Author John H Brown talks to us about his book Augie’s War, which ‘explores the healing power of family to recharge the human spirit when wartime experiences threaten to darken the very soul of the protagonist.’
He draws heavily from his experience as a Vietnam vet to deliver the reader a blunt look at the ravages of war and attests to the true spirit of brothers-in-arms.
Tell us about yourself.
I was the owner of Brown Communications a public relations and marketing company. I retired three years ago to write my novel- Augie’s War. I have been a newspaper wine and food columnist for more than 30 years and I continue to write for the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail daily newspaper and for The State Journal – a statewide business weekly. I graduated from West Virginia University with a BS in Journalism and an MA in Speech Communications. I am a veteran of the Vietnam War (1969-70) and I reside with my wife of 48 years in Charleston, West Virginia. We have two sons and three grandchildren.
What is your favorite childhood book?
My parents bought me a set of books in the 1950’s and I spent hours reading fairy tales, mythology and various biographies of famous people like Napoleon, George Washington and Mark Twain.
When did you first realise you wanted to become a writer?
From grade school and into high school I wanted to write. At first, I concentrated on poetry and then when I returned from Vietnam I began to write about my experiences over there. When my career and family took precedence over my desire to write, I always hoped I could finish my Vietnam story.
How do you deal with bad reviews for your book?
So far I haven’t had any, but that probably is more a product of the limited number of people I have reached.
What are some jobs that you’ve worked? Have any of them had an impact on your work?
Obviously, my service in Vietnam was a prime motivating influence, but I’ve always written, particularly for newspapers, and PR clients. And through my wine and food columns, I have been able to keep my skills honed over the years.
With the rise of the self-publishing industry, do you think the writing market has saturated? How hard is it to get readers for your work?
It is exceptionally difficult to get a book attention in the broader reading public. I don’t have an agent so all the marketing is up to me and I find it daunting. My book is widely available, though. You can find it at online retailers such as Amazon, itunes, etc.
What do you enjoy about your writing style?
Sometimes I can amuse myself in developing odd characters and that’s a lot of fun.
What are some unconventional habits you have when it comes to writing?
Sometimes it takes months for me to “noodle” my story. I can’t seem to get started for all the thinking about I do about my work. But then once I begin, some force inside me takes over and I can write non-stop for hours. It’s weird, but sometimes I’ll spend four hours writing at my desk without getting up and then it’s usually because I have to go to the bathroom.
Do you have any regrets about your published works? Are there some things you wish you could go back and change?
I’ve only had one book published and I have made minor (grammatical changes) to the novel that I’ve sent to my publisher. But no regrets.
Tell us about your latest work.
Augie’s War explores the healing power of family to recharge the human spirit when wartime experiences threaten to darken the very soul of the protagonist. In the story, Augie Cumpton leans on, and flashes back to, childhood memories of his large and boisterous Italian-American family, the bakery where he worked and the humorous, sometimes outrageous, but always memorable characters of his youth.
As Augie’s Vietnam deployment draws to a close and enemy attacks are a daily occurrence, he must find a way to not only survive the war, but also make life and death decisions forced on him by a coterie of deranged and corrupt superiors. If he refuses to comply with their illegal demands, he may end up like another soldier in his unit who is murdered.
Do you have any advice for writers struggling for inspiration?
Write about things that you know or have a familiarity with. That’s always a good way to begin when your having trouble getting started. I find that just beginning the process of writing always seems to lead to something interesting.
What are your tips to help find the right publisher?
There is no easy way. You should do your research, talk to other writers and ask for an introduction. Try and interest an agent – which is almost impossible for debut writers. And send your work to publishers who publish your genre.
Editor’s note: The acclaimed author of #1 New York Times bestselling memoir ‘Rocket Boys’, Homer Hickam, had this to say about Augie’s War, “One of the most powerful novels I’ve yet read on the Vietnam War. As a veteran of that awful conflict, I was absolutely riveted by the tale of Augie and his buddies, and every word rang true.” Augie’s War is bestselling book of 2018 at Charleston’s iconic Taylor Books in West Virginia.
To learn more about John H Brown, visit him online at https://www.augieswar.com/.
To get a copy of Augie’s War please click here.