One of the questions I’m asked most often about On the Wings of Morning is how I got the idea to write the story. The answer goes a long way back to when I was a lad and had a keen interest in aircraft and particularly the aircraft of World War II. I can’t explain this fascination since I was born a couple of years after the war ended, but it is one that stayed with me through adulthood. I believe we owe a great deal to the Greatest Generation, no matter how they participated in the war, and the book is dedicated to them in honor and memory of their sacrifice and achievements.
More particularly, after decades of telling most anyone more than they wanted to hear about World War II, I saw a black-and-white picture of a B-17 pilot walking toward his bomber. The shot was taken from the rear so that his face was not visible, but I knew in an instant who the pilot was (in the world of fiction), where he came from, how he came to be there, and what happened to him after the picture was taken. The novel was a matter of writing that story down. It took me six months to write a draft, and I am still revising, although I’m close to sending the manuscript off to publishers.
So, Otto Kerchner came about. I knew he grew up on a dairy farm in northwest Wisconsin, that he hated farming and that he wanted to fly more than anything else. I knew who his parents and friends and neighbors were and who his girlfriend was. And so they acted out their parts in the theater of my mind. I just wrote down that they did and said.
This is a familiar phenomenon among writers when the story and characters “come alive” and act and speak their parts. And after this book, I have two more to write about Otto. He’s still alive, by the way, 93 years old, still active, still living in the house he and Betty built after the war out by the airport in Wisconsin where he learned to fly, running the airport with his grandson and teaching others about flying.
And, yes, Otto is still flying.