In April of 2012, I participated in National Poetry Month by writing a poem a day and posting each one on my Facebook page. I am comfortable with poetry and with various short forms of writing such as essays, articles and devotionals. I never have been much good with short stories. I just can’t seem to come up with a concentrated idea that can be developed.
I also didn’t have much luck with longer forms such as novels. I did write one poor novella in my thirties. It is what we call a “trunk novel,” i.e. the manuscript is kept in a trunk and it will never see the light of day. My novella was about being an unwed mother, a subject I have absolutely no experience with (surprising, I know). So, I had given up on ever writing a novel that would see the light of day.
Life has a way of changing things, though, and I was inspired to try a novel by the success of several friends in Write by the Rails, our local Manassas/Prince William/Northern Virginia writing group. I had the inspiration to write about a subject I knew something about, and that for me was the European theater air war, and particularly the pilots and crews of the B-17’s who bombed targets from late in 1942 until the war’s end in the spring of 1945. I had had a lifelong interest in the air war and in aviation, so it seemed a natural subject to write about.
Initially I was going to do a divided story, with the first part taking place between 1940 and 1944 and the second part involving an entirely different character from 1999 until 2001. I intended to have my protagonist fly his aircraft into the White Cliffs of Dover in an attempt to bring the plane home. The more I thought about it, though, I realized that the plot was too close to that of John Hersey’s The War Lover (also a terrific movie with Steve McQueen and Robert Wagner). I also was not sure I could handle parallel plots, so I decided to focus on the World War II story. I would bring my pilot through the war, but he would die of injuries sustained on a bombing raid shortly after he returned home.
I was doing some research on the bombers and their crews and came across this picture:
I had a strange feeling when I saw this photo from the Library of Congress collection. I thought, “I know everything about this young aviator. I know about his family; I know where’s he’s from and how he learned to fly; I know how he came through the war and came home.” After that, it was simply a matter of writing it down.
I wrote the first novel, On Wings of the Morning, between May of 2012 and October of that year. I shopped it around to 30 publishers and finally had an acceptance from eLectio Publishing of Midland, Texas in August of this year. The book launched October 23 and the response from people I know (and some I don’t, via reviews on Amazon.com) has been humbling and heartening. I felt the story could continue, so I have written On the Wings of the Wind (originally entitled On Eagle Wings Upborne, and composed from October 2012 and January, 2013) and On the Wings of Angels, written between May and August of 2013. I had thought that a trilogy was about all I could eke out of this story, and then maybe six books, but at this point I’m projecting a trilogy of trilogies, bringing Otto’s story up to the present day.
Book Two of what I’m pleased to call the Beyond the Blue Horizon: A Series of Novels about an American Hero has been read by my marvelous, intelligent and good-looking beta readers. I’ll need ten more revisions on that and project its publication in October 2014. I’m revising Book Three for the first time (it will take twenty times through) and expect to have it ready in October 2015. (I think you have an idea of the schedule by this time.)
And so, I hope you will continue with me on this exciting journey. For me, it has been one of wonder and discovery, and I hope it has been for you as well. And just think: it all started with a picture.
When I finished Wings, it occurred to me that the story could go on, and so I have written On the Wings of the Wind (original title: On Eagle Wings Upborne) (October 2012–January 2013) and On the Wings of Angels