Brandon Webb & John Mann
Reality and Fiction Meet

Becoming fearless about reinventing yourself is a powerful tool in life.

Brandon Webb & John Mann
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Show Notes

Accomplished leader and retired Navy SEAL Brandon Webb(@BrandonWebb) is a New York Times best-selling author and entrepreneur. He has teamed up with John Mann(@JohnMann), another successful businessman, creative titan, and New York Times Best Selling author. Together, they have created a murder mystery thriller series that tells the story of a Navy SEAL with memory loss and a yearning for truth. 

“Often times, as we learn, the story in our head is much worse than the actual activity.”

– Brandon Webb

Key Takeaways:

  • Mental Management: Training and focusing the mind is a daily practice that empowers the individual to concentrate in times of chaos, be aware of the intention behind actions, and stay in a positive and empowered mindset. The tools of mental management are visualization, positive self-talk, and reframing memory.
  • Mentorship: Strong mentors can make all the difference when you stand at a crossroads, start your career, or make significant life changes. Mentors come in different ways. Also, if you have skills and time and want to be of service, becoming a mentor to someone is an excellent way of being sheepdog strong.
  • Positive Partnerships: Fostering relationships for work or personal matters creates a more prosperous and happy life. Learning to collaborate with others means seeing what you are good at and what they are good at and then trusting one another to execute efficiently and effectively to get the job done. 
  • Education: Children are naturally curious and want to learn. Our school systems in the United States need a curriculum that includes critical thinking, exploration, and actual learning. Teaching our children to question and think freely is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. 

Sponsors and Promotions:

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Links for John Mann & Brandon Webb:

Website for Mann and Webb

Instagram for Mann

Instagram for Webb

Welcome to the Mark Divine Show. I’m your host Mark Divine. Thanks so much for joining me today, super excited that you’re here. On this show, I explore what it means to be fearless through the lens of some of the most inspirational, resilient and creative leaders. I love speaking to philosophers and psychedelic researchers and top CEOs and entrepreneurs and Navy SEALs turned author. Like my guest today, Brandon Webb and his co author John David Mann. Brandon is a combat decorated Navy SEAL, former head instructor for the SEAL sniper school. And John David Mann is a co author of more than 30 books, nine New York Times, and national bestsellers. So Webb and Mann have been writing together for over a decade since their first book called Red Circle. And now they’re working on book three of their chief Finn series called, Blind Fear, which is just released. Super stoked to have you here, Brandon Webb and John David Mann.

Mark Divine 0:55  

I’d love to kind of get a brief like bio background. You know, I know folks who’ve read your books have that access. But you know, most of my show may not, you know, have familiarity. So we’ll start with you, Brandon. And, you know, I knew you’re back in the teams or actually, I don’t think we met until after but I know a little bit about your background, you give us a brief bio and kind of like what inspired you get into teams kind of like a summary of the Red Circle, your book.

Brandon Webb 1:19

So I think like many many guys that migrate to the teams, we all come from these crazy backgrounds and life stories and and I think the one thing that would be common among all of us. We are no strangers to adversity. My mom is American. My dad’s Canadian. We were living I was born up in the Rocky Mountains Canada, my dad had lost a business and had this dream with my mother and always sail around the world. So they kind of the catalyst for that was okay, My dad declared bankruptcy really took it hard and they they end up buying this 50 foot ketch in Vancouver. We sailed it down to California and saved some money. And I lived on the boat for five years, no television, just books, and played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. 

Mark Divine 2:05

Did you spend a lot of time off the boat like you know, I imagine you’re in and out. 

Brandon Webb 2:09


Mark Divine 2:09

And exploring places. 

Brandon Webb 2:11

My front yard was the Pacific Ocean. So I learned to surf at 11, in uh, South jetty and Ventura is like a really heavy heavy beach break and wedge peak off the jetty became a water man my my mom said hey, the scuba diving boat, called the dive boat peace wants a young kid and work summers and help fill scuba tanks and help divers offered their gear and the owner said that him or the captain will certify to scuba dive. So I I was working on this really crappy job at the boat store, cleaning toilets and mopping up because my dad is like you need to get a job. So… 

Mark Divine 2:44

Everybody should clean toilets at some point in their life by the way.

Brandon Webb 2:50  

I know right,  It’s a character building. 

