Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Blog Awards and an Author Interview

First, I want to thank Vanessa Eccles for giving me a Liebster Blog award.  According to Vanessa, Liebster means "favorite" or "beloved," and the award is given to bloggers with under 200 followers which are considered "the best kept secrets."

Now the fun part.  I get to pass the award along to five other brilliant bloggers. Here are some of my favorites:
1.  My wife Sherry at her blog about Cystic Fibrosis - Truly Living With CF
2.  Kevin Hanrahan, featured below, at - Kevin Hanrahan
3.  Ron Mackay discusses his tours of the Middle East at - Ronald of Arabia
4.  High calorie recipes for folks with Cystic Fibrosis at - High Calorie Recipes
5.  Shanee Duke talks about southern living at - Living Life Southern Style

Winners, here are the rules to participate:
1.  Thank the person which nominated you in a post.
2.  Nominate up to five other blogs.
3.  Let them know via comment on their site.
4.  Post the award on your blog.

On to the next topic - today I have the true privilege to interview Kevin Hanrahan, an officer in the United States Army and author of the book, Paws On The Ground.

1.    Where did you get the inspiration from for Paws on the Ground?

I vividly remember the moment the idea of writing a book popped into my head. I was in Kabul. It was early November, 2010, and United States forces lost three military working dogs and two handlers in a single day.  We had a really bad few weeks where we were losing dogs or handlers almost every day. I read the reports and thought to myself, people need to know what these kids and their dogs are doing out here. These kids and their dogs are heroes.  At the time I was reading a lighthearted book about a vineyard in Tuscany and thought, I could do this. I can write a book. In fact I’m gonna write a book. Yes, it was as easy as that, and I just decided to do it. I actually posted a longer explanation on my website.

2.    How long did it take?  Take me through the process –  did you write every day,  did you outline first, etc.

In November of 2010, I brainstormed during my lunchtime elliptical machine workout in the tent we had for a gym in Kabul and developed an outline which looked like this:  
Intro 10K words
Training 25K words
Afghanistan 40K words
Ending 5K words
Total 80K words

I wrote this “comprehensive” outline in the back of my green Army issued notebook. I also used that notebook to write ideas during my travels around Afghanistan. I look at that outline now and wonder how the heck I wrote a comprehensive book with proper arc and plotting.
I established a daily and weekly writing goal for myself. My goal was 3,500 words a week, which would have had me finishing the novel prior to my re-deployment. In hindsight, it was a simple goal, but there were many weeks I wrote nothing because I was working. I like to think of that time as “field” research.
With an outline established, I went to work and started writing the next morning. As I did every day afterwards I woke at 5:00 AM, went to my office with my laptop, brewed coffee, and started to write. I wrote one thousand words the first morning and never looked back. I finished my first edit the day before I flew home to the states. It was May 5th, 2011.
3.    How would you describe your style to someone who has never read you before?
I’m a Soldier in the United States Army with real life experience, and I write about what I know. I write for the average person because that is who I am. My first novel is a character based commercial fiction….. think Rin Tin Tin meets the Hurt Locker. But if you closed your eyes it could easily be happening in Afghanistan today.
4.    What was your editing process like, and how close to your first draft did the original come?
My manuscript ended up being 146,000 words when I left Afghanistan. Yep, 60K over my goal length. It is crazy now to think about that. I was actually proud I could write something that long…of course I could never sell it!
My next draft, with the help of my writing coach and first editor, was 126,000 words. After being rejected by all the agents that asked for a submission, I moved on to a very experienced NY based editor.  But I already knew one of the major problems in the manuscript:  the length of the back story and pacing.

My new editor read the book and gave me a four page summarization on some areas to work on. I conducted a two month edit and cut the first 175 pages in the book, then added 10K words of more in depth writing to the heart of the story and reworked the new starting point in the novel.

Two weeks later, my editor told me to work on three more things, so I basically killed the opening for my female heroine, wrote a more compelling story line for her, and added another 10K of in depth writing. We then passed the first five chapters back and forth until we got them perfect.

So when it went back to the editor, it was sitting at 110K words. I expect it to be just under 100K when he is finished with his edit. He should be done by the end of March 2012.

5.    How much interest have you gotten and from who?  What kind of timeline to you see before we can pick up Paws on the Ground?

I had about 15 requests from submissions. Many were big time agents. I honestly had no clue who any of them were when I submitted to them. Of course the manuscript wasn’t ready and they all subsequently rejected me. I did find my editor through an agent and got some great guidance from several agents. I currently have a list of nine agents who have requested a submission (or resubmission) when the edit is completed. My hope is that once this book sells, it will be rushed to publication. I really don’t have enough experience though to predict a time line when it will hit the shelves. I’m giving you a preview though on my website with stories directly from the front lines.
6.    You’ve spoken about the people and dogs involved.  Is there any one person or animal in particular that stands out?
In Afghanistan there was one dog that really stood out to me. Archie, the chocolate lab, was an explosive-finding machine. When I saw him down in Kandahar I could see every rib on his body. The heat and constant patrolling really took a toll on him. He was back in Kandahar to rest and was just a sweetheart. I based one of the characters in my novel on this lovable 4- legged beast. Many of the explosive finds Archie had in Afghanistan are exactly the same ones that Paws of the Ground star Chica has in the book.

7.    Will Paws on the Ground be your only book, or do you have something else you’ll be working on once this one is finished?

I’ve already started the next novel in this series, but it may take a back burner to a new project. I’m currently hammering out details for collaboration with a successful and experienced author. I can’t say any more about that right now until our deal is finalized.

8.  Did you ever envision yourself as a writer?
I’ve always loved to write and create…..but envisioning myself as a writer…..not really. Now I can’t stop writing. Of course I never envisioned myself as an Army Officer either and I’m doing a pretty decent job at that.
9.    What kinds of books do you like to read?
History, Historical Fiction, suspense, crime, mysteries and some classics….to name a few. Have book, will read! I was an obsessive reader as a child. Now I have limits on my time.
10. What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Just write, don’t give up, and learn from others how to be successful. Nothing in life comes easy -  hard work, dedication and will are critical in any endeavor you pursue.

1 comment:

  1. Insightful questions and some great suggestions for writers. Thank you for sharing your experience and very much looking forward to reading Paws on the Ground.