be released, fans of The Division series haven’t had to go cold turkey where pandemic-related post-apocalyptic shooters are concerned. Not so long as writer Thomas Parrott is still working the keyboard. In the following email interview, Parrott discusses his new novel, Tom Clancy’s The Division: Compromised (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), his sequel to 2022’s The Division: Recruited.
For people who didn’t read it, or the interview we did about it, what was Tom Clancy’s The Division: Recruited about, and when and where was it set in relation to the games The Division and The Division 2?
Recruited tells the story of Maira Kanhai, a relatively ordinary survivor of the Green Poison pandemic who gets pulled into the high-stakes world of the Strategic Homeland Division. The first game takes place in New York immediately following the initial December outbreak. The second game continues that May in Washington DC (and continuing content has moved the date up to August to my understanding). Recruited, then, starts in Maryland near DC that September.
And then for people who have read Recruited, and thus can ignore me yelling SPOILER ALERT like a crazy person, what is Tom Clancy’s The Division: Compromised about, and when and where is it set in relation to Recruited?
Compromised picks up six months after Recruited, in April the following year. It starts near the same locale the last book ended, but soon heads south towards the Gulf Coast as the plot thickens. The fuel supplies in that region are what’s keeping the nascent supply network going, and they’ve come under attack. Maira and her cell have to try to figure out what’s going on and put a stop to the attacks, but their efforts will be complicated by clashing local factions and their own internal struggles.
When in relation to writing Recruited did you come up with the idea for Compromised, and what inspired this second book’s plot?
It sort of flowed naturally from the events of the first book. I can’t remember exactly when I first had the idea, though it was formalized and approved by March of 2022. It was a product of imagining that advancing timeline following the Green Poison disaster. It’s over a year since the outbreak now. People are finding a new normal; it’s not just about base survival anymore. There are deeper agendas at play, ideologies coming to the fore.
Tom Clancy’s The Division: Compromised involves environmental extremists as well as private military contractors going off-book. In discussing the plot of Compromised with the good people at Massive Entertainment who make The Division games, did they encourage you to integrate topical elements, were they against the idea, did they not care…?
There’s no real effort to tie it into real world events or be topical. The team’s main concern — and mine — is what feels right for the world of The Division. One of the engaging parts of this setting is that it’s our world gone down a different path. So some plot elements echo things people might talk about in the here and now, but their immediate circumstances are very, very different.
What other ways did the aforementioned Massive folk influence Tom Clancy’s The Division: Compromised? Did they offer plot points, suggest locations, or were they hands-off?
They’re always very involved and available. I generated the basic ideas, but they helped shape them to fit. It’s a very give and take relationship, which is fun when you’re doing creative work. It allows the things you make to be greater than the sum of their parts, and in this specific case it’s really cool seeing them integrate the plot of the books with their own plans for future content.
So aside from Mr. Clancy, are there any writers who had a big influence on how you wrote Tom Clancy’s The Division: Compromised, but not Recruited?
In all honesty, I intentionally don’t tend to think in those terms when I’m working on a project. If I go in with too clear of an idea of who I’m being influenced by — oh, I want to pull from this person and that person and this other person, too — then what I write isn’t going to end up being mine. It’s going to be a pale imitation of what I think they might write.
Not to say that I’m not influenced by lots of authors, or that I haven’t learned tons from the example of others. Just that I try to keep it a gestalt product of everything I’ve encountered, and not an intentional cherry picking of just a few.
What about non-literary influences; was Tom Clancy’s The Division: Compromised influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games? Aside from The Division ones, of course.
I do a ton of research to try and keep my “decay timeline” as accurate as I can. That’s both for literal human bodies and for all the manifold aspects of our civilization. To that end, I really enjoy the TV show Life After People as a source of inspiration. I also have Westerns on my mind lately. I’ve always been a fan, but it feels informative to the state of the world and The Division at this point in the story. Isolated communities struggling to get by, the wandering posse who live by the gun, their black hat counterparts…you can see the impact, I bet.
