Interview with David H Lippman

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Being able to communicate ideas that I find important in an effective and memorable manner.

Writing is one of the few things I do well, and I have always found that when I needed to explain something, the best and most effective way to make my point clearly and in a comprehensible manner was to do so in writing. I know where I am, what I am doing, and how I want to tell the story. I can do what I set out to do clearly and sometimes, memorably.
What do your fans mean to you?
They are a validation of my work -- knowing that what I have written has touched them somehow, and affected them. When they come back with comments, I know they have been interested in what I have had to say.

I am often astonished at who I hear from -- sometimes I get e-mails from sons and daughters and grandchildren of the World War II figures I have written about, who are grateful for the material, and have even learned something about their ancestor.

Sometimes it's entertaining...I get e-mails from kids asking what I did in the war (I was born 20 years after it was fought), and sometimes it's an e-mail I got from an admirer of Herr Hitler, or the one who sneered that I could not write "a coherent sentence." It's hard to know what to do when you get something like that.
What are you working on next?
The next volume of the day-by-day history of World War II, which will cover the action -- or lack thereof -- of 1939.
Who are your favorite authors?
Walter Lord, William Manchester, Sir John Keegan, Mark Zuehlke, Robin Neillands, Martin Middlebrook, Correlli Barnett, Sir Winston Churchill, Antony Beevor, Ian Kershaw, Richard E. Evans, Barbara Tuchman, David McCullough, Roger Angell, Pierre Berton, Bruce Catton, Geoffrey Perrett, Sir Martin Gilbert, Sir Max Hastings, Norman Longmate, Ernie Pyle, Samuel Eliot Morison, Gordon Corrigan, Barrie Pitt, Rick Atkinson, John S.D. Eisenhower, Charles MacDonald, Al Nofi, Joe Balkoski, Walter Boyne, David Fraser, Richard B. Frank, Gordon W. Prange, Barrett Tillman, James D. Hornfischer, Noah Andre Trudeau, Max Brooks, James F. Dunnigan, and Lloyd Clark.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Having to earn a paycheck to feed my wife and family, and not wanting to waste time watching idiotic TV shows. "Ice Road Truckers?" "Swamp People?" "Keeping Up With the Kardashians?" People watch these? Really?
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I spend that time with my family, listen to or watch baseball, do my day job, exercise, and read books.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I haven't read any e-books yet, I'm afraid....I'm an old-school guy who likes bindings, bookmarks, notes on the pages, and stuff like that.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? was back in the 7th grade in junior high school, nearly 40 years ago. I'm sure it reflected my total unhappiness at the time. I do know that my English teacher, Sarah Hardman, was impressed by it, and told my mother that I would be a writer some day.
What is your writing process?
I learned that from watching Roger Clemens pitch.

First, I assess the situation...the batters (readers) facing me, the game situation (the assignment requirement), and the types of pitches (series of paragraphs and sentences) I want to use to deal with the hitters.

I tend to figure out in rough terms what the pitch sequence will be in my head when warming up (before approaching the computer), and then, with the outlines of what I want to to in hand, start composing at the keyboard, throwing my pitches.

I vary my styles based on what I want to do and the game I want to pitch outside (expand on large points) or inside (close in on small points). Do I want to rely on heat (pure force an velocity) or curves and sliders? (changing ideas to make the reader think)? Do I want to freeze the hitter in the strike zone (a style that he cannot answer) or make him ground or pop up (weakly give a Socratic answer to my argument)?

Usually, I want the final pitch of the inning to be an explosive slider that jumps off the plate that the hitter either swings and misses or stands frozen for a called third strike, that brings the audience to its feet, applauding and screaming for more.

It's all done in my head and then at the computer. From 34 years of doing this, my two biggest weaknesses come from the speed with which I compose at the keyboard (110 wpm). One is a tendency to get hooked on a word and use it too often. That comes from the speed with which I write, and the fact that I regard words merely as tools -- what matters is the sentence and paragraph selection and ordering of the ideas. Words are just how I express the ideas.

