Welcome to The Writer's Life, J.R. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
J.R.: I am currently on a medical leave from active flying and busily pursuing my career as a professional writer. My wife and I divide our year between
Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?
J.R.: My book, The Target, is set in
In the nineteen-eighties, Carlo Clemenza was known as “the most hated man” in the airline business, as described by some pundits. A dedicated corporate raider and union buster, Clemenza used ruthless tactics to crush competing airlines and to bring airline workers to heel. His methods have earned him death threats, yet he struts with arrogance, surrounded by his cadre of security toughs. Thousands of airline professionals are forced to start their careers over or to find them at a sudden and complete end. The airline grapevine echoes the cry, “Why doesn’t someone kill that SOB?”
Only one pilot, angered by the deaths of his friends in a bloody crash, takes up the chase and he makes Carlo Clemenza The Target! His quest takes him to the far corners of the country as he finds himself also to be the object of pursuit and murder. The characters merge in spectacular action and settings and the story ultimately ends in redemption.
The inspiration for writing “The Target” came from my personal experience as an Army Aviator in
What kind of research was involved in writing The Target; Love, Death and Airline Deregulation?
J.R.: Most of the story line of The Target came from my own life experience and from the stories of other airline pilots who dealt with corporate raiders and endured the hardship and heartbreak of bankruptcy, career loss and starting all over from the bottom. Several contemporary books, mostly from the economic perspective, were published and some were based on the more notorious raiders. I did research several of these to develop the plot. To understand the view points of many airline employees and to see a rogue’s gallery, visit the YouTube page, Worst Airline CEO’s.
Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?
J.R.: It was a “piece of cake,” really! Well actually, The Target took nearly twenty years to complete, mainly due to the fact that I didn’t know how it would turn out. I developed the concept and wrote the first three or four chapters in a “fury” in the few weeks before my return to professional aviation. When I completed those chapters, I sent out about thirty query letters to the major publishers and agents. I received the customary twenty rejections, the most interesting being from two agents who were quite indignant that I would write about a disgruntled ex-pilot who sets out to whack his boss. Hadn’t they heard of murder mysteries? As it was to be, my life experiences over the next twenty years in the nether world of aviation provided more than ample material to develop and complete the book.
Once I returned to flying, the hardest part was finding time, more so, finding the energy to write creatively. I had no more landed a charter job and completed initial training and the airline folded. I found another charter job in Las Vegas and once again I just finished retraining and a better offer from an airfreight operator came through. I hated to leave on such short notice, but at these levels of aviation, you soon learn to play by the “laws of the jungle.” Lucky for me, the Vegas line also folded within a year.
Flying night airfreight turned out to be a “jungle” of its own, but the money was good and I was grateful for the opportunity. I was also fortunate to make steadfast friends there, many of whom were like me, refugees from deregulation with its bankruptcies and hostile takeovers. We used to joke that flying night freight and camping out in our “crash pads” was not unlike our combat experiences in Viet Nam. By the time I hit mandatory retirement age, at sixty, I had managed to develop my story line and had a realistic climax in mind. I suppose it was a convenient form of writer’s block that kept me from completing my first draft at that time but once again I had to go through training on the corporate jets I now flew for my new employer. It wasn’t until a medical condition occurred a few years later that I was to face that the end of my flying days was probably in sight. Finishing this book had become one of my main lifetime goals and the truth was, that even though I might never realize a financial return from writing, I had to do it while I could afford to do so, and before I became entangled in another career. I adopted a program of disciplined writing, having goals built around word and page counts and managed to attain that state of writing “fury” that characterized my first efforts. By the time I finished the story, self-publishing was in full bloom and it seemed to be the best avenue for a first-time unknown author.
For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?
J.R.: I chose to self publish since traditional agents and publishers are somewhat contemptuous of first-time authors. I settled on Xlibras to self-publish The Target and ironically, this came after I was rejected by another company that had tentatively given their acceptance nearly two years past. Despite the fact that I wrote The Target as a novel and that all characters and situations were fictitious, they turned me down at the last minute, claiming they feared possible legal liability. Fortunately, Xlibras exhibited more literary fortitude and agreed to publish my book, stating unofficially that the notoriety might increase sales. Ideally, Xlibris could have your manuscript published within ninety days, but I would say the average lead time would be about six months. The Target took more than a year, because of the problem of finding the right editor to produce a professional quality book.
Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?
J.R.: Dorothy Thompson of Pump Up Your Book Promotion is my agent for internet book promotion. I engaged a publicist for a time but it proved to be excessively expensive and the results were disappointing. The fact is that in this awful economy, the major agents and publishers will only take a chance on a proven author, a politician or a celebrity.
Do you plan subsequent books?
J.R.: I have plans for at least two more major works: one is political and will require more extensive research. It will be built around the concept of The Constitutional Commonwealth and Twenty-First Century Populism and based on the writings of the mid-Twentieth Century conservative, Reinhold Niebuhr, as well as modern writers Ron Paul and Andrew Basevich.
The other will be titled Romancing the Grey Lady; Surfing the
Can you describe your most favorite place to write?
J.R.: We have a townhome in Colorado and a condo in Florida and in both homes I have created the best workspace possible with computer, desk and the surrounding walls covered with my favorite aviation and surfer art. I think the most important components are a well designed and constructed office chair and good music. The music should not be distracting, although I sometimes like surf music to put me in the California mood of my young days in the airlines. It’s tough to write on the beach, but I carry a pen and pad there to record the most striking impressions. “The glare of the hazy winter sun on the gale-swept sea brings forth the vision of hammered, polished copper.” Corny maybe, but with a couple dozen scraps like this, I can build a decent paragraph.
If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?
J.R.: With a few million I could hire a publicity firm with offices on both Left and Right Coasts, put Dorothy permanently on my payroll to handle the internet along with a ghost writer to do my blogs. But then, I’m not certain I would reach my ultimate goal of becoming a highly respected professional writer by developing the necessary skills along with the rewarding bumps and bruises of experience. I don’t believe money is the answer.
How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?
J.R.: It certainly is an important component and at the present I am focusing online mostly with the virtual tour. I still try not to neglect my market of active and retired airline personnel. Coincidently, I have started to interface the online tour with the aviators; I invite my paid customers to write reviews and I don’t feel bad about blasting tour links to those who haven’t bought to keep my face and The Target in front of them.
What’s the most common reason you believe new writers give up their dream of becoming published and did you almost give up?
J.R.: I would have to say “fear of rejection;” even so called “writer’s block” can probably be attributed to this. If we put off writing, we manage to put off that ultimate rejection. We have to face the fact that rejection is simply part of our game. In sales, we were trained to celebrate rejection because each time we were turned down brought us closer to the ultimate sale.
Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?
J.R.: I have been blessed to live a full and experientially rewarding life and to write a major story about it. To those who have not lived that Big Story to this point, begin writing the small stories of life that come to you, starting with today!
Thank you for your interview, J.R. I wish you much success!
J.R.: It has been my pleasure to be with you today and I thank you for the opportunity to discuss my book.