Mark Divine 2:50


Brandon Webb 2:51

So I get this job and it was a dream job. And I learned how to scuba dive. In this boat, it was a private boat. We had a hot tub, private chef, we would take scuba divers out to Channel Islands and dive these incredible spots all over the different islands off the coast of California. But I remember being 13 is my first season on the boat and the Captain Mike wakes me up at 2am, We’re off Tyler Bight what’s the northernmost island San Miguel Island. There’s a sea lion rookery and what eats sea lions is great white sharks like very Sharky water, and Mike, Captain Mike wakes me up at two in the morning and he says, Hey Webb, get your suit on you got to the anchor stuck, we needed to go down and get it unstuck. And I done that in the daylight because it’s faster to send the diver down. The weather picked up we had to move the boat to calmer water. So anyway, I’m all this stuff’s going through my head like, Hey, man, it’s sharks down there. It’s nighttime. I was like, this is kind of crazy. And I just was like, scared shitless. And it was one of those moments where I’m like, I guess I just gotta suck it up. And then you know, I went and did the dive. And as often times as we learn the story in our head is much worse than the actual physical activity. So I did it. And that job was a dream job for me. I learned so much. I had great mentors, because a lot of my friends in that kind of harbor surfer skateboard scene, including my best friend just fell off of the planet just when it got into drugs and and all sorts of bad stuff. So the dive boat really saved me. Fast forward. We we done a cruise to Mexico. I was homeschooled for a year. On our sailboat. We came back I got this job on the dive boat. Now my dad a few years later, he’s like, Hey, I don’t want to be the guy talking about sailing to New Zealand that never does. So he’s like we’re gonna do it. And I was 15 at the time. By this time I was making really good money on the boat. I was trading my lobster to local sushi restaurant for food credit. I had a really good life. And I didn’t want to go on this trip. The last thing I wanted to do, I wanted to get my driver’s license and do whatever what other 16 year old boys do chase girls and hang out with their good buddies, but I went, we made it we sailed all down to Baja, Mexico mainland all the way down to Acapulco and Acapulco is a it’s kind of a hopping off point to the South Pacific because the trade winds and it’s kind of a single reach on the sailboat and so without going into details, I lost my virginity and Aculpoco when I was16…


Mark Divine 5:20

You don’t need to go into detail for that. 


Brandon Webb 5:22

Yeah, we sailed to Nuku Hiva. I think Heba Oha, I think Heba Oha, and then Nuku Hiva, but we made landfall in the South Pacific 30 Day passage. And my dad and I, we started really arguing over seamanship, because I had known from working on the boat that the bottom composition of the South Pacific very different than the sand and kind of muddy bottom of the off the coast of California and Mexico. So we need to change the anchor to the Bruce anchor, because the the CQR anchor, which is made for mud and sand, is going to drag. And he’s like, whatever. First night we drag anchor and of course, what do I do diplomatically do, as a 16 year old kid with a chip on my shoulder, I was like, I fucking told you so.

You know, and my dad and I were just like, butting heads. So this continued on till we made it to Papi Tahiti, we had a big fight. And we had a family meeting and my dad says, Look, you’re super independent. I know you didn’t want to be here. Maybe it’s best that you you get off the boat. And so we had this discussion, found a catamaran and family, a couple with a young baby that really needed help sailing to Hawaii. I grabbed the backpack and a few hundred dollars, I called, this is before cellphones, I had to get on the landline, called Bill my, my old boss and the owner of the boat. I said, Bill, can I come live on the boat and work? He’s like, Yeah, I said I finished my junior year early. He’s like, Yeah, come on back. No problem. So I sailed. My mom was crying, sister crying, my dad was not crying. 

Mark Divine 6:53

That’s pretty cool. 16 just literally get on a boat with his random family. Sail from from Tahiti to Hawaii. That’s awesome. 

Brandon Webb 7:01

Yeah, it was an adventure. We’re just like, it was so much faster than our ketch. I remember we average probably 12 knots in sailing that’s pretty fast. And so yeah, I made it to Hilo and look, I I’m not gonna lie. I think I cried myself to sleep the first three nights like really scared, like what the hell that I just do, but then you just kind of like pull up your socks and get on with it and made it to Hilo, flew back to California.

Mark Divine 7:26

I’m curious, you still stay in touch with that family Brandon?

Brandon Webb 7:29

I didn’t stay in touch. And I would love to get back in touch. I’m really shocked because the boats name is Shiloh and I talked about it in the Red Circle. Because usually, a lot of people reach out from your past. But I would love to see how they’re doing. But anyway, I came back started working on the boat. And weirdly I think what happened I had some good menotrs on the boat, and and I could see my friends who were kind of growing up to be teenagers really getting into hardcore drugs, Crystal Meth, and I was just like, I knew I need to get out of this environment. I’d always wanted to be a pilot but I read a book, Rogue Warrior, one of the guys on the scuba diving boat, gave me Rogue Warrior.

Mark Divine 8:07

That’s Richard Marcinko’s book, ieah?

Brandon Webb 8:09

Richard Marcinko’s book. And I realized that I don’t have the academics to go into the academy on the pilot path. But I can do this, I can go to BUDs, and so I just really started training and focusing on becoming a SEAL. And when I turned 18 I joined the Navy. As you know, back then you couldn’t get a direct pipeline into BUDS training. You had to take a job and most recruiters don’t really understand that, especially back then the path to SEAL training. I went to MAPs and I think Bakersfield. The job guys today you’ll with your diving experience should be a great rescue swimmer guaranteed will promote you to E4 right away after a school and you’ll be in shape to go to SEAL training. What I didn’t realize is that it was an undermanned job just like the SEALs.

Mark Divine 8:53

Hard to get out of once you’re in it. 

