Now retired, I lived and worked overseas (Asia and Europe) for many years during a lengthy career with the CIA. I served in the Marine Corps (4 years) and am a 1965 graduate of the University of Oregon. I'm still married (51 years) to my first true love and have one son and two grandchildren. My formative years were spent in Colorado, Idaho, and Oregon; I have lived in the Washington D.C. area off-and-on for the past 45 years. My enjoyment of writing and a life-long interest in religious thought and behavior combined to produce "Answering Aunt Bertha."
What's the story behind your latest book?
Answer: "Answering Aunt Bertha" is my first, and probably only book. I did not start writing it until I was in my late 60s. Now on the down-hill side of my 70s, my writing these days is far less ambitious - mostly letters or essays on religion or politics. I've always enjoyed writing, but career and family got in the way when I was younger. Work and travel overseas also left little time for writing for pleasure; when back in the States, my spare time was devoted largely to renovating houses - a life-long skill and hobby that I learned from my father. While taking some non-fiction writing courses after retiring, I wrote a personal essay about rejecting the religious indoctrination of my youth. The instructor and other students were generous with their praise. That essay eventually evolved into the first chapter of "Aunt Bertha." I wrote the book because I wanted to record my thoughts on religion while I could still think rationally. I also wanted to respond - as I say in the book's introduction - to my and my wife's many devout relatives. The book was my way of once and for all challenging them to either rein in their proselytizing or engage in an honest, evidence-driven dialog. I self-published the book and sent all of them a hard-copy version, encouraging them to refute anything that I said. Most did not even acknowledge receipt, let alone comment. Many no doubt tossed it into the trash - predictable behavior by those who refuse to have their religious certitude questioned. Several non-religious friends encouraged me to give the book wider distribution. After being rejected by two publishers, I turned to Smashwords.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I spent the first 12 years of my life in north-central Colorado, mostly around the Greeley area. My paternal grandfather homesteaded out in the drylands in the early 1900s, but then lost everything in the 1930s due to the double whammy of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl that ravished that part of the country. My father also tried to survive out there farming, but he too eventually gave up. We moved to west Denver where he got a job as a tool-setter at a munitions plant. After he was drafted into the Army in early 1944, we moved back to Greeley to live with my other grandparents. He worked as a hired hand on farms around that area after the war, but eventually gave up on farming altogether. Like families in "The Grapes of Wrath," we loaded all of our possessions on to an old truck and headed west in 1949, first to Idaho, then 4 years later on to Oregon. My grandparents were Pentecostals and Baptists. As a compromise, my parents had gravitated toward the Nazarene Church, which is where I received the fundamentalist indoctrination that I discuss in the book. My attitude toward religion was influenced in many ways by what I observed during those early years. I had good parents, but at the same time the thinking and behavior that I observed in them and others in the church was often not consistent with what I was being taught. They also showed no intellectual curiosity or interest in thinking beyond the Sunday sermons. I sensed - even at that young age - that there was something amiss with what all those fire-and-brimstone preachers were telling us. I started to doubt and question, and have been doing so ever since.
An aging unbeliever responds to an aunt's proselytizing in this frank critique of religious thought and behavior. The author's decades-old quest to better comprehend and explain believers and their faith-driven ways leads to some novel conclusions. Primal instincts figure prominently in this forthright contemplation of why modern humans continue to embrace the beliefs of ancient men.