Xlibris Publishing introduces Steven Mitchell, author of Throwing Grenades at Gilligan’s Island.
Please briefly describe your book.
As the Vietnam War winds down, the USS Tutanga repairs river boats on the Saigon River. Connor Simmons arrives onboard to find House, a battle-scarred sailor who works the black market and has a soft spot for the Vietnamese kids in the nearby village of Nha Be. When Connor goes to work on an antiquated “light ship,” he learns that it may be central to House’s plan to save those he cares about most. Throwing Grenades at Gilligan’s Island is a 100,000-word historical novel that explores love, loyalty and the absurdity of war.
Who is the author “behind” the book?
I grew up in the Midwest attending Catholic schools and dreaming of adventures beyond the vast cornfields I looked at every day. When I graduated from high school in 1969 with no money for college, I took the leap and joined the U.S. Navy. I served aboard four ships and saw the world—San Diego, San Francisco, Hawaii, Japan, Okinawa, The Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
My experiences changed me, so when I attended Iowa State University on the GI Bill I wanted to write about it. I published a couple short stories in Sketch, the college literary magazine, which fueled my desire to write novels. While working as a librarian at the Estes Park Public Library, I wrote my first navy novel Steve McQueen Would Be Proud over a period of 17 years.
I self-published with Xlibris in 2001. Those who served in the navy said that they were thankful to finally read a novel that told “their” story. I retired from the library in 2007 to devote to writing projects. I began work on a Vietnam novel and published a local history of Estes Park titled Legendary Locals of Estes Park in 2016.
Do you have any particular literary influences that have helped you develop in your genre, subject and style?
Richard McKenna’s The Sand Pebbles inspired me to write about the navy. He created characters I cared about and opened up a new world for me to explore.
What inspired you to write your book, and how long did it take you to finish it?
I began writing Throwing Grenades at Gilligan’s Island in 2007, the year I retired from the Estes Park Public Library. I finished a draft, put it in a drawer, and then returned to it a couple years later and revised that draft. I put it in a drawer again and forgot about it until I couldn’t ignore it anymore. In 2017 I made a New Year’s resolution to complete and publish the book this year, so I revised it again, read it out loud to my wife, and made the plunge.
I wanted to write a story about my experience on the rivers of Vietnam in 1971, but especially about the people I met there. It is not a classic “war novel,” but a novel about what how war affects people.
What is the one message you would like to convey to your readers?
Write your story. Write the truth.
Are you working on a sequel to your book?
Are there any events, marketing ideas or promotions planned for your book?
I do not plan to promote this book. I wrote it for myself and members of my family, plus a small group of friends and veterans who have expressed interest in reading it.
What was your favorite part of your publishing experience, overall and with Xlibris?
The process is very streamlined. I’m amazed how quickly my manuscript became a book. Xlibris representatives were helpful.
Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Write for yourself, not for the attention of others. Write a true story.
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