Brandon Webb 8:55

Yeah, yeah, it was really hard to get out of. Because I, I passed the PT test and bootcamp then they told me Look, you can’t you’re you’re in a undermanned job. You got to go to your squadron and then and then reapply. So anyway, I did that. It was maybe I needed it because it did mature me. But I had some really good leadership lessons. I had some really good bosses and some really bad bosses, which I think sometimes you learn more from the bad ones than you do the good. But yeah, I was at HS6 in San Diego. And I remember the first deployment on the Lincoln which actually is a good time here to John and I in the series that we’re writing together. This was right when they were integrating women on the Abraham Lincoln. It’s a massive aircraft carrier, I think almost 6000 people on the ship and 10% of the crew is now women and we had a really bad captain. He didn’t talk to the crew. He never came over the 1MC. The Lincoln, I think the worst accident in the fleet. We had a underway replenishment collision. We lost a plane in the water, and then we had a sexual predator on the boat. He molested I think six or seven women and they never caught him. And so the idea stuck with me years later that what if this was a serial killer and that that was the premise for John and I’s book one in Steel Fear

You know, as I was at HS6, I did two deployments. I eventually my second package got approved to BUDs. The squadron didn’t want to let me go. I was to qualifyed the first time, and I just made myself such a pain in the ass the second time, they’re  like, okay, get out of here. And I had a really bad chief. And actually him and I went head to head and he’s finally like, Okay, I need to get you out of here. 

So I classed up at 215. Yeah, I think 226 of us started and 23 of us finished six-ish months later. Went to SEAL Team 3.

Mark Divine 10:34

My alma mater, Hooyah. 

Brandon Webb 10:35

I love SEAL Team 3. And it’s funny because so many characters came out of that command. Right, Chris Kyle included. We’ve got a really interesting alma mater. But I was fortunate enough. I had an amazing SEAL platoon. I had Dan Goulart and Tommy Barker as my kind of Chief LPL mentors, and had an amazing first platoon like, I feel like these guys really took the new guys under their wing. We deployed to Middle East. That’s what the Cole happened. We were we were on the Cole, right after it was bombed in Yemen, kind of a wake up call then came back from that deployment. 

And you know, I had a young family, I had a wife that was eight months pregnant. These reenlistment bonuses, if you could get them tax free. You could save I think $10,000 and the ops officer Kevin at the time said, Look, I’ll re enlist you tax free but you got to join this platoon echo platoon and I was just like, oh, I don’t want to go to echo, because every that was the platoon at the command that everybody knew that was fucked up. 


Mark Divine 11:32

That was the the misfit boy platoon. 


Brandon Webb 11:35

Yeah, they disbanded it as sometimes they do, right? It was just too they failed, I think they failed their ORE exam, which is operational readiness exam. And so Kevin’s like we’re rebuilding, we need some experience. So I, I did it. And like the first month we’re in doing training, and I’m looking at these guys that didn’t even know how to fast rope. And I’m like, What did I get myself into? And then 911 happened. And I deployed to war with these guys. But we had to be fair, we had an amazing chief,Chris Di and we had an incredible platoon commander, which Chris Cassidy I’m sure you know. 


Mark Divine 12:09

Oh yeah. Chris is amazing. He went on to be an astronaut. Yeah.


Brandon Webb 12:12

Yeah, Chris, I think he’s running the astronaut program at NASA now. But Chris was an amazing leader. And I deployed to Afghanistan. My son was born while I was gone, Hunter, the you know, I think about Afghanistan a lot, in the sense, like, how come I don’t have a lot of the issues that I know a lot of other teammates have? And I think, and veterans for that matter, but I think it’s because when I first went to Afghanistan, we had a purpose, like, you know, you read Victor Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning its purpose is big. It’s a big part of, you know, resiliency and a lifetime of resiliency is having some purpose. The purpose was destroy a terror training camps, put the Taliban out of power and try and kill Osama Bin Laden. And we did the first two things very quickly, and probably should’ve left Afghanistan, because it turned into kind of a mess. But I had a good deployment, you know, I got to put my skills to use, I was proud of my deployment, you want to get in that arena and test yourself. We ended up having a really good platoon. And deployment, did a lot of good work, came back and was a sniper instructor for  traydet.t,  I was in a sniper cell. And then a guy Bob, and another Masterchief from SEAL Team 6, had joined up to re, revamp the sniper program and recruited me to be part of the core cadre and then I went down there and gave up my my cushy BUDs orders to be a sniper instructor. Bob’s like, hey, I’m out of here. So I’m gonna, I’m gonna make sure you make chief because I just got Capti Six, I was the number one promoted a traydet. And then he’s like, I’m gonna set you up to make chief. And he put me in charge as a sniper course manager, which is an E8, Senior Chief billet, and I was an E6 like a newly Captain E6. And so it’s a lot of responsibility, but very rewarding work. By the end of that three years, I was completely burned out, we had transitioned the course from a mix of, you know, San Diego and Camp Pendleton to this army base in Indiana. And I was just traveling so much. And, you know, I was just kept missing these events with my kids. And I just hit burnout. And at that point, I was like, You know what, I just need a break. Even if I just get out for a year, I can always come back. And, you know, I started thinking about what am I going to do next? And, you know, I got involved with Glenn and some of what he was doing for a little bit, but then, you know, I have this crazy idea to do Win Zero, and so…


Mark Divine 14:34

That’s right, which, which I invested in. 


