Thursday, September 20, 2007

In His Own Words, James V. Lee

Nonfiction author James V. Lee has been active in the literary field all his adult life. He traveled the world teaching writing. He’s written and co-written multiple books. He’s also the Senior Editor and owner of Salado Press. For the past year, he’s written monthly essays for the Dallas Morning News.

He’s also been a friend of mine for years. As his time with the Dallas Morning News comes to an end, I wanted to ask him some questions about his books and essays. Today is Part One of the interview.

GINGER: What made you decide to write Nine Years in the Saddle, the story of your father?

LEE: My father walked out of my life when I was age three. His desertion was not well received by my mother, her family and all of their friends. As I grew up, his existence was just ignored, so I knew nothing about him. After everybody affected by that event died, I decided to find out what happened to him. I tracked him to Springfield, Mo., where he was alive and well at age 81 with this third wife. After he and his wife met me at the airport in Springfield, we went to his house, sat down in the kitchen, and I started the conversation with the question, "Well, Pop, what've you been doing all these years?" He had just retired and told me something of his successful business dealings. But he really became animated, and I became captivated, when he began to tell me about his years as a young cowboy in New Mexico and Arizona from 1930 to 1939. On the flight back home, I knew I had a story that would fly with many people, and I knew the title was going to be Nine Years In The Saddle.

GINGER: You not only write books, you help other authors get their stories into print, even to the extent of co-writing. When co-authoring a non-fiction book, is it difficult to suppress your own ideas and meld with the other author?

LEE: I don't even attempt to inject my own ideas into the subject's story. I want it to be as authentic as possible. The subjects' stories are a little slice of history from the viewpoint of these people. That's important to the schools that have used these books in the classroom. I do dig into the minds of these people and draw out information they had overlooked. I also use the internet to verify facts, dates, and other relevant information. For example, in the book When Surrender Was Not An Option, George Crawford, the subject, didn't remember the names of some of his fellow crewmembers on his B-24 bomber that was shot out from under him. I not only got all their names; I also got their ranks.

This interview will continue next Thursday here on this blog, as well as in my free e-newsletter, Doing It Write. In the meantime, you can find out more about James V. Lee and his books – Nine Years in the Saddle, Escape from Korea and When Surrender Was Not an Option – on his website.

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