Friday, February 21, 2014

Interview: Richard Taylor

Greetings humans, half-breeds, and everything in between. A while back, I had the pleasure to interview a wonderful author named, Richard Taylor. A good time was truly had by all and here’s how it went down.

Hi there Richard! It’s so awesome to have you here at the ECS Blog. Don’t worry about the darkness, your eyes will adjust.

So tell me, who is Richard Taylor?

I'm retired from the army and from business; always loved writing but never had time until working on the road, living remote, reaching into that inner self.  I started my Vietnam memoir in evenings while I was away from home. Prodigals: A Vietnam Story, became a prize winner at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference and featured selection of the Military Book Club. Homeward Bound: American Veterans Return from War was a featured selection of the Association of the U. S. Army. All my novels reflect the human condition in war--specifically love and war.  I write what I know about.

So whacha got for me today?

Eden Lost, published by Tate Publishing is a historical romance set in 1898-1901 in the Philippines, when Commodore Dewey steamed into Manila Bay and sank the Spanish fleet. Josh Armand is interested in commercial interests but is entranced by the enigmatic Isabella Germain, a mysterious mestizo. He needs her to organize his rescue from Chinese kidnappers. But her covert activities in support of Filipino rebels clashes with his loyalties and moral values. Their love is sharply tested by cultural divisions, divided allegiances and dangerous circumstances of war. They strive to overcome incalculable dangers and difficulties to find enduring love while Eden lies in peril.

So who’s starring is this 2 dimensional script read of Eden Lost?

There are many historical characters who contribute to the story, including: Commodore Dewey, Arthur MacArthur, Frederick Funston, and Emilio Aguinaldo. The two main characters are Joshua Armand, a steam engineer and entrepreneur, drummed into service supporting Dewey on his journey to destiny in Manila Bay. When Josh goes ashore he's almost run down by a carriage with a beautiful Eurasian woman, Isabella Germain. However, she has been supporting the revolution against Spain and runs a "Gentleman's Club" to gather intelligence. Her business is contrary to Josh's prudent Boston upbringing. As the war becomes a conflict between Americans and Filipinos, it squeezes their relationship, increasing pressures of their cultural differences. The big question is whether they can overcome those differences and find happiness or is the chasm too wide? A minor character who plays an important role is Hans Jourdans, a reporter who provides color and context to events as they unfold. This story grew from my service in the Philippines and is filled with Filipino myths as well as historical circumstance.

Past, present, future, is there a rhyme or reason to your writing?

I've always wanted to write fiction, but I'm handicapped by my past. I couldn't start a novel until I got some things out of my system. I had found a stack of letters I'd written my wife from Vietnam--didn't know she'd saved them--but I re-lived things I'd shoved to the back of my psyche. Until I wrote Prodigals, I couldn't clear that. An opportunity came out of the blue to write Homeward Bound, a history of veterans from the Revolution to the present and I did that, finishing it while I was working in Iraq. Having wasted lots of paper on failed novels, I finally learned to write what I knew--war, veterans, and the human condition relative to that.

My first novel was about the Cold War, the Berlin Wall. Berlin Connection takes the sweep of history from the construction of the wall until it came down. The major characters--Kennedy, Reagan, Bush, Khrushchev, and Gorbachev are there, but the real story is about three of the little people working tirelessly under the radar to bring down the wall.

My second novel, The Raptor and the Mourning Dove, began to take shape during my first year in Iraq. It tackles problems of physical and psychological wounds from that war. Both of these were self-published as e-books and print-on-demand. Raptor may get a shot from a traditional publisher.

Of course, Eden Lost, by a traditional publisher, is set during the Philippine-American War. I've started on a sequel to Eden Lost set in World War II Philippines, working title, "Return to Eden." This is interesting because I'm transferring a paranormal aspect from Eden Lost. I'm spending some time now on poetry from fields of conflict--Vietnam, Cold War, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

What author(s) has most influenced your writing? Why or how?

That's a tough one to answer. I suppose Hemingway as a person because of his life and writings, although I'm not a huge Hemingway fan. I was more influenced, or encouraged, by my high school English teacher, Mrs. Lady Booth Garner, and Mr. Booth, my college English professor (no relation). And again by the editor of my first book who is also a military affairs writer, Eric Hammel. Since I'm getting into poetry, I liked the old guys--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Service because they tell compelling stories in their poetry; and from World War I--Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen because they show the deep scars. I suppose I'm mostly influenced by that "inner self."

Whose brain are you just itching to scratch?

No doubt one would be Hemmingway. And I'd ask about his wars and his wives. I'd just like to hang out with him a while over more than a few beers.

Another, if I can cheat, would be Civil War General Lew Wallace, who wrote Ben Hur.

