After another person discovers that I have written a book, I usually know what the next question will be. That is; “How long did it take you to write your book?” When I answer, that it took nearly twenty years, there inevitably comes the question “Why?”
The easy answer I usually give is that, “I didn’t know how it would turn out!” Perhaps too glib and short an answer but it usually saves a lot of words, an excellent skill for a budding author to develop.
I began the book about five years after I lost my job as an airline pilot during the turmoil of the early years of airline deregulation when a corporate raider took control of our airline, drove the company into bankruptcy and used that as a pretext to tear up our labor contracts. There was a great deal of loose talk at the time that it was a wonder that someone had not assassinated this person who was regarded at the time as “the most hated man in the industry.” The obvious answer to this question is that you want your airline pilots to be “rational” people and that “rational people” don’t set out to kill their boss!
I contemplated these questions sometime after I decided to return to aviation when my new career as a securities broker went down in flames with the stock market Crash of ’87. Faced with the prospect of starting all over at the bottom of the flying business, it occurred to me, what would I do if I were in the mountains on my elk hunting stand and this individual happened to coincidently walk out in front of me? Would impulse overcome rationality?
Not knowing the answer, I wrote the first few chapters of the book and set out to find a writers agent. At that time self-publishing was virtually unheard of and unsurprisingly, my first thirty or so author queries were met with total rejection, at least from the agents who had the courtesy to respond. Some expressed shock that I would even consider writing a novel on this subject. I guess they hadn’t heard of murder mysteries.
As we all know, getting past rejection is easier said than done and I devoted my energies to finding another airline job. I caught on with two charter outfits that promptly went bankrupt themselves before I landed a job with an airfreight outfit and settled into a steady routine that lasted for nearly twelve years. I had thought that I would be able to complete the book during that time, since being back in the flying business had presented me with much in potential material and possible story scenarios, but my progress was much too slow.
Mandatory retirement from the airlines was followed by a job flying corporate jets and another excuse for the lack of writing discipline. The answer finally came from what we all know too well; to be successful as an author, YOU MUST WRITE! Perhaps it is trite, but it is something we have to tell ourselves every day. I had come up with the final plot for the book when I was still flying airfreight but it remained for me to set goals: a total page count, a chapter outline and a word goal for each chapter. Once organized, it was “only” a matter of fleshing out the story. I say that tongue-in-cheek because it still took two more years to finish, even once I had adopted a more disciplined approach.
I was even able to add a denouement to bring the story into the present time and the first edition was published just before the deregulation of the securities and banking industries led to the nearly total meltdown of our economy.
Of course, finishing the book is only half the story; getting published is entirely another matter. Frankly, it is a rarity these days for a first time, unpublished author to land a contract with a major publisher, unless one is a celebrity or a politician. From bitter experience, I know that bulk mailing query letters to literary agents is a waste of postage, ink and stationary. Queries must be specifically targeted to the preferred genre of the agent. One agent replied in her rejection note that what I needed was not an agent, but a publicist. I hired a nationally prominent publicity firm and it was not long before I realized that I could exhaust my retirement funds with very little to show for it. By this time it was obvious that I would have to self-publish and with the guidance of a good friend and mentor, it became clear that the best way to promote sales is through the internet. I am about to enter my third month of online promotion with a virtual tour organized by Dorothy Thompson of Pump Up Your Book Promotion and the internet exposure has grown exponentially.
In the end, I believe your success as a writer is a direct result of your determination and your confidence in the quality of your writing. You must be brutally honest when you ask your self and your readers whether you actually have a good book!
I have been fortunate to have lived a life of rich and rewarding experiences that have provided me with enough writing material to last for the rest of my life. If your life has not yet yielded the “big story,” start with the small ones, especially the one you lived today.
J.R. Hauptman has been a professional pilot for nearly a half century. Barely twenty years old, he began as a military pilot and for almost two years he flew combat support missions in the Viet Nam War. Upon leaving military service he was hired by a major airline and was initially based on the West Coast. His flying career was interrupted by the turmoil that racked the airline industry during the early days of deregulation. In the interim, he worked as a travel agent, a stockbroker and even trained dogs and horses. In the late nineteen-eighties, he returned to aviation, flying jet charters and air freight. He concluded his career flying corporate jets and now lives in Florida. He is completing his second work, a non-fictional social commentary and surfs every day, waves or not. You can visit his website at http://www.caddispublishing.com/.