Title: A Long Way Back
Synopsis: When a reporter for the Washington Post sees a group of wounded, half-starved, black troops disembark from a helicopter in Cu Chi during the height of the Vietnam War, he senses a story, but receives no cooperation from the army or the soldiers.
The men, mostly noncombat soldiers, are the remnant of a squad sent on an illegal mission to Cambodia as punishment for their participation in a race riot at Cu Chi base camp. Led by a battle-fatigued sergeant, they fall under enemy fire. Their leader inexplicably disappears, leaving the ill-prepared soldiers to fight the jungle and enemy on their own.
Although forced to confront the shock of combat and a deteriorating family life, the reporter pursues the story hoping to uncover the truth about what happened to those soldiers in the jungle.
An intriguing glimpse into the Vietnam War, A Long Way Back is a tense journey merging the lives of the soldiers and the reporter as they struggle to overcome their fear and face the battles they must fight to survive.
CH: It’s such a pleasure having J. Everett Prewitt here today. He writes such detailed and enthralling books. Welcome to my blog J. Everett.
CH: Please tell us in one sentence, why we should read your book about the Vietnam War.
JEP: A Long Way Back is one of the unique stories of the war, told from the perspective of black soldiers.
CH: You are one of my favorite authors, because you write complex stories that make the readers think. Where do you get your inspiration and ideas from when you write?
JEP: Thank you. That’s quite a compliment. My inspiration comes from so many sources, but mostly my life’s experiences. Secondly, I’m inspired by authors I’ve read, and whose books I’ve enjoyed like Robert Ludlum, John Le Carré, Octavia Butler and Tananarive Due.
CH: What is different and exciting that you bring to your readers through your type of writing?
JEP: I like to take my reader’s places they’ve not been, introduce them to people they may never have met, and place them in environments and situations they may never have encountered.
CH: Where do your ideas come from? Do you have a standard formula for plots or do stories come to you as a whole concept?
JEP: Many of my ideas come from real life “what ifs.” In Snake Walkers, one of my uncles knocked down a deputy sheriff in Wynne, Arkansas in the 1930s. The sheriff let my uncle off with a warning. When I asked my father why there was no punishment, he said, “They didn’t mess with us down there.” Snake Walkers was based on: but, what if they had decided a warning wasn’t enough?” In A Long Way Back, I heard a colonel tell some troops who were in a brawl in Vietnam that if they liked fighting so much, he was going to send them to the front line. I don’t know if he ever did, but, “what if?” I have an idea about the plot, but I have less of an idea about the outcome. The characters begin to take over the story, so you follow them to a conclusion.
CH: Why did you decide to write this book?
JEP: This book had been in the back of my mind since Vietnam. A few years ago, one of my readers at Goodreads pleaded with me to write another book, and suggested I write about my experience in Vietnam. That clicked with me. Thus, A Long Way Back was born.
CH: Did you find anything challenging while writing this book?
JEP: Yes. This book triggered a few bad memories. Other than that, finding the time to write and still run a business was an issue.
CH: Since you were an Army Officer in Vietnam, did this experience provide background information or did you have to do any special research to write this book?
JEP: My experience helped a little, but a lot of research was required, especially pertaining to Cambodia, the time period, and real people who were a part of the story. I studied PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and its affects, and I had quite a few conversations with other Vietnam veterans including a war correspondent.
CH: I interviewed you for your first book, Snake Walkers, and waited ten years for your second book. Are you a perfectionist and how long does it take you to write one of your books?
JEP: I would like to think I’m a perfectionist, but that’s not why it took so long. After Snake Walkers, I tried writing the sequel, Two Wolves. I got stalled, so I started writing short stories and a novella while I was writing A Long Way Back. Many of the short stories related to a character in A Long Way Back. I will have these stories e-published—probably one a month. And eventually, I will complete Two Wolves. A Long Way Back was written in about four years.
CH: Since you have several characters, who was the hardest character to write? Who was your favorite character to write?
JEP: I’ll start with my favorite character, Raymond. He didn’t have a major role in this novel, but I understand him completely. My second favorite was Sergeant Willie Stinson. I grew up with a guy like Stinson. I also knew a few sergeants like him. I go into more detail about Stinson’s childhood in my short story, The Last Time I Saw Willie. The hardest character to write was Anthony. In Snake Walkers, I had to do a lot of research about people like him. In A Long Way Back, it became a little easier because he’s changing.
CH: Where did you get inspiration for your characters?
JEP: Guys I grew up with, and served with. Each of the characters is someone I’ve either had as a friend or knew a lot about in real life. Carla, Anthony’s wife, has many of my mother’s and sister’s characteristics.
CH: What time period does the book span? Did you leave out any stories that you wanted to include?
JEP: This story is within a time span of less than two years. And yes, I did leave out one story in particular: Raymond’s essay, The Last Time I Saw Willie, about Sergeant Willie Stinson, who was a boyhood friend of Raymond’s.
CH: When did you realize that you were meant to be a writer?
JEP: I consider myself more of a storyteller, than a writer. I started telling stories to my children when they were small. I would make them up on the spot. Technically, I still have a lot to learn about the mechanics of writing. I’m getting better. But, that’s why they have editors. (No one edited this, by the way. So, excuse any errors.)
CH: You received many awards for Snake Walkers. As far as accolades or achievements, what would you say has been your greatest achievement as a writer?
JEP: Finishing a book. The awards are great, but finishing a novel, to me, is monumental.
CH: What kind of feedback are you getting from readers of the book?
JEP: It’s early yet, but my reviews on Amazon are all fives. Kirkus Reviews gave me a very good review and a number of readers have told me how much they enjoyed the book.
CH: Last but not least, why do you write, and what do you want readers to take from your novels?
JEP: I write to tell a story that either hasn’t been told or hasn’t been told enough. I want my readers to see African-Americans not only surviving, but winning. I want to portray an alternative image to the one we typically see in the media today, because except in sports, our stories of success are rarely told.
CH: Can you give my audience your website address?
CH: Can you tell my audience where is your book sold?
JEP: It won’t be in stores and libraries until November. It’s available on Amazon in print and in Kindle format. It is also carried by Loganberry Books in Cleveland, Ohio where I’ll have my first book signing. Amazon Link: http://amzn.to/1WwxbHH
CH: Any closing remarks?
JEP: Thank you for the interview, Cheryl. It’s always a pleasure conversing with you and I love that you are still around.
CH: Thank you J. Everett Prewitt, it has been a real pleasure discussing your book and your writing journey with my audience.
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