Welcome, John Deffes, to Coffee Time Romance. Please start by telling us a little about yourself.
Well, first, thanks for the nice welcome! I appreciate the opportunity to get in front of Coffee Time's readers. I was born and raised in the middle of the Mojave Desert in California. There, at China Lake, you'll find the Navy's air weapons research station. It was a great life, with plenty of fresh air, hiking, hunting, fishing and dirt biking. I joined the Navy in 1979, and after training and schools and such, I was shipped off to Jacksonville, Florida where I currently reside. I met my wife, Jamie, here. The very first day I met her, I knew I wanted to be her husband. We met on August 28, 1983, and were married two months later on October 30th. It has been an honor and a privilege to be her husband, and we are truly soul mates. I can't imagine my life without her in it. We have two children. Our oldest, Paul, is 22. He's into college and Kung Fu. Our youngest, Tim, is 17. He's doing very well in his junior year at high school, and takes flying lessons. He'll have his pilot's license this time next year. We're very proud of both boys. Hope I haven't bored you all too much with this personal stuff, but you asked!
You're an inspiration to many people for your service to your country. Was it family connections that made you choose this path, or was it a personal reason?
Well thank you, but the 7 years I served were not anything particularly special. I did my duty to the best of my ability, and walked away a lot smarter. I served during the Reagan years. It was a proud and fortunate time to be in the Navy. I remember being scared out of my wits while out at sea onboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. America. The Cold War was raging back then, and I always figured we'd end up incinerated in a fight with the Soviet Navy. That said, I'll always be indebted to the Navy and to this country for the opportunities I was given. For whatever reason, I was smart enough to take advantage of most of them. As to the second part of your question, I would say it was partially family connections. After all, I did grow up on a Navy air base! My father served as a naval officer during World War II, and my mother served as one of the very first WAVES. They met at China Lake after the war. So, it was that influence from both of them, coupled with living in a place that placed the Navy's premier fighter and strike aircraft flying, with regularity, in the sky above my home. There was also the fact that I really had no idea what I wanted to do as my high school days concluded. I was not the best student, but managed to graduate.
Your book, Until My Last Breath, is a beautiful love story surrounding war and death. Did you take this from your own life, or at least base it a little on what you went through?
Thank you, Lori. That's very kind of you to say. I'm a romantic at heart, but it took the love and patience of my wife to really bring that out. Until My Last Breath is very loosely based upon Hub Zemke. Hub Zemke was the Commanding Officer of the Air Force's 56th Fighter Group during World War II. I read Hub's book, Zemke's Wolfpack, and was astounded by the level of dedication and effort put forth by the men of the 56th. It's not that the 56th was the only dedicated unit during the war -- they all were -- but I liked Hub's story, and decided to very loosely base my main character on Hub. Incidentally, Hub lived through the war, and led a productive post-war life. Colonel Zemke was a man of unwavering personal integrity and conviction. He was outspoken, courageous, really just a great wartime leader. So, my main character, Caleb, is an amalgam of Hub and the officers and men under his command. It's a tribute, really, this book, and it was a joy to write.
I found myself caught up in the lives of all your characters; your writing brought out the realism of what was going on with everyone and everything. Did you plot out the story before you began to write, or did the characters take on a life of their own and lead you through each page?
The novel started as a short story I wrote. That short story became chapter eighteen in the novel. I would say, as you put it, the characters sort of took on a life of their own and led me on. I did a great deal of historical research for this novel -- wanting to make sure the details were reasonably close to the actual events as the 56th experienced them. I took a few liberties, but overall, the novel is historically accurate when dealing with the 56th's movement around England as they fought the war. That said, this was a labor of love. The words came quite easily.
Tell me what your work space is like. Are you organized and neat, or are you surrounded by chaos and notes?
Laughing out loud here! My work space is really quite military in appearance. I like things organized and neat. I keep a folder on my desk that contains notes I make to myself and other items related to the novel, such as historical tidbits and such. On the cover of the folder is a genealogy chart of the Roberts family that I created and sketched out. This chart helps me to keep the family members in a reasonable state of order and cohesion.
What is the one thing that keeps you writing? Or perhaps there is more than one thing. Something that not just inspires you, but calls to you to put your fingers on that keyboard.
I enjoy it. I would not write if I did not enjoy the process. That said, there is a selfish aspect to this. I want to leave something behind. To my way of thinking, not much could be better than something like a book that looks at the very best part of humanity. I wish I could tell your readers that I am a religious man, but I'm not. I'm of the opinion that when you pass on, that's all there is. What I leave behind, my legacy if you will, is important to me. This book, and the one to follow, are part of that idea of a legacy. I wish to leave something behind that touches people, that perhaps gets the reader to consider life from a slightly different angle. It would be arrogant of me to assume I've accomplished anything like that with a book, but I am trying. I wish to leave the world around me, the part that I can somewhat control, a little bit better for my having passed across the stage. A big inspiration to me in the writing world is J. Michael Straczynski. Mr. Straczynski created and wrote the television show, Babylon 5. Without sounding like a total nerd, B5, or more accurately, Mr. Straczynski's writing, helped me to wake up and realize that we're given one life. I decided that I wanted to at least try and make mine mean something. Leaving words behind is my way of doing that. Others leave a legacy in some other way, but writing is one method I have chosen to leave a part of myself behind. Great question, Lori! Thank you.