Brandon Webb 14:36



Mark Divine 14:37

Win Zero just for the listeners, there was a bit you had an idea to build a big, dynamic Military Law Enforcement Training Center in the desert off of San Diego, and you had this beautiful piece of property. And…


Brandon Webb 14:47



Mark Divine 14:48

And, it would have been great, if it w’re not for the government.


Brandon Webb 14:50



Mark Divine 14:51

Of California. 


Brandon Webb 14:51

Yeah, no, it was it’s sad, you know, and it’s humbling. I mean, you know this is an entrepreneur Mark. It’s tough when you, you know you put your life savings and take out other people’s money, and it just all goes to hell. And then my wife was like, Look, I love you, but I don’t want to be married to you anymore. And we now I’m divorced, you know. 


Mark Divine 15:10

You went from hero to zero, right? 


Brandon Webb 15:13



Mark Divine 15:13

You went from Navy SEAL running the sniper program now..


Brandon Webb 15:!6

Right to the bottom.


Mark Divine 15:16

Right to the bottom, wow, that would drive a lot of people to drink right there. 


Brandon Webb 15:21

Yeah. And I actually the again, this was one of the moments I can remember sitting in my Toyota truck on the cliffs of La Jolla. thinking just that I’m like, I was on top of the world, now I’ve lost everything, you know, suck my life. The time while I spent with the cadre of the sniper program, we got to work with these incredible consultants and one of them was Lanny Basham. I’m sure you’re familiar with Lanny’s work, he was kind of one of the pioneers of mental management in the Olympics. And Lanny became a mentor on a really close friend of mine. And it really was instrumental in teaching me this principles of mental management, which I taught to the sniper students and saw firsthand how powerful visualization, positive self talk, positive instruction versus negative instruction could be. 

So I said, Okay, I gotta reframe this, I gotta go, Okay, life sucks right now. But at least I have a good relationship with my my x, we care about the kids, a good relationship with their family, I’ve learned a ton, you know, from a guy that couldn’t even read a P&L balance sheet. Now I understand how how to read financial statements, I understand how to borrow money through the SBA. I’ll be okay.

And so I just kind of had to reframe it. And then I ended up taking a job for L3, and a headhunter recruited me. So for two years, I kind of built back my savings and was right and I started to get into writing. And that’s when I had this idea for the Red Circle. And I was running a blog for military.com and had the concept for Soft Rep 


Mark Divine 16:49

SOFTRep. For those who don’t understand it’s a military acronym for Special Operations Forces Report, right, the soft report that would come back from the field to HQ. There are different, you know, summaries of what happened during the day. Good, bad and ugly. 


Brandon Webb 17:03



Mark Divine 17:03

That was the idea behind that. 


Brandon Webb 17:05

Exactly. And it started out as a culture blog, just interviewing guys that had been to war. And then we started to break news. And then I really, you know, for a couple years, to be honest, I really struggled with how do I do this? I’ve never been trained or to run a newsroom. Now guys in the community are bringing their dirty laundry to me and I really struggled. I thankfully, I knew a guy Jeff was the editor in chief of the Union Tribune. You know, I had some other guys to reach out even you I talked to you about a few things.


Mark Divine 17:32

I tried to do something similar with Navy SEALs.com. And it’s difficult to do the newsy stuff, and I got in trouble actually from the SEALs.


Brandon Webb 17:38

Oh, yeah, it’s super hard, right. You didn’t, now you can’t do anything right. So I had to learn how to run SOFTRep as a news site, which, you know, I feel like we’re in a pretty good place today. I still run that business. So fast forward. I, you know, I ended up moving to New York, in Puerto Rico. I started an E commerce business, which kind of took off but grew too fast. Like it grew it to zero to almost 15,000,000 in 20 months on Facebook ads. But it started to come off the rails because as you know like, managing inventory and supply chain totally different from running a media company. 


Mark Divine 18:11

Was that the Creight Club? 


Brandon Webb 18:11



MArk Divine 18:12



Brandon Webb 18:12

So, sold that. It was a humbling experience. I actually went back to business school I went to, I applied for this program at Harvard Business School for entrepreneurs. Kind of like a two year entrepreneur program. I finished that a year ago, just because I’m like, Okay, what did I do wrong? How could I do this differently? Yeah, so today, I’m very proud. My kids are, are doing extremely well. I live between Portugal and  New York. I write with John, I write on my own. I run SOFTRep, and I’m helping my son started, he’s 21. He started a property tech AI property tech company that’s doing really, really well.


Mark Divine 18:48



Brandon Webb 18:49

He’s got one year left in school. He’s, he’s at St. Andrews in Scotland. 


Mark Divine 18:52

Oh my goodness. How cool is that? 


Brandon Webb 18:54

We’re really proud of him. My daughter is at art school in London for product design. My youngest is, he’s a junior. They’re all doing great. And I really am grateful that I have a I have an ex wife that we put the kids first. 