While we’re on the subject of video games, in the interview we did about Recruited, you admitted that you hadn’t played The Division or The Division 2 because you “…don’t have the reflexes for shooters.” Has there been any ways in which you not being a player of shooters, and The Division specifically, may have helped you in the writing of Tom Clancy’s The Division: Compromised?
Well, I’ve played them so that I can have the experience at this point. Just to try and make sure I was getting some of the feel right.
That said, I do think a certain distance from the game might be useful. Maybe that sounds counterintuitive? But the world of The Division is not one for one the same as the game. The vision behind the setting is much more grounded and harsh. I might compare it to something like This War Of Mine instead. No one laughs off a bullet. Resources are scarce. Who you want to be can get lost in the demands of who you have to be to survive.
So when I’m working, I have enough distance to be selective about what elements to include and what to set aside.
You also, in that same interview, admitted that you’ve never read any of Clancy’s novels, and are instead, “…more of a dragons and spaceships kind of guy.” How often did you try to get a dragon or spaceship into Tom Clancy’s The Division: Compromised?
I have, via great effort and extensive meditation, managed to restrain myself so far. Have I wondered what happened to the astronauts on board the ISS? Maybe. Have I suggested, possibly, introducing some even more advanced technology to the setting? Perhaps. But no dragons, no spaceships…yet.
Now, like Recruited, The Division: Compromised is subtitled An Operation Crossroads Novel. In our Recruited interview, when I asked if there would be more Operation Crossroads Novels, you said, “We’ll have to wait and see what happens.” Does that mean we have to wait and see what happens when it comes to a third book?
I think this has probably been the most popular question from fans at this point: Is the story over? Where does it go from here? And I know it sounds like I’m being cagey, but nothing has been agreed upon. Nothing is set in stone. If there is one absolute truth of this business, it’s that nothing is done until it’s done, and I don’t want to get people hyped up over a maybe.
For me, personally, I think there is more to Maira’s story. I hope I get the chance to tell it.
Speaking of which, have you had any conversations with the Massive people about getting Maira in the game?
It’s been talked about. I can tell you for sure that the events of the novels impact the future storyline of the game. It’s been a very rewarding transmedia project in that way. But Maira herself is not yet scheduled to make the leap. It would absolutely make my day if she did, of course.
I was told that if she does, they will want my input to make sure her characterization stays accurate. Which is actually rather kind of them, I think. In absolute terms, they don’t owe me any involvement at all. It’s very courteous.
Also, how often have you had to say to someone, “No, it’s Maira, not Maria. Yes, that’s a real name.”?
Five times. I’ve kept track. Which is less than I expected, if I’m honest.
Going back to our Recruited interview once again, in it, you said your objective was that someone could enjoy and understand that novel even if they were unfamiliar with the games. And I assume you’d say the same about Compromised. But do you think someone will be able to enjoy and understand Compromised if they haven’t read Recruited?
The request starting this series was that each installment should not require someone to have A) played the game, or B) read the other books to enjoy it. I’ve done my absolute best to that end. I think engaging with other entries in the setting — the game, the other books both in series and out, the comics — will enrich the experience. I think you’ll get more out of it. But I’ve had several reviews now saying Compromised is perfectly enjoyable as a starting point, so hopefully I’ve succeeded at threading the needle.
So, is there anything else you think people need to know about Tom Clancy’s The Division: Compromised?
I would like folks to give the book a chance even if they’re not already a Division fan. I think what we’re doing here, exploring a relatively grounded post-catastrophe world, would be interesting to people who might stop listening when they hear “video game tie-in.” There’s no zombies or monsters or ghosts here. The wrongs are human ones, and the only chance to make things right is human, too.
And if you do read, thank you.
Finally, if someone enjoys Tom Clancy’s The Division: Compromised, what dragon and spaceship novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read? And I do mean dragon and spaceship. Not dragon or spaceship, or giant lizard and spaceship, or dragon and cruise ship…
…you know, I literally can’t think of more than one book that actually meets those criteria: Dragonsdawn, by Anne McCaffrey. There absolutely must be others, but I don’t know of them. Lots of space fantasy, but literal dragons next to literal spaceships…maybe it’s an opening. An opportunity, if you will. I’ll have to think about this.