I am a newspaper columnist for The Williamson County Sun and a former professor of World History.
A few years ago, the recession rocked my world. That period of uncertainty inspired me to think of others in the past who faced bleak circumstances. I thought of what it must have been like for the city of Vienna when jihad threatened mass extinction. Dystopia is not a modern concept.
What is your book about?
The book I just published, Vienna’s Last Jihad, is based on one of the most important yet little known turning points of history, the siege of Vienna. Mathis Zieglar, the hero, is sacked by the Jesuits from his teaching position because he refuses to recant his belief in a sun-centered solar system. Fleeing the Inquisition, he takes a job as an interrogator for the army, only to find out a Muslim army of 140,000 men is headed toward Vienna. When the Muslims capture his family, they give him a choice: either spy on your army or lose your family. How he makes his decision is the conflict behind Vienna’s Last Jihad.
What is it about history that inspires and motivates you to write?
I enjoy researching psychology and history because, combined, they fill in the blanks in the record that are otherwise disconnected.
For instance, in the next book I am writing, I wanted to find out why Vlad Dracula was so sadistic? Why did Matthias Corvinus, the Hungarian king that imprisoned him, finally relent and allow him to marry Corvinus’ cousin, then free him? Psychology and historical research give us possible answers
What are your passions other than writing?
Travel. I love the adventure of discovering new people and cultures.
Pets, because they bring out the best in people.
My wife, who teaches me everything necessary.
What is your writing schedule like? Do you write full time or part time?
I write full time, but for the last year it’s been centered more than I want on local news reporting. Soon, however, I’m will move into a new phase where I can concentrate more on the historical fiction and non-fiction that sparks my life force.
Who or what inspires you to write in general?
I am fascinated by those obscure situations where a major event could have gone either way and was decided by some arbitrary or unexpected decision, the turning points in history.
What inspired you to write your first book?
First of all it was the character of Mathis Zieglar, the hero. He’s as smart as a whip and impatient with people in authority who are apathetic or have no intention of doing the right thing. That keeps getting him into trouble time after time. Yet somehow, we want to see him succeed in spite of his impulsive ways and lack of tact!
The other thing was the backdrop behind the novel. How 11,000 men, even as the walls of Vienna crumbled beneath them, held back 140,000 Muslims until help arrived. It’s a story that’s stayed with me over 40 years ever since junior high when I took my first class in World History. David slaying Goliath!
What do you hope readers will take from your writing?
That the world, whether it knows it or not, needs oddballs. Those who risk challenging the sacred cows of society and make waves are the salt of the earth. Without them, we’d still be living in Bedrock with Fred and Wilma.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned during your journey as an author?
The importance of a critique group, subjecting your writing to your peers. Getting feedback from others is indispensible. It’s just as important, however, to learn when not to listen to them and stick with your gut. Finding the golden mean is the trick.
Do you have any writing quirks? (Favorite shirt, pen, time of day?)
I frequently rewrite a sentence 7 or 8 times before it says what I want it to say.
Do you have writing pet peeves?
People who expect the writer to go into lengthy and unnecessary detail about minutiae tangential to the story. That’s paralysis by analysis. Life’s too short.
Character-driven or plot-driven books?
In Vienna’s Last Jihad the central character, Mathis Zieglar, is the focus of the book, and the central conflict is how can he save the people of Vienna without losing his family? In this case it’s character that predominates.
If there were one thing you could tell your readers, what would it be?
Most historical fiction is set in Italy, France, or England. But if you’re looking for a world you’ve never experienced before, consider Vienna.
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