The other weakness is I have trouble keeping stuff brief...I want to come out with the whole inventory. I often over-write, and e-books and the computer age have unlocked the brakes on length that the newspaper and wire service business put on my work.

I learned all this from watching Roger Clemens pitch...which is why he is one of my literary mentors. Couldn't have got my MFA without him. When I think about writing, it's always in baseball pitching terms. Always.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Can't just give "five favorite books," as I've read too many, but I'll try:

"The Glory and the Dream," by William Manchester, a narrative history of the United States from 1932 to 1972. It's really the history of a generation of Americans, with everything from presidential politics to the development of hula hoops.

"Pinstripe Empire," by Marty Appel. The history of the Yankees. If it isn't in there, you don't need to know about it, as far as my favorite baseball team goes.

Richard E. Evans' trilogy on Nazi Germany on World War II, for that subject.

Winston Churchill's six volumes on World War II. The world's greatest conflict, from the war's most determined warrior.

Everything Walter Lord ever wrote...he figured out how to write about human behavior in unusual situations and use that and time to study humanity in an incredibly literate manner.
What do you read for pleasure?
Books on history and baseball.

For the former, I like stuff about the British, Canadians, Americans, New Zealanders, and Australians, the countries I identify with, especially books that emphasize the human side of the war, as opposed to the difference between models of the P-38. It's more interesting to see how paratroopers dealt with fear and cold at Bastogne than whether the M-1 was superior to the KAR 98K.

For the latter, I like to read history and biography: accounts of teams and seasons, preferably my favorite teams (Yankees and Giants), and biographies. I'm fascinated with how ballplayers cope with the strange lives they live, compared to the rest of us. At age 23, they live cocooned and sheltered lives of wealth and adulation, which ends in forced retirement at age 35 and obscurity by age 40. It baffles me as to how they cope. Beneath the veneer of statistics and plays are people.

I also read about the Titanic, New York City history, and the American manned space program.
Describe your desk
An incredible mess -- no, the computer is on it, and takes up all the space. I also have the box of tissues, the books I'm using to research whatever I'm doing now, shelves jammed with DVDs, and drawers full of odd stuff like maps of Canada and suchlike.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born and raised in New York City, so I was influenced by my writing teacher, Frank McCourt, in high school, and living in a very literate family in a very literary city. I gained my MFA at the New School for Social Research in New York, which was certainly a major influence on me.
When did you first start writing?
I was in the 7th grade. Pretty sure of that. Little essays on how miserable I felt from all the bullying I endured. My English teacher, Sarah Hardman, was astonished at their quality.
What's the story behind your latest book?
It's the base of a day-by-day history of World War II. The next book will be the first volume of that history, all the action of 1939.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Publishers are only interested in the following:

1. Books that rip President Obama as a Marxist/Nazi/Socialist/African usurper
2. Memoirs of politicians that say "the world would be a better place if they listened to me"
3. Memoirs of reporters or soldiers who went to Afghanistan and feel ripped off by their employer
4. Memoirs of actors, actresses, and musicians, who reveal the vast amount of drugs, sex, and money behind the glittering curtain.
5. The life of something called "Snooki," who has apparently gained vast amounts of fame for heavy drinking, promiscuity, and having a baby outside of wedlock.
6. Diet tips
7. Sex tips
8. Cat-raising tips
9. Books that handle all of the above ("Trimmer thighs for your cat")

So I said, "The heck with this, I'm going my own way."
Published 2015-04-21.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

World War II Plus 75 -- The Road To War
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 445,110. Language: English. Published: November 28, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » History » War, Nonfiction » History » Modern / 20th Century
Opening volume of a day-by-day history of World War II, tied to the 75th anniversary of humanity's greatest conflict. This volume covers the years before, causes of, and lives that fought the war. It is based on "World War II Plus 55," the author's award-winning website on World War II, which was on the web from 1995 to 2013.