Mark Divone 19:07

Yeah, no t that’s an amazing story, thank you for sharing that. So John, you know, what’s your story? Like, how did, how did you get into writing like, where you’re from Massachusett?


John Mann 19:17

You know, the Red Circle was the first project we did together. We started back in 2009. And when he had first had the idea for SOFTRep, we were working together back then. And we went through his whole life on phone interviews for hours and hours and hours and hours. And that became the Red Circle, which looking like a 400 page book, could be a good doorstop. It’s a good book. And that kind of launched our partnership as co-writers and we’ve been doing it ever since. I think we got eight books now Brandon? I had written and published a ton of books before that. I published over 30 books, but nothing remotely like Brandon’s life. I have no no experience writing about the military or writing about the military life.


Mark Divine 19:54

What got you into writing to begin with? I mean, what was the impetus for that? 


John Mann 19:58

One of the things I think Brandon and I click on is we’re both fearless about reinventing ourselves as you just heard him talking about, obviously, sitting in his car in La Jolla saying, oh my god, what have I done? I’ve been reinventing myself my whole life. I started out as a kid in a musical family. My dad was a choral conductor of musicologist, musical family. I played the Cello. I was a composer. I won awards as a kid. I wasn’t a prodigy by any stretch. But I was really curious, really active, really passionate about what I did. When I was a sophomore in high school, I dropped out of school and a bunch of friends and I started our own high school, because we weren’t happy with our schools. So I started my own high school.


Mark Divine 20:37

You started your own highschool! Honestly, I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard those words come out of anyone’s mouth.


John Mann 20:45

I went to it as a senior. So I went to my school in the first graduating class, we did graduate. It was it was in the freeschool days back in the 70s, in Somerville and all about the old freeschool movements happening, but a lot of the kids in free schools were going to school to drop out and do nothing, we wanted to drop in, we wanted to do everything. We wanted to have a school that would support us in learning, like about whatever we wanted to learn. The first semester, we had 50 Kids and 55 classes. We were studying everything from nutrition to computer science to, you know, existential literature to you name it. 


Mark Divine 21:18

I imagine some adults were involved in this process. And some like, how did this I’m curious, I want to double click a little bit on that. 


John Mann 21:24

Oh yeah, it was not Lord of the Flies. 


Mark Divine 21:26

No, okay. That’s what I was imagining. 


John Mann 21:29

It was a Lord of the Flies kind of kid leaves his book, we’ll get back to that. But one of the first things we did was decided that we were kids, we were high school kids. We knew what we wanted. But we also knew that we needed a adult on board. So we started interviewing for Director, and we had a committee and interview committee, and we interviewed about a half dozen extraordinarily qualified, amazing people. Don’t ask me how we did that. We just decided that we could. And we ended up hiring a guy who had who was a novelist, he had a history and education, he was a stellar guy, amazing guy. And he joined us.


Mark Divine 22:01

Where did the money come from?


John Mann 22:03

At no salary. 


Mark Divine 22:03

Oh, no salary.


John Mann 22:04

He stayed at one of our one of our houses. Parents have one of our kids was at a nice house with a guest room. He stayed there. For the second half of that year, he spent like six months fundraising and planning. I was the only one among us who dropped out. So it was like he and I were the team that got the school off the ground. I go over to his house every day and we were jam and brainstorming, he would fundraise. I would get there in the morning for breakfast at like nine o’clock. And he already had a shopping bag full of typed Sealed stamped letters that he typed and created, you know, since he’d been up that morning, just writing to people to the fundraising. So I mean, without him, it would never have happened, without me it never would have happened. We built this thing. The first semester, the first year. That year we sent kids off to Yale to heart my girlfriend went to Yale from our school. Yeah, we had kids graduate and go you know it all whilst kinds of schools across the map state schools and you name it.


Mark Divine 23:00

Is this school still alive? 


John Mann 23:01

No, it ran for a decade. I went back the year after graduating and taught there for a year. Then I went on to other things, and it ran for a good 10 years. And it finally I don’t I wasn’t around when it quit. So but it was it was a great run, while it lasted. And then from there, I bounced to a lot of careers, I got involved in nutrition, I got involved in teaching, I got involved, I was a taxi driver for a while I was I taught in a ghetto. But I always seem to be the guy who was editing the newsletter or writing the column for the paper, whatever. It was almost like the writing guy. So I spent about a decade editing as an editor for some business journals and leadership journals and things like that. And I ended up ghost writing and co-writing and co-authoring and then eventually, you know, teaming up people like Brandon to write books. It was Brandon, though, that got me to into fiction. Because all my stuff, all my books were about business and leadership and personal development and memoirs for people, memoirs for political people and corporate people. 


Mark Divine 23:59

I mean, it seems like most of your work has been co author or editor. Have you written your own without another author involved? 


