Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Interview: William Peter Grasso

I now present to you my interview with William Peter Grasso author of East Wind Returns and Unpunished.

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Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m retired from the airline industry, where I completed my career managing maintenance operations for a major US airline. I spent the bulk of my 20s as a military officer (US Army), both active and reserve. I’ve always been attracted to the military and fascinated with aviation and history.

Do you have a favorite period of history (and would I be to far off if I said it was World War II)?

You'd be dead on...WWII is, by default, the historical period in which I am most immersed. Growing up in war's aftermath, where all our childrens' games were shaped by that conflict (Let's play Battle of the Bulge, guys!!), has seen to that. My own military experience began toward the end of the Vietnam and I never set foot in the place, instead spending 8 years in an organization that was confused, demoralized and trying desperately to regroup from that misguided adventure. It's not surprising Vietnam war novels (with a few exceptions, most notably the works of Tim O'Brien) are not terribly popular.

I did get a front row seat to the first Gulf War, serving as flight crew member (crew chief) on civil troop transport flights to and within that theater. My impressions of that conflict--and that part of the world--are still trying to bubble into a coherent adventure tale.

What got you interested in alternate history?

To quote my author bio, history is a parade of chance outcomes, influenced by any number of natural forces and human whims. So many pivotal events in history could have come out quite differently had the wind not changed direction, a machine not broken down, a man or woman not faltered at a critical moment…you get the picture. In my writing, I explore what happens when just one facet of history as we’ve come to know it is changed.

What is your novel East Wind Returns about?

East Wind Returns begins with the fictional premise that in the summer of 1945, the development of the American atomic bomb has hit serious setbacks. With the American forces now poised on the doorstep of Japan’s home islands, invasion seems the only option for Harry Truman and his military leaders to force Japan’s surrender. The Japanese, however, have successfully tested a crude but massive uranium device, too heavy to be lifted by an aircraft, and are preparing to use it on the ground against the American invasion forces. A young but veteran recon pilot, John Worth, flying from his new base in Okinawa, inadvertently photographs the device while it is being transported on a railway flatcar across the southern home island of Kyushu—but no one in the American command fully accepts the possibility of what it might be. As the invasion begins—and with the life of his lover, an Army nurse already on Kyushu, at stake—Worth is tasked with the top-secret mission to find the Japanese bomb.

How far advanced was the Japanese nuclear bomb project in World War II?

It's been quite a while since I did the research for EWR, so I'm now a bit weak on references. Suffice to say, though, there were strong suspicious of a transfer of enriched uranium from Germany to Japan, and there was more than adequate scientific capability available in the Empire to develop it. As portrayed in EWR, though, methods of delivery for such a weapon were in very short supply.

How did you come up with the title?

"East Wind Rain" are the actual words of the coded signal authorizing the attack on Pearl Harbor, disguised in a weather report and broadcast to the Japanese fleet by Tokyo Radio.

East Wind Returns is a fictional play on those words, used in the book to authorize the deployment of the Japanese atomic weapon.

Who designed the cover?

The cover was designed by Alyson Aversa, a talented young graphic artist in NYC.

What are you reading now?

I’m currently in the closing pages of Sebastian Breit’s Wolf Hunt: The Burning Ages. It’s quite an epic—actually two complete novels combined into one well-crafted story.

Breit actually contributes to Alternate History Weekly Update under the name War Blogger. Anything more you would like to say about his novel?

Sebastian and I correspond; I'm aware of his connection with your website. I'm beginning to compose a comprehensive review of Wolf Hunt, which I find a fascinating read. I hope to use this review to not only praise his imagination and interpretive historical abilities, but playfully skewer some of the comments he has received on his use of the English language. Quite frankly, to write a first-time work of that scope in a foreign tongue--and have the final product so wonderfully enjoyable--is nothing short of amazing.

Any planned sequel(s) for East Wind Returns?

No sequels are planned at the moment. There is some really fertile ground for prequels, though.

Do you have any other projects you are working on?

I’m very glad you asked that! My latest novel, Unpunished, has just been released as an ebook on Amazon and Smashwords (a paperback version will be available shortly). Unpunished is a thriller that twists the presidential politics of America in 1960, exploring murder, corruption, ambition and the redemptive power of love along the way. All you lovers of the military/war genre, fear not: the inciting incident takes place among interned American airman in Sweden during WWII.

With Unpunished finally published, I’ve begun the research for my next book. It will take place in Northern Australia in the bleak days of 1942, after the Pearl Harbor attack has a far more successful outcome for the Japanese than actually occurred.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

If I may, I’d offer this advice: every word you write is not golden. Be ruthless with your own writing—a good part of it probably shouldn’t be inflicted on the general public. Try to identify that part and throw it away. Then listen carefully to what your editor, your beta readers, and the general reading public are telling you and adjust accordingly. Never shy away from defending your work, but if you find yourself explaining something you wrote, it didn’t work. Get rid of it.

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Hope you guys enjoyed the interview.  If you are interested in Grasso's works you can check them out for the Kindle, for the Nook, Sony Reader and other formats.

1 comment:

  1. Great that William gets more exposure. Which reminds me that I have to get his new book...

    ReplyDelete