Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Real Author or Not

Does being self-published make you not a real author? How much effort went into a book not jumped on by an agent or traditional publisher? Were beta readers of Echoes of Nam just being nice by not being critical responders? I and probably most others never expected to have our self-published work scream into the market and have major publishers ask to negotiate for our contract. But it does hurt when someone says, implies, or infers it’s not worth reading because it was never in hardback or distributed on the front counter of a major brick and mortar?

Waha-waha-waha! May I have some cheese with my whine? Long ago I realized that just because I’ve written doesn’t make me a writer. There’s more than the physical activity and grammar aspects of putting out words. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not going through a period of self-doubt or self-deprecating. And, I’ve said before, “There is more to writing a book than writing the book.”

I struggled with point of view in telling my Vietnam/retrograde amnesia story about men who for obvious reasons cannot relate to their formative years. My most daunting problem was how to justify third person omniscient knowledge of all the facts related to my characters and those intimately involved with them.

Flash bulb!

It occurred to me that biographers use creditable documents and interviews to put real-life stories together. Thus, I did a re-write with a narrator who lives within the story. That narrator was a minor character in my first effort. One reader asked how many interviews I conducted for the background – none. I’ve known many Nam vets over the years and had a missed opportunity to be one myself. I also gleaned many concepts and ideas from a dozen or so books written by Vietnam vets. At the onset of my earlier drafts I had finished James Bradley’s The China Mirage,[mfn] I’ve also read Bradley’s Flyboys and Flags of our Fathers.[/mfn] thus, my idea for presentation of the retrograde amnesia story.

I essentially gave up on the project until I read Ray LePoidevin’s Alternate Route. I realized, “Damn the torpedoes full speed ahead!”[mfn]Generally accepted paraphrase in US Navy tradition of a comment by Admiral David Farragut. [/mfn] I had work to do.

Back to my opening question. 
I’ll quote only one reader, the man who wrote his own experience Ray LePoidevin. “Even though a work of fiction, in ECHOES OF NAM, John Benson does a superb job in articulating the mental and physical pain, confusion and suffering that many survivors of war deal with daily. Even as a combat vet, this story has affected the way I look at homelessness among veterans. While the V.A. has come a long way in dealing with PTSD and other disorders facing our soldiers, sadly there are many who still "slip through the cracks." For that reason alone, this could be a true story.” 
 Ray’s endorsement alone makes me feel that Echoes of Nam was written by a real author.

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