John Mann 24:07

Yeah, I have. The great majority has been your right has been authorships teaming up partnerships. But I’ve done some writing myself, and I’m working on a book, a novel now myself, and I really enjoy it. But I also really enjoy working with somebody else. It’s a little bit like being a film actor, and stepping into somebody else’s skin. Although in the case of a book, like our thrillers that we’ll talk about, I’m not writing somebody else’s story like a ghostwriter. We’re collaborating on fiction. So it’s like we just throw both of ourselves in there so that’s a real collaboration in the truest sense. But yeah, I do love writing solo. I love writing with I love love it all. 


Mark Divine 24:42

So with Blind Fear, what’s the process I imagined Brandon your the, you bring all the military creative juice. How do you guys pull this off? 


John Mann 24:50

Well, I should start by saying the first book I mean, Brandon alluded to this, but first book was Steel Fear…


Mark Divine 24:55

Steel Fear


John Mann 24:56

Which was an idea that Brandon brought to me back in 2009, when we were just starting to work on The Red Circle, he said, would you ever be interested in writing a novel with me? And that was Steel Fear, from the Abraham Lincoln, the sexual predator, or what have you as a serial killer? That became the premise for our first novel. So, Mark, the idea of writing a novel to me seemed like the idea of going through BUDs. I mean like, it seemed like climbing a mountain.


Mark Divine 25:20

I know, it does sound I mean, it’s such a different writing style, right? I mean, you got to have the arc of the story and all the character development. 


John Mann 25:26

Yeah. And it’s a big mother. I mean, you 400 page novel, how do you keep track of all the plot lines, and I couldn’t comprehend it, but it but he got me out on the end of the diving board. And we did that. And we were nominated for a Berry Award. We got a lot of accolades, Lee Child wrote our cover quote, The novel really caught on, it did really well and people loved it. 


Mark Divine 25:45

How did you educate yourself on how to write a novel versus narrative?


John Mann 25:49

As a high school dropout, although I did graduate from my own high school, I, I have extensive education, I had studied with the screenwriter in Hollywood, a really amazing guide and broke down the whole writing process. And I learned a ton from him. But that’s screenplays. I have another friend who’s a mystery writer out of UK, I studied a bunch of his stuff. And I read like a demon. I read it just a ton of thrillers. And I’ve always had a talent for breaking down processes and figuring out how they work and replicating them. I don’t have formal training, but I just did that. The manuscript for Steel Fear, I sent to a story consultant, I paid her 1200 bucks to rip me a new one, and she did, awesome. And when we sold the manuscript for Steel Fear to Banton, they wanted a two book deal right off the bat. So we were committed to Cold Fear book two, from the work before Steel Fear ever came out. Steel Fear was set on an aircraft carrier, and you know this environment, but most human beings don’t have a clue. It’s like an alien, foreign strange, you know, what a wild environment it is. The steel, two of the size of the Empire State Building, you know, with almost 6000 souls on board for six months at sea. It’s like, it’s a whole city, the whole country in there. So that kind of set the model for us. We figured every book we did, we would find some really fascinating environment and make it come to life for the reader. Cold Fear was in Iceland. And Blind Fear is in Puerto Rico in the middle of a hurricane. 


Mark Divine 27:19

Oh, nice. Leveraging your knowledge of Puerto Rico.


Brandon Webb 27:22

We optioned it for one of the streamers Whip Studios. So hopefully when that strike end we’ll get a…


John Mann 27:27

It ended.


Brandon Webb 27:28

Well, the writer now the actor strike has to end.


John Mann  27:31  

But writer is the important part for us, because we gotta get that thing written. 


Mark Divine 27:34

You optioned Blind Fear, or the whole series? 


Brandon Webb 27:36

The whole, yeah, they wanted it all. 


Mark Divine 27:38

Oh, that’s great.


Brandon Webb 27:39

So our main character, Finnand similar to like a Jason Bourne kind of, kind of deeply flawed, and making his way in the world. 


Mark Divine 27:46

He’s a SEAL chief in the series. Right, like you were? 


Brandon Webb 27:48



Mark Divine 27:48

Is he based on you, Brandon? Or Is he someone else?


Brandon Webb 27:51

No, definitely a mix. I think. Maybe a little a little bit me in there. But one of the things that John I felt that was important to do is break down a lot of the stereotypes, because he’s a scrawny guy. 


Mark Divine 28:01

Well, we, you know, it’s funny, we see that people always look at me and say, Yeah, you look like a SEAL. And I was like, you don’t have any idea what you just said.


Brandon Webb 28:07

People are looking at me as like, I don’t get it, you’re a SEAL. Yeah, and for the record, I think Mark’s name was nickname was Terminator, in the SEAL teams.


Mark Divine 28:17

Cyborg cyborg.


Brandon Webb 28:18

I get it. So we wanted to deal with a lot of that kind of stereotypical stuff. And also, like, expose the military for the kind of beautiful, wonderful place it is as far as inclusion and meritocracy. So our characters are super diverse, like strong women in leadership roles. And yeah, I think we did a really good job. But it’s a mix, for sure. John would say and, you know, I started fumbling my way through the manuscript. And then I got John, somehow to agree to help me out. And then, you know, I didn’t have Finn, John created Finn, their last name. So I give him credit for that. 