What is John, the man, like? If someone asked you to write your own biography, what would be the title, and perhaps give us a sample of the back blurb.
I'm evolving. I like to consider that I'm growing and learning something new each day. I'm trying, Lori. I'm getting up each day, I'm trying to be a good husband and father, a decent human that doesn't consume too much of our precious natural resources, that cares about the people and world around me. I think I'm better at the process on some days than I am on others, but I am trying. I want to know about everything! I get my groove on for astronomy, cosmology, history, physics, music, reading, philosophical discussions, physical fitness, fishing, hiking, and a good single-malt Scotch. My biography? It would have to be called, He Came. He Loved. He Lived (And Learned a Little Something While Doing It). The back blurb? "John's still working on the last part of this biography's title, but he's been loved by the best woman thirteen billion years of cosmic consciousness can weave together!"
Are you an avid reader, as well as a writer? Who are some of your favorite authors and how do they help you?
Yep. I love to read. I'm often reading up to 3 books at once, and several magazines. For example, I'm currently reading Charles Frazier's Thirteen Moons and Stephen Hawking's The Illustrated A Brief History Of Time, and a stack of my favorite magazines, World War II, Astronomy, Wild West. Charles Frazier is definitely a favorite. Ray Tolliver is another. Ayn Rand has aided my world view. I enjoy some of the Russian classics too. Dostoevsky with The Brothers Karamazov, and Tolstoy and Anna Karenina are two that come immediately to mind. I have already mentioned J. Michael Straczynski. You may find it surprising that I enjoy the writings of Neil Peart. Neil is the drummer, and writes virtually all of the lyrics for the progressive rock band Rush. I have been a dedicated Rush fan since 1975. In many ways, they have written the soundtrack for my life. All of these writers are inspirational to me. How? The fact that they keep going, or kept going in the face of adversity. Further, they have taken the art of writing to a higher plane both stylistically and philosophically speaking . They use it to convey messages that can, if applied, better our civilization. Perhaps, someday, I can come close to matching their skill. I can dream can't I?
Are you working on anything now? What can readers expect next from you?
Yes. I am working on the follow-on to Until My Last Breath. Tentatively titled, Until The Last Death, this novel picks up 17 years later. It's taking me some time to wade through it. I want this novel to be the very best I can make it from a philosophical standpoint, so it's taking some serious thought, effort, research and time. This novel contains many elements, including poetry, and a harsh look at the world through some eyes you might start out feeling like you're familiar with, but you'll soon see that he is quite possibly a different man. The ending should very likely shock you, especially if you have read Until My Last Breath. I want this new novel to be layered and with a depth one might expect to find in good literature. It remains to be seen as to whether or not I can pull that off.
Please share your website with our readers. Do you have a blog? My Space? Feel free to add anything (or anywhere) that readers can go to learn more about you and your books.
I'm all over the web. My official website URL is www.johndeffes.com. My blog is at my Yahoo 360 page. My MySpace is http://www.myspace.com/JohnnyThatJetGuy. I welcome any and all. If you want to be added to either 360 or MySpace, just send me an add request and mention this interview. Additionally, I hang out at a message board run by fellow writer and good friend, Craig Schneider. Craig had the brilliant idea to found The Church of Groove. It's not a church in the classic sense. Our primary purpose is to learn about everything -- to be smarter, better, more sensitive humans, and come up with new cocktail recipes. We don't want any money. We just want your groove. What is groove? Come by the church at http://p208.ezboard.com/bthechurchofgroove, hang out and find out what we mean. Craig has written a novel titled Hunters and Gatherers. It's a psychological thriller that is truly outstanding! He is currently shopping for an agent while writing a second novel.
Do you have a favorite fan moment? Or, if you prefer, the first time you held your book in your hands.
I'd say that any time a person tells me they walked away feeling a little bit richer for having read something I've written, is a pretty sweet moment.
Is there anything else you'd like us to know about you? Something readers may or may not be surprised to find out?
Hmmm... How about the fact that I raced motocross for a number of years? Yeah, true story. About the time I started getting fairly good at it, I had to quit. It was getting too hard on my body. I broke my left wrist, my right ankle, separated my shoulder, damaged the nerves in my left knee, bruised several ribs, and had a nasty crash that has continued to plague my neck to this day.
Lori, thank you for the great questions, and thanks to Coffee Time Romance for the opportunity to be heard. I'm always looking for friends, so if you're out there and need a friend, send me an e-mail or get in touch through one of the links above. Thank you!