Craig T. Greenlee – Guest Author Interview

2014 Black History Month

Memoir

Title: November Ever After

Genre: Memoir  

Synopsis: The legacy of the Marshall players who perished transcends wins and losses. Their tragic deaths squashed the likelihood of a bloody race riot on campus.

The evening of November 14, 1970 was damp and chilly with a steady drizzle and dense fog. Students at Marshall University had no idea that the night’s horrific events would change their lives forever.

On this night, a plane crash wiped out most of the school’s football team. Unless you were there, you could never fully comprehend the gravity of grief that engulfed Huntington, West Virginia, in the days following the worst aviation disaster in the history of American sports.

“I know. I was there. I’ll never forget. It could have been me on that plane.”

“I played football at MU for two seasons. A year before the tragedy, I left the team for personal reasons. When the school began the daunting task of resurrecting its football program in the spring of ’71, it was a no-brainer decision for me to rejoin the team and become part of the rebuilding process.”

Media projects devoted to the plane crash provide well-deserved notoriety. Still, there are glaring omissions. Now, for the first time, former Marshall defensive back Craig T. Greenlee tells the real story—the whole story—about Thundering Herd football from back in the day.

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Author: Craig T. Greenlee

I invited today’s Guest Author, Craig T. Greenlee, to my Blog to answer a few questions about his writing and his book. Craig, thanks for joining us.

CH: What inspired you to write the story of Marshall University?

CTG: After reading a local newspaper article about the plane crash and watching the movie We Are Marshall, I was compelled to write the memoir November Ever After. I have unique ties to the school and its football program. For two seasons, I played defensive back at Marshall University. A year before the crash, I left the team for personal reasons, so I was only a year removed from being on that plane. As a former teammate, I knew most of the guys who died, which included my best friend Scottie Reese, who was supposed to be the best man at my wedding held later that year. The news article and movie caused me to have a light bulb moment. That’s when I realized that my story has value and is vastly different from anything else that’s ever been done on the topic of the Marshall Football plane crash. From the very start, my only motive for writing the memoir was to present the complete story as told by those who were there.

CH: So many memoir writers work on their book for years and years. How long did it take you to write it?

 CTG: About 17 months.

 CH: Was it painful to revisit that situation? How did it change your life?

 CTG: I wouldn’t describe it as painful. It was more like coming to grips with aspects of the crash that I had never really dealt with for years and years. Writing this book forced me to take a more introspective look at what happened that night and the impact it had on myself and others. Having gone through that experience, you can’t help but develop a deep appreciation for how precious life really is.

 CH: Was it difficult to write about the grief of so many people after such a horrific situation?

 CTG: While it’s true that the devastation was overwhelming, it wasn’t difficult for me to write about it. That’s because it was a shared experience. The plane crash touched everybody connected with Marshall and the city of Huntington, West Virginia. It didn’t matter whether you were black or white, male or female, or whether you were a football fan or not.

 CH: Did you run into any pitfalls while writing this book?

 CTG: There weren’t any pitfalls, but there was one big surprise. Some readers felt that there was an overemphasis on the racial climate at Marshall in 1970. On the day before the crash, there was an on-campus brawl between blacks and whites. After those Friday afternoon fights, black students were concerned that a full-scale battle might take place that weekend. The next night the Marshall plane crashed into the side of a mountain. There were no survivors among the 75 passengers on board. The agony was so widespread that nobody could think about n-words and racial slurs. I will always be convinced that the tragedy averted what could have been a bloody race riot at Marshall.

 CH: Was it hard to write this book?

 CTG: No, it was more like being on a mission that needed to be completed. I’m still amazed that even after all this time (over 40 years), nobody had ever written a first-hand account of the tragedy and its aftermath. This was a story that was long overdue

 CH: You shared a lot of information and events that were not common knowledge or included in the documentaries. What was your reasoning for doing this? Or did you just want the history of the incident to be right?