Mark Divine 28:54

So how is the process evolved? So that first one, you tried to write it and you said, Holy shit, this is hard work. So you’re brunch on in, and I’m sure John probably did a lot of the heavy lifting.


Unknown Speaker  29:05  

Here, here take this.


Mark Divine 29:05

Here, take this.


John Mann 29:06

So the process is actually really kind of fascinating, because we start out by just brainstorming back and forth mostly on email, but we get on the phone sometimes brainstorm about kind of the big ideas of the story. There’s typically a plot twist somewhere near the end, which, you know, comes first. A lot of these big ideas come from Brandon’s experience in the military, and also in SOFTRep, because you know, some of the stuff and stuff he’s covered as a journalist. We have to some sort of setup story set up, obviously, location, and then we kind of kicked me off and running. You know, you’re right. As you said before, Brandon supplies the military background. The moment I bumped into something where I don’t I don’t know how this works. You know, I’m over to Brandon. And not all military, like, for example, in Blind Fear. Finn, his character who’s the SEAL chie,f water is kind of a superpower. 


Mark Divine 29:51

Working in and around the water under it. 


John Mann 29:53

Yeah, he’s in his element. He loves being in the water and it nourishes and feeds his character. And we figured in Blind Fear, in book three, we’re going to really finally get him in the water, although not under the water that’s still in our future. But there are a couple of scenes where he takes a little fishing boat out on the sound between Vieques and Puerto Rico, in increasingly bad weather, and ultimately, in a hurricane. It’s crazy. And I have no idea what that experience would be like. But Brandon does. 


Mark Divine 30:19

Yeah, I was gonna say it’s, I’m glad you told your story, Brandon, because that sounds a lot like, that sounds a lot like you, at 18 or something.


Brandon Webb 30:26



John Mann 30:26

You know, I feel like a painter. Well, I got a canvas here, this blank and I got this palette, all these colors. And the palette is Brandon’s life. I just like, I think we’ll use a little bit of this and a bit of that, because I know his life so well, or at least a lot of it so well, after all these years of writing together, that I can kind of say, oh, I remember when Brandon did this or this happen, and I’ll connect with him. And he’ll give me more details. He’ll spell it out. I’ll write a draft and kick it over my way. 


Mark Divine 30:50

That’s cool. So you know, the two of you together have kind of developed a brand. Right? And so I noticed you even have a website that is the two of your names.


John Mann &Brandon Webb 30:59

Right. Yeah. 


John Mann 31:00

Webb& Mann


Mark Divine 31:00

Webb& Mann, that’s really interesting. So when you sell a book, that’s the you know, that’s what selling the books, you know, the oomph of the first three like, I can see this, yeah, I mean, what’s your plans? Do you have any vision for what’s next? I mean, how far can this go?


John Mann 31:14 

The TV thing is the real, is the real, um,  wildcard for us, I think.


Brandon Webb 31:17

It’s gonna help like, it’s gonna really help us.


Mark Divine 31:20

Kind of like Jack Carr’s Terminal List, really put him on the map.


Brandon Webb 31:33

Ya , no, and, I mean, he’s done a great job. And I love Terminal List for many reasons. That’s kind of like we’re in that same boat. And what I learned was a lot of your nonfiction fans don’t read fiction and they don’t care. John and I didn’t bring a lot of fans over to the fiction, as much as I thought would make a difference. But and then as a kind of the business of fiction, you have to get a few books out there you have to build fan base. I think each mass market paperback release gets us a bigger fan base because it’s a barrier to entry people can pick it up a Walmart so I think once Blind Fear hits mass market paperback I think what next next year right John? Next spring? 


John Mann 32:02

Yeah, it’s amazing. Every time mass market paperback comes out the sales numbers to date literally double in a week or two. 


Mark Divine 32:11



John Mann 32:11

You know, it’s like Brandon says, it’s a low point of entry. Walmart and so on.


Mark Divine 32:14



John Mann 32:15

And, um, so yeah, and then…


Brandon Webb 32:!5

We get the series on, you know, in production and on air. And and I think John and I could we have a, like a Bourne type series we could write indefinitely. Similar to what’s happening now, like the Clancy series is ongoing. The Bourne series is ongoing. So I think we have something I think we have a really good character, the fans that we do have are really invested. So I’m excited about it. And John and I wrote a book called The Killing School, which is about my, my time as the sniper course manager. And through my business school experience, one of my classmates owns a video game company and got acquired by a conglomerate. And she’s like, hey, I want to make the sniper video game. And so we’re a year into that project right now. And that’s for Xbox PlayStation. So as these things kind of pop, but I think it will elevate John and I profile a little bit more and publishing also, it’s it’s a weird environment today, I have a friend, SENIOR EDITOR, and he’s like, we’re buying books that we know aren’t gonna sell just to check the kind of cultural box which, which I get some of that stuff needs to happen. But how it is. It’s kind of crazy. It’s, I wrote an article about it on my blog a few weeks ago, just it’s a strange place to be kind of single white male right now. You know, we’re making our way in the world. 