And as long as I've gone over the mark, the third would be T.E. Lawrence for Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Who is so you and why?

I'm an old fashioned person and have often thought I was born in the wrong century. I can't compare myself to Frederick Funston, but I admire his short life which he lived so fully. He was completely into himself, an excellent writer and soldier and adventurer. I was inspired by everything in his heroic life. If I'd lived in the post-Civil War period, I would have wanted to know Funston, but doubt if I could have kept up with him.

What’s your ideal reading spot for your next highly anticipated read?

Right now I'm sitting in my little office space on the terrace level of our townhouse, overlooking the 7th hole of a golf course. The fairway is narrow and just on the other side is the active railroad bed of the former Western & Atlantic Railroad. Sherman's Atlanta Campaign was fought along those tracks from Chattanooga to Atlanta. Sherman said those tracks should "be the pride of every American" and "every foot should be sacred ground."  I'm constantly inspired by the sound of trains going through Big Shanty Station.

I've just read Nathan Philbrick's paperback Mayflower because I was seeking information on my 8th great grandfather, Richard Warren and my wife's 11th great grandfather, Edward Fuller--both were aboard. They didn't merit much mention, but the book was a compelling read anyway. I'm just finished Krauthammer's Things that Matter and started Bob Gate's Duty. Oh, and for my book club this month, Necessary Lies.

What was your favorite book or story, pre-teen years?

That's not too hard. I remember Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island and Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe very well, in addition to the Hardy Boys mystery series. Also one I just re-read was Henry Stanley's How I found Livingstone. My favorite quote from that is: "The unencumbered mind recalls all that it has read, all that pleased the eye, and delighted the ear; and reflecting on every idea which either observation, or experience, or discourse has produced, gains new information by every reflection. The intellect contemplates all the former scenes of life; views by anticipation those that are yet to come; and blends all ideas of past and future in the actual enjoyment of the present moment.” Amen.

If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I would not watch one movie for the rest of my life, but my wife has watched Out of Africa about a thousand times and I always enjoy it too. We visited Isak Dineson's home in Denmark together. I recently watched for the second time Other People's Lives, a compelling German movie about the secret police in East Germany before the wall came down, spying on citizens. Sound familiar? Lots of this stuff in my Berlin Connection.

What makes you geek out?

My wife "inherited" a large file of old family photographs and undeveloped negatives, some dating to World War I. In trying to help her and our children uncover the secret identities of these people I was drawn into genealogy. Then I got into my family and have several large binders of information on relatives back to the initial colonies. I never expected to get into this, but now I'm sold on it. Now I'm working on a reclusive uncle who was in New Guinea and The Philippines during WW II. Once you get started looking for your roots, it's hard to stop.

So what’s testing your patience right now?

My patience was tested waiting for season 3 of "Homeland." I thought seasons 1 & 2 were superb, but I've been disappointed in season 3. Now I'm waiting for "The Americans." I hope it lives up to my expectations.

When the soundtrack of your life is playing in your head, what songs express your glee and what songs bring out your rage?

I can't pin down specific songs. But my most formative years were during WW II, 1940-1950, as my mother played music of that era on the radio while doing housework.  That music seeped inside and always brings pleasant responses in me now. I listened while I waited for "The Lone Ranger" and "The Shadow." When I hear music of the Vietnam War days, 1965-1970, a range of emotion wells up inside, all over the ball park. For listening pleasure now, I like Sarah Brightman, Nora Jones, Diana Krall, and ballads by Steve MacDonald and John McDermott.

What’s the most fun experience you’ve ever had, to date?

Fun? I'm not sure  I'd classify anything as fun for many years. However, I've always liked adventure, lived what some would call a dangerous life. But after two years in Vietnam, seven in Europe, two in Iraq, Afghanistan, Grenada, the Philippines and other places--the best thing is always coming home. Home is magical after you've been away on duty.

Not that you can see into the future, but in your opinion, what does the future hold?

I served my country for thirty years without hesitation, even when I believed some decisions at the top were wrong. Right now, I believe our country is seriously on the wrong track, has broken faith with our founders and I'm very worried that we won't get it back together.
 However, there is beauty in uncertainty. I don't know where I'll be in five years, or if I'll still be alive. I don't know if the country will survive. But I'll take it day by day and accept the idea that not only do I not know, no one else does either. Isn't that exciting?

Ok humans, half-breeds, and everything in between, that’s all for today. Be sure to follow this blog to see who will be visiting next time. For more from Richard Taylor, check out these great links:

Twitter: @VietnamProdigal
Purchase links for Eden Lost: Tate Publishing

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Click below to share your reactions and more. Remember, I’ll be moving to the ToiBox full-time soon, so please, stop by to check it out. Until next time, Toi Thomas. #cursescanbebroken #thetoiboxofwords