In the Beginning…


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.


About huckfinn47

I taught high school English for 32 years, all at Robinson High School in Fairfax, VA. My students called me "Mr. V," and I was fortunate to have some terrific young people in my classes. I have made contact with some of them, particularly on Facebook, and enjoy seeing what they're up to. My other nickname, given to me by our then assistant pastor Jim Vaught, is Lieutenant Dan, after the Gary Sinise character in Forrest Gump, one of my favorite movies. I never got anywhere near military service, so the name is somewhat ironic. I greatly admire our troops and respect their sacrifices. On the Wings of Morning is my first novel worth talking about.
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3 Responses to In the Beginning…

  1. paraag shukla says:

    It’s always nice to read posts from fellow fans of historical fiction and particularly dealing with aviation. And since I found this post randomly on WordPress… I’m amazed to see that you taught at Robinson! I moved up to Boston a few months ago but I was raised in Burke, VA and graduated from Robinson in 2000. What an incredible coincidence. Furthermore, I’m actually working on a novel myself (but it is about RFC pilots during the First World War.) I’m currently in the middle of Donald L. Miller’s “Masters of the Air,” which is a truly fantastic book. I look forward to reading more of your posts and I’m glad your book is coming along!

    • huckfinn47 says:

      Nice to hear from you! I retired from Robinson in 2003. I would love to keep up with the progress of your novel. Keep me informed and best of luck with it! I’ll check out “Masters of the Air.”

  2. carolcovin says:

    I love how fiction writers get ideas for their books. I read often of your experience that the characters tell you their stories. As a non-fiction writer, I find this whole process fascinating. Thanks for giving us the back story.

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