Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I am a former foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and Professor Emeritus of Journalism at the University of Illinois where I was also the Dean of the College of Media.
My book, The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles, is the second in the Finding Billy Battles trilogy of novels. I am also the author of The Kikkoman Chronicles: A Global Company with A Japanese Soul, published by McGraw-Hill. Other books include Aboard The Tokyo Express: A Foreign Correspondent's Journey Through Japan, a collection of columns translated into Japanese, as well as three journalism textbooks: The Journalist's Handbook, International Reporting and Foreign Correspondents, and Business and Financial Reporting in a Global Economy.
During my career as a foreign correspondent I lived and worked in Japan, Southeast Asia and Latin America where I covered several major stories including the fall of South Vietnam and Cambodia in 1975; the 1989 Tiananmen Square tragedy in Beijing; Afghanistan during the last year of the Russian occupation; and revolutions in Nicaragua, El Salvador an Guatemala.
My work as a correspondent was rewarded with several awards, including three Pulitzer nominations; the Inter-American Press Association's Tom Wallace Award for coverage of Central and South America; the Peter Lisagor Award from the Society of Professional Journalists; and three Edward Scott Beck Awards.
I served 3-1/2 years active duty with the U.S. Army Security Agency in Germany, where I was worked in communication intelligence (SIGINTEL). I am a proud graduate of the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book is The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles. It is the second book in the Finding Billy Battles trilogy, which tells the amazing story of a remarkable man who lives an improbable and staggering 100-year-long life of adventure, peril, transgression and redemption between 1860 & 1960. The trilogy was inspired by a combination of my own family's history, an interview I did years ago with a 98-year-old Spanish-American War veteran and some of my own experiences as a war correspondent.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Not sure if this is an unusual habit, but I like to listen to music when I write. Most often, I listen to Mozart, Haydn, Telemann, William Boyce, and Beethoven. Classical music, played softly, is inspirational and helps me think. However, I also like the jazz of Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson, The Modern Jazz Quartet, George Shearing, etc. and I will on occasion switch from classical to that.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Scoop, by Evelyn Waugh; The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck; The Quiet American, Graham Greene; The Jewel in the Crown, Paul Scott; Kim, Rudyard Kipling; Huckleberry Finn, Samuel Clemons (Mark Twain); A Passage to India, E.M. Forster; Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser; The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer.
What are you working on now?
I have started Book #3 in the Finding Billy Battles series. It should available on Amazon in February 2016. I am also pulling together reams of notes for when I finally decide to write about own life as war correspondent.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I am still learning how to use the vast universe of social media to market my book. In addition to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, of course, my book is on Goodreads, Smashwords, Google Books, Createspace, NetGalley, Independent Book Publishers Association, as well as the Historical Novel Society, my blog, my author page on Facebook and the book's website.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Don't let anybody discourage you from pursuing this work if it is truly what you want to do. Don't be discouraged by rejection. Try to write as much as you can from your own experiences. They are real and uncontrived and if you incorporate those experiences in your fiction, your work will have a truthful ring to it. Beyond that, KEEP AT IT! Don't let anybody (editors, agents, etc.) discourage you. At the same time, be willing to accept constructive criticism from those who have experience as authors, editors, agents, etc. Notice I said CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. Some people criticize just to be criticizing–or to be malicious. You must believe in yourself, your work, your vision, and your story. If you don't, who will?
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Writing can take over your life, isolate you from family and friends, and turn you into a kind of sophistic recluse if you are not careful. Writers need to take breaks from working. If they don't I believe they run the risk of becoming stale, self-absorbed, and misanthropic.
What are you reading now?
The Life We Bury, Allen Eskens.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I want to finish Book #3 in the Finding Billy Battles trilogy and then move on to writing my memoirs that will look at the "stories behind the stories" during my career as a foreign correspondent.
What is your favorite book of all time?
Scoop, by Evelyn Waugh. For a journalist like me, even though it is biting satire, it still has a ring of truth about it.