I’m a Southern California boy who joined the US Marines out of high school and ended up in Vietnam in 1966. In 1968, honorably discharged from the Marines, I attended college on the GI Bill and earned a BA in journalism, a teaching credential and then later an MFA in writing. I took my first creative writing class in 1968 and have never stopped writing.
DWED: Have you always aspired to publish a novel?
It was in 1968 when I decided I wanted to be a published author, and I have worked toward that goal since.
DWED: Would you say the journey to publish was easy or hard? Why?
I’m not sure if I would call it hard. For sure, it wasn’t easy. It was just a long trek and I think the journey is often more important than the destination. I wrote my first book length manuscript in 1968 and when I finished it, I found an agent to represent me. Forty years later, I had written more than a dozen book length manuscripts, attended writing workshops out of UCLA for several years driving 135 miles round trip once a week, and was represented by other reputable, established literary agents but the publishers did not come knocking. If you think the journey is worth it, you don’t step off the road.
DWED: Who or what would you say inspired “Running with the Enemy”? How was the concept for “Running with the Enemy” born?
One writing teacher out of UCLA’s extension program was named Marjorie Miller, and when I joined her class I was working on a memoir of my tour I Vietnam. She convinced me to fictionalize the story and for more than five years in her writing workshop I wrote and revised the chapters that became “Running with the Enemy”. That Marjorie Miller died of lung cancer a few years ago but the novel she inspired lives on. She was a tough task master and I still recall thinking I would be writing one of the chapters for the rest of my life, because she refused to accept it until I got it right—thirty revisions later.
DWED: How does “Running with the Enemy” stand out? What does it offer and more importantly what can viewers find within its pages?
I’m not sure if I’m the right person to answer this question. Each reader may experience the novel in different ways. The story may stand out because it covers several areas that most people haven’t heard of about the Vietnam War. For example, it has been reported that a few hundred Americans fell in love with Vietnamese women and went AWOL to vanish into the rain forests and go native in remote rural areas of the country—some of them may still be there.
The idea that someone in the US military was selling weapons to the Vietcong actually happened in my unit. The armorer for C Company of the 1st Tank Battalion was caught selling weapons to the enemy and he ended up being court-martialed and sent to prison for twenty years.
In addition, the character that is accused of raping a Vietnamese girl and killing her father was modeled on one of the men in my communication platoon who was caught and court martialed for rape and murder and sent off the a federal prison in the states.
The CIA connection with drugs from the Golden Triangle has also been documented. All of this and more is within this novel’s pages.
At length how would you describe the feedback for “Running with the Enemy”?
As I’m writing this, the novel has sold less than ten copies and there hasn’t been much feedback yet. However, the feedback I received for more than five years from Marjorie Miller and several other published authors attending the same writing workshop out of UCLA was positive, and Miller found a literary agent from a reputable agency to represent the novel. The novel even reached a senior editor at Random House who said he enjoyed reading it but the market for Vietnam novels was glutted and they weren’t selling. That agent represented me for about two years and we heard the same thing from several editors. I moved on to new projects and shelved this novel for about twenty years.
DWED: Would you say you have a unique style of writing?
I have no idea what my style of writing is. I’m too close to it.
DWED: What kind of messages do you try to instill in your writing?
If anything, I think the theme of loyalty appears in my work. The main characters are human and they are flawed but loyalty and trust are very important.
DWED: Who is your favorite charter in “Running with the Enemy” and why?
I think Ethan Card, the main character because he is willing to risk his life out of loyalty to those he trusts and loves the most. He’d rather die than run out on someone that puts their trust in him.
DWED: Who is your least favorite character in “Running with the Enemy” and why?
I have to say that title is shared by two characters: Victor Ortega, the rouge CIA agent who is a sociopathic serial killer who enjoys tormenting and torturing his victims. The second least favorite character would be Giap, because he obsessively molests and terrorizes his half-sister, Tuyen, Ethan’s lover, and he wants to murder his own mother.
DWED: How is the tour for “Running with the Enemy” going?
I’ll have to answer that in a year or two, because it seems promoting one’s work never ends. I published my first novel in December 2007, and I’m still promoting it. In addition, it took more than two years before the sales of that book started to pick up as word of mouth slowly spread.
DWED: Where will you be stopping next for your tour?
Krystal, I’m looking at the schedule and see that my next stop will be June 24 and 25th with Marianne at Reviewing Novels on line.
DWED: What can we look forward to seeing from you through 2013?
Thanks for asking. Besides keeping up my Blogs, I’m working on a teacher’s memoir called Crazy Normal, a classroom expose, and I’m planning to publish before the end of the year. During the 1994 – 95 school year, I kept a daily journal that ran more than 500 pages, and I’m using that journal to take readers into the classroom of a public high school like they may have never experienced it before unless they were a teacher.
DWED: What would you say to all aspiring authors like yourself?
Don’t expect fame and fortune. Instead, write passionately for the love of it and write what you want to write—not what the market is buying.