Today I am pleased to welcome TWO authors, Gary Ader and Tom Hooker, who recently collaborated on a terrific new novel entitled The War Never Ends. Here’s a brief description: Amid the tumultous 1960s, two men of vastly different backgrounds, Howard Fishman from Brooklyn, and Lastun Wicker of Yazoo County, Mississippi, forge an unbreakable friendship in the battle-scarred jungles of Vietnam.
When they return home, they find a country wracked by the turmoil of anti-war sentiment and civil unrest that epitomized the late sixties. They soon find that, for them, The War Never Ends, as they face new dangers in the American South and in the seamy underbelly of the concrete jungles of New York City’s Harlem.
I know both Gary and Tom through the North Carolina Writers Network in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Both of them were frequent readers of their work at our Open Mic nights held at the Henderson County Library.
Joe—The first question I have for you both is where are you from originally, and how did you come to settle in Hendersonville? Let’s start with Gary.
Gary—I am originally from New York City. Shortly after college, my wife and I moved to the Washington, DC area, living in Northern Virginia and Silver Springs, Maryland. After three years, business opportunities led me to Florida. As our children grew up, we frequently traveled to North Carolina, an easy day’s drive to enjoy the mountain scenery and climate. We always enjoyed our visits and decided to make this our retirement home.
Joe—What kind of business were you in?
Gary—I owned and operated travel agencies for over twenty years. During that time I traveled to over 35 countries and most of the United States including Alaska and Hawaii. I also worked for several years as a management consultant in the travel industry and for a time worked for a tour operator offering hot air balloon tours in Europe. I was lucky enough to be involved in this industry during its golden age. This afforded experiences in exotic locations no longer available to ordinary tourists.
Joe—Wow! Now I know who to talk to about my trip to Italy next year. And I gather that is where you received much of your inspiration for many of your characters. Am I right?
Joe—Okay, now you, Tom. How did you come to live in Hendersonville?
Tom—I was “born and raised” in a small rural community in North Mississippi, about halfway between Tupelo (the birthplace of Elvis Presley) and Oxford ( the home of William Faulkner). I thought I might have picked up some talent from one of these guys, so I tried singing. Well, that didn’t work, so I tried writing. That seemed to suit me better, although Faulkner’s ghost is not worried about my work, I’m sure. I started working for the Social Security Administration in 1976, and worked in Vicksburg for a while (where I came across Satartia), and Hattiesburg, before coming to Hendersonville as manager of the Social Security office in 1988. We’ve been here ever since.
Joe—You mentioned Satartia, and I know that’s important. How does Satartia figure in the book?
Tom—Satartia is a small community in Yazoo County, Mississippi, and is the fictional birthplace of Lastun Wicker (one of the main characters in The War Never Ends). It is about fifteen miles northeast of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and about ten miles southwest of Yazoo City. Yazoo County saw a lot of strife during the turmoil of the ‘60s, when most of the action of our book takes place.
Joe—Interesting. So now we know a little about you two, but what we don’t know is how you got together to write a book. Gary, why don’t you tell us the details.
Gary—In 1976 I drove from Atlanta to New Orleans. I had to stop in a small Mississippi town one night and, as a Yankee, felt very uncomfortable. Later, I learned that Southerners feel just as uncomfortable in large northern cities. Knowing that Tom was from Mississippi, I pitched the idea to him, and we discussed how we could make a story out of this. It didn’t take long for us to begin framing out the plot and full bios for Lastun and Howard.
Joe—That makes perfect sense. But one thing I noticed is that the book reads and sounds as though it were written by one individual. Tom, how did “y’all” manage to do that?
Tom—Well, it took a lot of work, but it was worthwhile. We outlined the plot together. Then Gary took part of the outline and wrote the first draft, and I took another part of the story and wrote the first draft. Then we “patched” the two parts together. Then we jointly revised the complete first draft. Each of us made suggestions, and made the changes both agreed on. Our goal was, of course, to make the reader believe it came from one mind. I’m happy to hear you say the process worked.
Joe—It certainly did! So, what’s next? Are you planning on doing another book together, or do you each have individual projects that your are working on?
Gary—Well, for now we both have projects that we want to get back to. Tom and I have very different backgrounds and experiences. What we have in common is a mutual respect for each other and the craft, and a passion for a good story. This project was unique in that it enabled us to blend our differences into a story of significance. If we came up with an idea that provided the same potential for synergy, I would welcome the opportunity to work with Tom on another project.
Tom—I’m with Gary. Right now, I have other story ideas that are fighting to sprout from my imagination. So, for the moment, I’ll be going solo. As for the future . . . who knows?
Joe—Well, I certainly hope that we can look forward to reading more of your writing. I just finished reading your book and enjoyed it immensely. Incidentally, if folks are interested in reading your excellent book, The War Never Ends, where can they find it?
Gary and Tom—AMAZON.COM!!
Joe—Thank you both!