Mark Divine 33:30

Yeah, I know, self publishing, obviously, has made everyone an author. So it’s really hard to stand above the fray. I’m curious, like, I know, Brandon, you’re kind of like me, you’ve got your business, you got multiple sources of income, so you’re probably not relying on your royalties to live off of, you know, how’s that work for you, uh John? I mean, you got, you got a lot of books out there. I mean, like, what is it? For someone who’s like thinking, hey, I want to be a full time author. How hard is that? 


John Mann 33:56

A full time author as it supports your life? 


Mark Divine 33:59


John Mann 33:59

That’s like murderously difficult. Yeah, like the odds are low, very difficult.


Mark Divine 34:02

That’s what I thought


John Mann  34:04  

But um, I’ve written a lot of books, and some of them were commercially not hugely successful, but some had been very successful. And so that kind of carries the weight which is great. There are a lot of people who ask that question, I put together, I got a one year teaching program now where I’m coaching in teaching aspiring writers how to become an author because there’s so much advice out there and a lot of it is not necessarily bad but it’s not really very practical you know, in some of it’s downright bad just totally sucks. Part of what I’m up to right now is is is mentoring new authors because there’s a lot of people don’t have a great story to tell but you’re right self publishing is everybody an author but unfortunately it hasn’t made everybody a good or successful author.


Mark Divine 34:46

No, the bar is actually so low, there’s a lot of crap. You guys are doing great work I really really love it is anything else you know that we didn’t cover you love to share? I want to also learn where we you know where you want people to find more info. 


John Mann 34:57

I just want to say people should read the books. They’re really fun.


Mark Divine 35:00

Of course. Yeah.


John Mann 35:01

We haven’t said much about the books themselves. But I want to say that you  know, the character Finn is central to the whole deal. And each one of the books is a self contained mystery and adventure. And yeah, you can read, you know, self contained that way. But also Finn, the character is evolving a ton. Because he starts out with gigantic holes in his memory. He has no last name because is it because he doesn’t know his last name or because he doesn’t remember it. Or he’s got a lot of holes in his makeup that he’s starting to fill in piece by piece. So by the end of book three he is a different person than by the beginning of the book one, and he’s still got a long way to go. But it’s a hell of an adventure. 


Mark Divine 35:33

Yeah, I can’t wait to see the Netflix. 


Brandon Webb 35:36

Yeah, you and me both, brother.


Mark Divine 35:37

You’ll need to keep me posted on that Brandon, I’ll promote it too.


John Mann 35:39

Well WebbandMann.com, for sure. You can find everything we’ve done. Done there. And then all of our, like, all of our personal socials on there as well. Right John?


John Mann 35:47

Yep. All there. 


Mark Divine 35:48

So that’s WebbandMann.com?


Branson Webb 35:52



Mark Divine 35:53

So two B’s and two N’s. 


Brandon Webb 35:53

That’s it. 


Mark Divine 35:54

I love this type of writing. If I had more time, I’d, I would alternate between, you know, a thriller and, and something you know, more along the lines of like, what I’m trying to learn. But um, that’s great stuff. And congratulations. So look forward to many more. All right, thanks again for your time, guys, today. I really appreciate it. And now let’s stay in touch, Hooyah!


Brandon Webb 36:12

Thank you good to catch up, Mark, take care.


Mark Divine 36:17  

Well, that was a fascinating discussion with Brandon and John, really cool to hear about how they write and the inspiration for and all the trials and tribulations that go with writing. And just to get the background and on Brandon, what a fascinating life he had, and, and John as well. So thank you very much, guys for your time. Really, really great to speak with you and to share your ideas with our audience. The episode is up at Mark Divine.com. Our show notes are up in Mark Divine.com. The video will be on our YouTube channel, you can reach out to me on Twitter, or X @ Mark Divine and on Instagram or Facebook @ Real Mark Divine or my LinkedIn profile. Check it out. 

And please share the show. Also, if you’re not on my newsletter distribution, this check out Mark Divine.com to subscribe for Divine Inspiration which comes out every Tuesday, where I have my blog, what I’m writing about I book I’m reading, I’ve got the shownotes for the week’s podcast. I’ve got a weekly practice for you, and other tidbits that come across my desk and I think you’d find interesting, so check it out, go to Mark Divine.com. Subscribe and also share that with your friends. 

Thanks to my great team of Catherine Divine, Geoff Haskell and Jason Sanderson who helped produce the podcast and find incredible guests like these to come to you every week. And to produce newsletter ratings and reviews are very helpful. So if you haven’t done so, please consider taking the time to rate and review the Mark Divine Show, wherever you listen, it really helps it stay at the top of the rankings and continue our journey together. 

And finally, as usual, thanks so much for being part of the change you want to see in the world. It all starts with ourselves, developing the courageous positive mindset, and then sharing that forward with our family and teams. So that’s the most important work. Don’t worry about all the crazy shit that’s going on in the world. That’s always going to be there, but you don’t need it to let it affect you. So be the change you want to see in the world. But let’s do that at scale. Till next time is your host Mark Divine,Hooyah!


Transcribed by Catherine and https://otter.ai



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