Under the Squatting Eagle is a tale based on the travails of working in the blue collar world. Anyone who's ever been trapped in a blue-collar job, particularly one involving public service, probably has had enough in the way of similar tribulations to fill a book of their own. My experiences covered thirty-six years with the U.S. Postal Service which provided plenty of fertile ground for a book of 3,000 pages if I'd had the energy to write it.
What inspired you to write the story?
Inspiration for "Squatting..." came from my wife, Arleen, who'd listened to my frequent bellowings over a great many workplace incidents and thought I should write about them. I balked at the idea at first; there had been so many negative events during my career, which spanned the era of post office shootings, that I simply wanted to erase my work life from the map of a day's events and ease into a lazy after-hours mindset. We were all looking over our shoulders back then, waiting for the day the pressures of the place--which were many--might drive one of our workmates over the edge. But Arleen convinced me that I should try to look at the smaller frustrations of the unique USPS environment through the squinted eyes of raucous laughter rather than the reddened eyes of rage. She was right, of course, as was her message that the important aspects of life are found not on the smoky battlefields of our professional lives, but within the fortresses of our private realms where those we hold most dear reside.
Is this your first work of fiction? If not, please tell us a little about your first book/series.
Under the Squatting Eagle is my second published book. The first, a young adult novel titled Russell's Revenge, was released by Dragonon in 2005. Dragonon was a start-up conventional publisher who, unfortunately, didn't last long. Rights to the book were returned to me in 2008. I took another look at it, didn't like what I saw, and it will soon reappear under Booktrope's banner, much revised and re-titled The Bully and Emily Dickinson. A sequel to TB & ED exists in outline form which I hope to have ready within a year or so, no later than summer 2016 if all goes well.
Who is your primary audience for series?
Under the Squatting Eagle is a one-time effort targeting adults looking for a laugh. While my YA effort, The Bully and Emily Dickinson, will hopefully have the sequel I've outlined, I'm not really a series writer--at least not yet. But then I do have to consider the experience of crime novel author Jack Kerley, who once told me he didn't want to do anymore books based on the two detective protagonists his publisher, Dutton, had insisted he use in his first three-book contract. To date, he's written eleven novels with those same characters, Carson Ryder and Harry Nautilus. The message in Jack's journey appears to be that an ongoing series can be a venue for creating a loyal following, and you've got to go with what works; Carson and Harry have become two of Jack's best friends, even if they only exist in Jack's fertile mind and on the printed page.
Please tell us about yourself.
Well, let's see--I'm a native Northwesterner, a very lucky situation for me as I've always been in love with this region not simply because it's home, but because of its diversity of climate, terrain, and people. I even like the rain. During the Vietnam War I decided the best way to dodge the Draft was to enlist. That tactic worked to perfection and I wound up serving four years with the Air Force prior to returning to the Postal Service. My wife Arleen and I were married far too young, but she managed somehow to put up with me for forty-two years. I treasure her memory. We had one son, who is currently a businessman living in Columbus, Ohio, with his wife and my three grandchildren.
Have you been writing for a long time?
I've been hacking away at this dream of gaining literary relevance far too long, but I can't seem to help it. It all started in the mid-1970's with a particularly awful novel a friend lent me which later became a made-for-television movie--also awful but probably lucrative for the author. I figured if that writer could do it, there was no reason I couldn't. There were initially many reasons I couldn't, of course, the first being a complete lack of knowledge as to how to put a story together. But several creative writing classes resulted in a few successful magazine articles, which were enough of a dangled carrot to keep me pounding away at it. I imagine I'll continue writing as long as I'm vertical. It's just too much fun to consider quitting.
How much time per week do you spend writing/editing your work?
I don't really follow a writing schedule, although most successful authors recommend that practice. A shaky guess would be that I'm involved in the composition segment of the process at least twenty hours per week, but I'm quick to back away if my mood isn't right and what I'm turning out is enough to make me gag. Editing is another story. Once I reach "The End" the first time around, I carry the manuscript everywhere I go and plod through it every free moment, looking for better ways to write each sentence but still somehow managing to miss typos--which means I must do it again--and again... It may be a mania of some type, but I know I'll still find things I'd like to change in "Squatting..." next time I shuffle through it. So maybe I should just leave it on the shelf and be glad someone liked it well enough to publish it.
What are you working on at the moment?
I've spread my efforts over three genres, adult humor, young adult fiction, and now mainstream mystery. I began the novel I'm working on now several years ago with only a locale in which I wished to stage the story and a character type I wanted for my protagonist in mind. Four hundred pages later, I'm still wrestling with plot issues and the intricate details of just how a small town police force approaches dealing with a serial killer, given their smaller budget, skeletal workforce, etc. Accuracy and detail are important factors, so I've interviewed one detective already and plan to do so again when I think I have all my questions listed. After this book is finished, it will be back to YA--maybe. We'll see. Whatever the project, though, writing it will be an absolute hoot.