Interview: In The Shadow of Greatness
Joshua Welle and Graham Plaster, I must say, it is entirely a privilege to interview the two of you. Can’t wait to spread word about your wonderful book.
We military romance novelists write stories with military heroes. Different genre than yours, of course, but our readers like to learn about heroes and heroines who do the right thing, rise to the challenge and, against all odds, achieve a happily ever after. We wish it was always so in real life for these brave men and women.
In romance, we create fictional stories, based on things that could happen, not what did happen. Our average romance reader reads 3-4 books a week. It is estimated to be upwards of 51% of the publishing market. There is currently huge interest in things military, especially Special Ops.
So, thank you not only for your service, but for your time. I've written some questions about this book I think other writers and readers would want to know. So, welcome, and let's begin.
Tell me how you got the idea to put together the stories in this book? Who came up with the idea and how did it happen?
The concept for the book was originally a solicitation to our classmates, the first class to graduate from the US Naval Academy following 9-11, asking them to write something reflecting on their experiences over the past 10 years. We received 63 submissions over the course of three years and spent a considerable amount of time processing the themes that were emerging in the short stories.
Our primary reason for writing the book was to give voice to our current generation of leaders, promoting an honest but hopeful vision for the country. We're excited about the result because the book is exceeding our expectations. Not only was there a lot of interest to write, but there has also been tremendous energy and support from those who are reading the stories.
Whose idea was it?
Joshua Welle, our class President, along with the elected leadership of the class, initiated the project. Josh deservers the lion's share of the credit for networking with veteran's groups and book endorsers, but we've also assembled a highly talented team of editors, PR and social media professionals. It has been a team effort. The four editors on the cover, Josh Welle, John Ennis, Katherine Kranz and Graham Plaster, worked with the content of the book and created the anthology which is the final product.
Who do you want to read this book? Why?
As Tom Brokaw has already said, this book is a “must read for all Americans.” We think that it is a book that can be read by young and old alike, military and civilians. The stories are short and inspirational, providing insight from up and coming military leaders. They would make great leadership case studies for any group working through particular issues.
The broader theme of the book is bigger than military service. By honoring veterans in the book, we also want to cultivate a national dialogue surrounding the enduring qualities that make America great. These qualities – cherished, defended and exemplified by our veterans, are worth discussing as we continue to grapple with strategic decisions for America.
Tell us how the book is structured and some of the tales it contains.
The book is structured thematically, starting with short stories about experiences at the Naval Academy and remembrances of 9-11, followed by war stories and anecdotes of heroism. Finally, there are several stories about life after the military, the impact of military service on community leadership and major changes to military and civilian culture over the past 10 years.
Some folks tend to think of their 20s as a carefree decade in their lives…yours was not. Would you have had it any other way?
This is a question that is best answered by reading the book. The answer is mostly no, but there are shadows in our stories. Not everything is black and white. When we applied to the Naval Academy, we were attracted to the crisp distinctions between navy blue and white, good and evil, satisfactory and unsatisfatory. These paradigms were tested. Read the book to get an inside glimpse of how we navigated those waters.
Only 1% of Americans are wearing the uniform and fighting the nation’s post-9/11 wars…should this be a concern?
There is a different opinion on this for every contributor to the book, and the editors cannot speak on behalf of everyone for questions like this, but even in leadership classes at the Naval Academy we discussed the widening culture gap between the military and civilian life. This is a concern to some people, and simply par for the course if you ask others.
There is a culture gap in any specialization, and in some cases the military does a much better job of keeping the public informed about our values and sacrifices. We rely heavily on the non-profits, civic organizations and veteran support groups to ensure this gap is bridged. We are so thankful to those who do understand military sacrifice. This book is a bridge across that gap.
How has the military treated you and your family?
The military has tremendous programs in place to support families, and the close knit communities that form on far flung bases are the bedrock of American society. Supporting families is a high priority to our leaders in the military, which is why failures in the system get so much scrutiny. It is through the difficult process of discussing shortcomings in the system of support that we make it better. We have confidence that as we raise issues, leaders from our generation will continue to rise to the challenge of supporting military families in the years to come.
And by supporting those families, we learn to heal our nation as a whole. How did you decide who to invite into this endeavor?
The entire class was invited to participate. Not everyone wanted to write, felt like they were in a position to write. Because we are still mid-career, there are many questions that go into a project like this. Am I writing for a good reason? Am I writing what needs to be said? Am I correcting a misconception? We wrestled with these questions as writers and peer editors.
Tell me your most inspirational story and why?
One of the most moving accounts is written by Lisa Freeman, mother of Matt Freeman, who was killed in action. She writes from the perspective of her son. When she was first approached to write, she was still too raw from the loss of her son. Through the process of putting words to paper, and working with the classmates of her son to edit the story, she was able to work through some of the difficult emotions. She spoke at our national book launch at 9-11 and received a standing ovation for her courage and the great work being done in Matt’s name through The Matthew Freeman Project (freemanproject.org).
Let's hope that some of our readers today can help you and Mrs. Freeman with that goal. Do you have plans for future projects along the same lines? Or, anything you felt got left out because it needs a separate book?
We have 30 more stories that will be published directly to eBook, hopefully soon. All profits from the book and eBook go to veteran charities. Our only goal is to make sure the stories get told.
What would you like readers to know about this book?
This is a really unique book. Many memoirs are written at the twilight of a career, this is a slice of life from 33 mid-career leaders. Who knows what will become of them? There may be a future government official or CEO in the mix. This hall of heroes is an exciting glimpse into the making of America’s next generation of leaders – where they are now and where they might be headed.
What would you like readers to know about you, your team of writers?
We had a few professionals help us with editing, but for the most part, the writing was done by the “doers”. We had over a hundred submissions by the time we were done, but had to edit it down to reduce redundancy in some of the themes, and find a common thread. The common elements are leadership, sacrifice and service – across the board. These are men and women who have done incredible things and will continue to serve our country in heroic ways when they are out of uniform.
Especially with what has happened with current events, why is reading this book so important? What will readers find here they won’t find elsewhere?
Hollywood and newspapers give their accounts of war, but this book allows us to speak for ourselves. We were eager to write the book to clarify certain misconceptions and help bridge the cultural gap between military families and non-military families.
I'm sure others will agree with me, it is truly an honor to have you here today, and we thank you, not only for your service, but for helping us understand what it takes to be a true leader, told by those who are living it every day.
Some of our readers may have questions and comments. We welcome one and all. Those of you who can, leave them some likes and tags on Amazon here.
Thank you both,
Excerpts are available at http://shadowofgreatness.com/lookinsid