Interview with Francis J Partel, Jr

When did you first start writing?
I began writing in 2006, and I was inspired by the Iraq War which I thought was very wrong-headed and wrote so at the time. This manifested itself in my first work, "A Wound in the Mind" -- a work of historical fiction built around the emerging understanding by military psychologists in the late 1960s of what has become known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I followed this with the action-thriller, "The Chess Players," a Cold War anti-submarine story which asked, "Given the vast distribution of tactical nuclear weapons on both sides, how was it that we avoided nuclear holocaust?" Today Navy Log Books is publishing "Down in Laos," another action thriller, about a ship, an air wing, and a pilot who is shot down and becomes a prisoner of the brutal Pathet Lao. Beneath the surface, legitimate questions can be raised about the moral healthiness of various civilizations.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My genre is "journalistic fiction," so I began with the actual track of USS Ticonderoga, Attack Carrier 14, during the period in 1968 when USS Pueblo was seized by the North Koreans, the Battle of Khe Sanh and the Tet Offensive took place. There are three key characters. A former Korean War, Marine Officer who returns as a Navy chaplain. LTJG Cannon, a ship's company officer, and a pilot, LT Ti Campbell, USN, son of American missionaries who was raised in Korea during that war. He is shot down while executing a night attack under flares as part of formerly top secret Operation Igloo White and parachutes into Laos where he becomes a POW. His story begins what is a modern parallel with the biblical Book of Job.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
In part because I always had a yearning to write, and because I think I have worthwhile observations, ideas, thoughts, and stories to share.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Well, I hope it exposes my work broadly so that my books find their audience.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Writing a fascinating piece of dialogue, telling a great story, advancing something that makes my reader smarter about the world, and hearing from someone who says, "I really liked your book."
What do your fans mean to you?
Every writer needs recognition, and their support motivates me to continue down this lonely path of being a writer and to give them something even better to read in the future.
What are you working on next?
Perhaps a piece of non-fiction or a screenplay.
Who are your favorite authors?
Homer, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Patrick O'Brian, Walter Isaacson, Hemingway, Henry James, Fitzgerald, Conrad, Faulkner, and Stephen Ambrose, and the poets Marvel, Donne, Frost, TS Eliot, and Yeats. I want to acknowledge the influence of Lionel Trilling who once said in class that the moral issue of the 20th century was the issue of making distinctions. That is probably universally true for all time. I think that thought, plus Aristotle's assertion that the unexamined life is not worth living, have driven me to search for the genuine, the authentic, the truth in what I read and write.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The fear that my future is running out. I have more to do.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Reading, fishing, playing tennis, golf, and sailing. Sailing is just the loveliest communion of the ingenuity of man with the forces of nature.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
With difficulty. Journalistic fiction is a research-intensive genre. I'm sorry to say that when I write I have little time left to read more than two newspapers a day.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I do. It was a brief memoir about fishing in Long Island Sound with HV Kaltenborn. He was about 80 years old and had been considered the dean of radio news commentators. I was 12 and 13.
What is your writing process?
I'm a streak writer. I have the overall plot in mind although I allow my characters to detour me if it fits with the narrative. But I will usually think about each chapter for a week or so and then start in my bathrobe and knock out the chapter in a day. They are about 5k words on average. I don't know how Hemingway could just knock out a thousand words and call it a day. I don't have that kind of discipline nor certainty in my conception of the story. However, conceptually I adhere to a thought that John Irving has expressed rather emphatically when he says, "I begin by writing the last sentence, of the last paragraph, of the last chapter, first."
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Let me just say as an adult, I think the greatest story of historical military fiction is Homer's Iliad. It has uncanny similarities with the Vietnam War--my war. It begins with one of the most stupid reasons for going to war which Shakespeare described as, "All the war for a cuckold and a whore." And it ends as a result of war weariness when after 10 years of war the Achaeans reboard their ships and sail home. You could even make a case that Achilles' brooding might have been case of PTSD.
How do you approach cover design?
Less is more. I want you to judge my books by their cover. I want a strong visual image that will compete successfully with other books on the shelf for your attention...in the bookstore, and on the personal digital device. And I want that image to draw you in so that you will open the cover and decide to buy it..
Published 2015-02-02.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Down in Laos
Price: $4.95 USD. Words: 122,330. Language: American English. Published: April 20, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Action & suspense
Down in Laos is an action-thriller, suspense war story for avid readers of naval historical fiction. It involves a ship, an air wing and a pilot based on actual major military and political events in SE Asia in early 1968. When LT Ti Campbell USN, a man of faith, is shot down and parachutes into Laos, he becomes a prisoner of the brutal Pathet Lao and his life uncannily parallels the Book of Job.