Kevin Peter of Moterwriter.com caught up with author Roger Blake and got him to talk a little about his memoir One Helluva Life. This is what transpired in the tête-à-tête with the author.
Kevin Peter: Let’s start off with the most obvious question. Why did you write this book?
Roger Blake: My initial intent was just to write a short article about PTSD and my treatment at the Veterans Administration. The more I wrote, I realized that I had a much more significant story to tell. After several attempts, I decided to start at the beginning and my initial idea blossomed into a full-blown account of my life.
KP: How long did it take and what was the process like?
RB: Writing the story became an obsession. The first draft took only three months, but rewrites and editing took another two years. I first published the book under the title of “Ramjet,” but after letting it sit for a year, I realized that it needed a lot more work. Eight months later, with the new title “One Helluva Life” and a new cover, it was released again.
This was the first full-length book I’ve written, so it was an incredible learning experience. It wasn’t until I was well into the project, that I developed a voice that seemed to suit me, which necessitated much of the rewriting.
KP: You’ve travelled all over the country and overseas as part of the various jobs you held. Have you revisited these places and if not, is that something you would want to do in the future?
RB: I’ve revisited most of the places I’ve lived in – California, Oregon, New York, and Massachusetts. While it’s fun to visit, these places have all become popular, busier and larger. I still live in New Mexico with the wide-open landscapes and spectacular views that are close to my heart.
KP: Have you kept in touch with the people you’ve served with in Vietnam and then in your other civilian jobs?
RB: I just went to San Diego for the 50th reunion of my fighter squadron VF114 from the Vietnam cruise. It was difficult at first, but I’m glad I caught up with everyone. It was fun to feel the camaraderie again and share our experiences.
KP: How did you manage to keep your chin up even when the world around you seemed to be crashing to the ground?
RB: Just believed in myself. Bad things happened, but they did not make me a bad person. I always looked forward and buried myself in work and my creative pursuits.
KP: Does the present day Roger Blake feel differently about the war you fought and the politics behind it?
RB: My early beliefs have been confirmed that the Vietnam War was contrived primarily for political gain. I stop short of being a pacifist, but our recent wars have repeated the past and done much damage to our nation’s credibility and honor – not to mention the loss of lives. Much more has been lost than gained.
KP: You’ve had a rather eventful life. If there’s one thing that you would take away from it as an important life lesson, what would it be?
RB: Determine who you are at an early age and let nothing interfere with pursuing your dreams.
KP: The book contained very little about your siblings. Was that intentional?
RB: Yes. Those experiences were not particularly relevant to the story.
KP: What keeps you busy nowadays?
RB: I’m drifting creatively – trying to find a significant theme story to write about. I’m still very much into photography and art, but not on a professional level.
KP: Was writing about the war and the losses you suffered cathartic or did it open up old wounds all over again?
RB: Writing “One Helluva Life” indeed opened old wounds and was very difficult to get through. It was cathartic to the extent that the memories are now put to rest for the most part. Like most people with PTSD, however, it doesn’t take much to bring them back to the surface again.
KP: Do you think your memoir will help other veterans struggling with PTSD?
RB: It has already helped many veterans and others with traumatic life experiences. The responses have been very gratifying.
KP: Is there another book in the works?
RB: Always, but nothing of the scale of “One Helluva Life” has come to mind. I’m working on it.
KP: Is there anything that you would have undone, if possible or approached differently in this life?
RB: Sure. First and foremost would have been to pursue art at an early age and stuck with it throughout my life, regardless of the cost. I would have been much more successful and the story would have been much different.
KP: Do you have any future plans to showcase your artwork and photographs to the general public?
RB: My artistic focus is on photography. If I develop a unique body of work, I will certainly want to show it – not so much for the commercial success, but to be acknowledged as an artist.
KP: Thank you Roger Blake for your time. It has truly been an honor. And all the very best for your book!
RB: Thank you. It has been my pleasure.
Connect with him at –http://www.onehelluvalife.com/home.html