Kathleen M. Rodgers is an award-winning author whose work has appeared in both national and local publications. A former military wife turned military mom, Kathleen is driven to explore military themes in her literary fiction. Her debut novel, THE FINAL SALUTE, focuses on two key themes: How fighter pilots often die in peacetime training missions and how the brass and bad commanders cover up sex scandals in the military. She is nearing completion on a second novel called JOHNNIE COME LATELY.
Deleyna: Welcome, Kathleen! Can you describe your road to publication for my readers. You've taken a different path.
Kathleen: Unlike my two colleagues, I chose the traditional route for the paperback edition of The Final Salute. The novel was a sixteen-year effort of more than one hundred revisions, that many rejections, and my bullheaded determination to find a traditional publisher. Many years ago I found an agent who got my manuscript to a major publishing house in NYC. Three weeks later came the rejection, along with advice from an editor telling me what I needed to do to fix the novel. I took her advice and started over from scratch. In the end, my former agent dropped all of his fiction writers and I never found another agent to take me on. I just kept revising and believing that one day I would find someone who believed in my story as much as I did. I kept hearing “all it takes is one person.”
Finally, in May 2008, sixteen years after I started writing the novel, I found my “one person” in the form of Neil Levin, CEO and Founder of Leatherneck Publishing, based in Oceanside, Calif. The book came out that October. Ironically, The Final Salute was their final title. Leatherneck Publishing closed their doors May 2009. In July 2011, Navigator Books, a new publishing imprint based in San Diego, CA, released the Kindle edition. They breathed new life into my book by giving it a striking new cover and including my award and a few blurbs from some of the top publications that reviewed or ran stories about the book.
Deleyna: That sounds like many of my friends' dream. You have the help of a traditional publisher. That means you're set, right?
Kathleen: Despite my traditional route to publication, all the marketing and promotional efforts were left up to me. Without the help of an expensive publicist, I used modern technology and old-school methods I learned as a freelance writer to gain national attention for my book. Write-ups have appeared in The Associated Press, USA Today, Military Times, Family Magazine, Mobile Press-Register, Midwest Book Review, Fort Worth-Texas Magazine, the Star-Telegram, and many other publications. In 2012, The Final Salute hit #1 on Amazon’s Top Rated Literature and Fiction (Kindle edition) and #1 on Amazon’s Top Rated War Fiction (both paperback and Kindle). In 2010, the paperback edition hit #2 on Amazon’s Bestseller list in Military Aviation. Army Wife Network selected The Final Salute for their July 2009 book club, and that same year I won a Silver Medal from Military Writers Society of America.
Deleyna: Congratulations! You've done a fantastic job with your marketing and with your writing. Can you tell us about your writing process?
Kathleen: Except for the middle section that contains first person letters, I chose third person multiple viewpoint as I had a large cast of characters to juggle, and I needed the reader to get inside the heads of about a handful of those characters. My protagonist is a fighter pilot named Tuck Westerfield, and even though there are many subplots and layers, the story revolves primarily around Tuck and his family. Tuck is a composite of all the pilots I’ve ever known. I drew inspiration for the other players in this tale of military life from people I’ve encountered in my 54 years of living and from people I imagined would make my story a little more colorful. There’s so much diversity in the military among the active duty and their families, and I tried to include that in my authentic tale. I chose past tense because it seemed the most natural form of storytelling for this book.
Deleyna: Thanks for sharing your time with us. I know you are hard at work on your next novel. I'm going to be joining the fans waiting for it!
Kathleen: Thank you so much for inviting the three of us on your blog. I hope we inspire other writers to reach out to one another. In this business, I believe we are stronger working together than we are apart.
Deleyna: Very true!
I want to share an intro to this book with my readers, but first I need to warn you. I read on my Nook. These ladies are all Amazon Select novelists, which meant that in some cases I couldn't get a copy that would work on my ereader. Kathleen graciously gave me a copy which I downloaded to my computer. I have to confess, I wasn't happy -- eye strain, y'know? So, I figured I'd just skim the novel. A page in, I was hooked. I read the entire thing -- on the computer -- and had trouble taking vision breaks. I love all of these ladies' books, but this one caused me to suffer through pain to get to the end. It was THAT good.
Here's the teaser:
At a small air base in Louisiana, family man and seasoned fighter pilot, Tuck Westerfield's life could literally crash down around him. In this business of flying fighter jets, the odds of staying alive are stacked against him.
Haunted by the memories of dead friends killed in air mishaps, this Vietnam vet and father of three must deal with a devious commander, an animal-crazed neighbor, whose husband hates pilots, a beautiful, but suspicious wife and a rebellious teenage daughter. The last thing he needs is another war.
But when Iraq invades Kuwait in the middle of a muggy Louisiana summer, duty calls. Tuck and the other pilots in his squadron head to the Middle East.
Back in Louisiana, Gina Westerfield and other military wives learn that war is hell on the home front, too.
Later, when tragedy strikes, everyone at Beauregard Air Force Base must pull together and live on or forever be consumed with grief.