When it comes to the experience of flying military helicopters in wartime, new author Larry A. Freeland knows of what he writes.
The retiree, originally from Canton, Ohio, grew up in a military family — his father was a U.S. Air Force officer who moved the family to many bases across this country, including Tyndall Air Force Base.
"My Father was a career Air Force Officer who retired in 1971 and built a home in Parker on the bay across from Tyndall AFB," Freeland said. "Dad passed several years back, but my mother still lives in the home they built. She will turn 98 later this month."
In his youth, Freeland was a lifeguard on Panama City Beach and Tyndall Beach. His father taught at Everitt Middle School and served a short time as a local TV weather forecaster in the 1970s.
"My brothers and I spent many years visiting them in Panama City, and of course I still do with mom living there," he said.
After graduating from high school at Ramey Air Force Base in Puerto Rico, Freeland earned a degree in mathematics from the University of South Florida in Tampa. He joined the U.S. Army and served one tour in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division as an Infantry Officer and a CH-47 helicopter pilot. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Medal with 10 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star, and various other military service medals, according to information he provided.
With "Chariots in the Sky," Freeland said he chose to go the route of fiction because, "I didn't want it to be a story about one man's or one aircrew's personal experiences in Vietnam, or a compilation of such stories. But rather, I wanted to take the reader on a ride through the eyes and exploits of one fictional character ... (to) gain a better understanding of what it was like for pilots and air crews during the Vietnam War."
"Chariots in the Sky: A Story About U.S. Assault Helicopter Pilots at War in Vietnam" will be available for pre-order on March 23, and will be published April 21 by Publish Authority for $14.99 (paperback).
Freeland, who now lives in Dawsonville, Georgia, recently responded to our Book Notes questionnaire to let readers know about his debut novel:
Genre: Military Fiction/War and Military-Historical Fiction
Most notable published work: "This is my first novel. In 1991 and 1992, I wrote two full-length feature screenplays. My first, "Flying Pachyderms" (war genre), was read by three production companies in Hollywood. They all liked it, and one, Biltmore Pictures, was considering optioning the screenplay. But they had another war genre in post production at the time — "Sniper" starring Tom Berringer — and chose not to move forward with an option.
Describe your writing style in 15 words or less: "Tell a story through the eyes and emotions of my main character(s)."
When did you know you wanted to write? "In the case of this novel, I've carried a story within me for a long time that I wanted to share. As mentioned earlier, I first attempted to share the story through a screenplay. That story has now been greatly expanded and converted into my novel. The whole experience and journey from writing through the publication process has been fascinating. I'm looking forward to writing another book, and will see what happens."
Which writers do you admire? "John Steinbeck (I have a quote by him about helicopter pilots in Vietnam at the beginning of my book), Ernest Hemingway, Tom Clancy and J.K. Rowling."
Where do you get your inspiration? "Real life experiences. At 74 now, I've had a few."
What is your favorite theme or style of writing? "Being that this is my first novel, I'm not sure exactly how to answer that. But, for this novel, I certainly used some descriptive writing. I wanted to create a vivid picture of my characters, settings and events in the mind of the reader. My goal was to make the reader feel like they are experiencing the events for themselves."
How do you deal with writer's block? "Take some time off and do other things I like to do. For example: walk, drive my Corvette, catch a movie, or if it's a big writer's block, take a trip somewhere for a week or so."
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? "Make a commitment, never lose sight of it and go for it."
What are you working on now? "Another historical fiction story about three generations of one family's men who serve their country during WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Iranian hostage failed rescue attempt, Panama Canal-Noriega, Grenada, 1st Gulf War and current involvements. Sounds ambitious, we'll see!"
Where can people find your work? "On Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble (BN.com) and your favorite bookstore."
For more information, visit the author's website, https://www.larryfreeland.com
This article is written by Tony Simmons from The News Herald, Panama City, Fla. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.