 CTG: After reviewing several books and watching the documentaries and the movie, it became abundantly clear that major portions of what happened back then were left out. I have no idea if that was intentional or not. I always felt that it was an injustice to exclude those voices that had never been given a public platform. The beauty of it is that there are so many of us who are still around who know what took place and the impact it had on the school and the community. The story stands on its own; there’s no need to embellish. It’s a real story told by real people, who suffered real pain and anguish. Quite honestly, I never thought about this being history until after I finished the manuscript.

 CH: What kind of feedback are you getting from readers of the book?

 CTG: The feedback has been positive and encouraging. What I’m hearing most is that the memoir uncovers so many facets of the story that have been glossed over or overlooked in other media projects about the tragedy. This story isn’t just about me being an ex-football player who was not on the plane. It includes the recollections of young co-eds who lost boyfriends on the night of the crash. It’s also about a ministry that’s based on the crash, which was started by former player Ed Carter who missed the fatal flight because of a death in his family. Evangelist Carter’s 40-year ministry remains vibrant to this day. People deeply appreciate learning about the personal perspectives of those who were there in 1970.

 CH: Did you have to do any special research to write this book?

CTG: Not really. The true grunt work involved getting in touch with people who I had not been in contact with for several decades. Once I established contact, it became a process of explaining how they could help me to tell the complete story about that period of time at Marshall University. The most moving recollections I have of those interviews is me asking probing questions, and then listening to them share their inner-most thoughts about an emotionally-devastating event that changed their lives forever.

 CH: Do you do anything special on November 14th of every year?

 CTG: Every year, around the start of November, I always check the calendar to see what day the 14th falls on. During the course of the day on each November 14th, I’ll glance at a clock and think about what I was doing at that time of the day back in 1970. On the night of the 14th, I pay even closer attention to the time when it’s between 7:30 and 8 o’clock. That’s the time frame of the plane crash.

 CH: Are there any other plans for this book, possibly a movie?

 CTG: I remain confident that this book will one day become a movie.

 CH: Is this your first book? How long have you been writing?

 CTG: November Ever After marks my debut as a book author. During my journalism career (over 30 years), I’ve served as a writer/editor/photographer and graphic designer for newspapers and magazines.

 CH: What is your next writing project?

 CTG: A sequel is in the making. Hopefully, it will be finished and published within the next 12 to 18 months. Given the nature of the feedback I’ve gotten from so many new sources that were not included in the memoir, it’s only fitting that I author a second book on this subject.

 CH: Do you think this book has an impact on history?

 CTG: This book is history. The folks featured in the memoir actually lived through it all and collectively, they have a marvelous story to tell. As for impact, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Those who have yet to read the book will discover that there’s a lot more to this story than what they already know. Sure, football is the central focus, but there’s so much more and it transcends what’s been revealed in other works (books, documentaries and the movie).

 CH: Do you have a website?

 CTG: The book’s website is http://www.NovemberEverAfter.com

 CH: Where is your book sold?

 CTG: You can place an order at most bookstores around the country. The memoir is available in paperback and it’s also on Kindle and The Nook. Online outlets include: Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, iUniverse, Books A Million, diesel eBook Store and Kobo.

 CH: Do you have any closing remarks?

 CTG: November Ever After is a never-told-before story whose time has finally come. It’s a story told by those who for one reason or another, had never been asked for their input. Since writing the book, I’ve learned that most people really enjoyed the movie, but after they’ve read the memoir, they find out that the story line is far more captivating. This is hardly author’s hype. That’s a summary of the reader comments that anyone can view for themselves on Amazon.com (type in the book title, then click on customer reviews). In media interviews, I make a point to emphasize that the movie is fine for what it is—a Hollywood rendition, which is really more of an appetizer. My memoir is the full-course meal. There are plenty of reviews and media articles that agree with my assessment.

 CH: Craig, thank you for sharing your experiences and your book with my audience.  

CTG: You are welcome, Cheryl.

On this blog, I “Pay it Forward” to other authors by spotlighting them with a Guest Author Interview. I only ask that they too “Pay It Forward” to any other author.                                                                                                                    ~ Cheryl Holloway

 

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