Friday, January 28, 2011

Author Spotlight-Gareth Crocker

The Crazy Bookworm had the great opporunity to ask Gareth Crocker, author of upcoming book FINDING JACK a few questions.

What inspired you to write FINDING JACK?

I was visiting the Vietnam Memorial in Washington during time off from a writing seminar some years ago when a Vietnam veteran, dressed in full military gear, pulled up alongside me. After a few emotional minutes he aluted, reached into his jacket, and withdrew an old dog harness which he placed against the foot of the wall. As he began to walk away, my curiosity got the better of me and I asked him about the harness. He explained that he had been a dog handler during the war and that his dog had saved not only his life, but those of his entire platoon on no less than three occasions. He told me that not a week passes that he doesn't think of his loyal and brave friend and what became of him. When I asked what he meant by that, he told me the harrowing story of the Vietnam War dogs. He described how, at the end of the war, the government declared the dogs 'surplus military equipment' and ordered that they remain behind in Vietnam. It was simply
costing too much to repatriate them. Some of the dogs were handed over to the South Vietnamese, but most were left to fates unknown. Many would have succumbed to hunger and disease while others would have no doubt been captured for food. It is widely estimated that the dogs (approximately 4000) saved the lives of more than 10,000 US and Allied troops. Yet barely 200 of these K-9 soldiers ever made it home. Unfortunately, and regrettably, I never asked the man's name. His account, however, and the Vietnam Memorial became my inspiration. Finding Jack is a simple and pure story about one man's love for his dog and his refusal to abandon him in Vietnam. It's also a metaphor for the healing powers of hope and that no matter how lost we become in this world, we can almost always find our way back to the light.

Tell us 5 things about yourself

1. Three years ago, I wrote, produced and directed a film which can still be seen on television from time to time.

It's a thriller entitled, Taken (not the brilliant one with Liam, another one), and is absolutely horrid - but it was wonderful fun to put together. People kept telling me that making a film, any film, bordered on the impossible.
I find it remarkable how good some people are at talking themselves out of doings things.

2. I once ran The Comrades Marathon - a 100 kilometre ultra marathon run in sweltering heat in South Africa. I made it, minus a few toenails, in just over nine hours. My head believes it was a great experience. My legs disagree.

3. My wife and I have two children. Our eldest is adopted.

4. I once wrote a speech for Nelson Mandela.

5. I've enjoyed a minor career as a radio copywriter - having written more than 500 adverts.

What is a day in the life of Gareth Crocker like?

Wake up. Drink a bucket of coffee. Write. Cry a bit. Punch the keyboard, lament my lack of talent. Play with the children. Delete what I've written. Frown at myself in the mirror. Play with the dogs. Write some more. Have lunch. Delete what I wrote earlier. Toss laptop into swimming pool. Go ride my mountain bike. Write a little in longhand. Have dinner. Toss pages into the fireplace. And then to sleep.

I am a huge animal lover myself, I currently have 3 dogs. To you, what is the best part of having a pet?

We have four dogs. Jack and Jill (both Labradors), a third 'pavement special' named Rusty and a tiny Yorkie
which my daughters have named Hannah. They are all very precious to us. Jack and Jill love swimming and can often be heard doing laps in our swimming pool in the middle of the night while the rest of the world is lying beneath layers of duvets and blankets, teeth chattering. They seem entirely without nerve endings. They are strong and protective, yet as gentle as lambs with our small children. They allow my girls to dress them up, balance toys on their heads, cover them with bright pink blankets and generally do with them what they will. Rusty, a kind of Lassie meets Benji, has one job in life - that of watch dog and family protector. She patrols the front gate every hour of the day and, even when it rains, refuses to seek shelter in the garage. This will sound crazy, I know, but my wife and I rescued Rusty from quite a nasty situation and I can't help but think that she feels indebted to us. That she has to somehow repay us. And, sadly, I think she feels it's a lifelong debt. I keep trying to coax her away from the gate, from her duty, but she always returns. As soon as I'm not looking, she's back there, her nose twitching, her eyes scanning the road. It saddens me, but I love her to bits for it as well. Hannah, the mighty Yorkie, could easily fit in my pocket and is a delight. Growing up we never had small dogs and, to be truthful, they were never my favorites. But she has wormed her way into my heart, that much is for sure. Weighing barely three pounds, she often launches off the couch and barks bravely at some large predator trawling across our television screen. We can all learn a great deal from our dogs. Hannah is probably the size of my shoe, but she acts and lives entirely without fear. So what's the best part? There are simply too many to choose from.

Describe the feeling you had when you found out FINDING JACK was going to be published.

Disbelief, followed by elation, followed by the shuddering certainty that somewhere, somehow the publisher had gotten me confused with a real writer. Remarkably, on the day I received the news, it snowed for the first time in Johannesburg in something like 20 years.

Did you come across any challenges while writing FINDING JACK?

Only after every word. And only when I was breathing... Writing any novel is a challenge, but if I had to isolate one particular stumbling block with Finding Jack it would have to be the sensitive nature of the subject matter I was dealing with. As a South African, born only in the mid-seventies, I needed to be as respectful as possible in dealing with the facts and emotions surrounding the Vietnam War. I tried also to be as non-judgmental as I could when it came to the decisions that ultimately sealed the fate of the War Dogs. That was very important to me. It was not my war. I was not there. Who am I, a voice kept telling me, to point fingers? .

Finish this sentence "I can't live without..." children. My wife, on the other hand, well...

If you could travel back in time where would you go?

Back to my teenage self, with a glint in my eye ... and a sports almanac tucked under my arm.

What is one guilty pleasure you have?

Caramel. My kingdom, for a tin of caramel.

Have you written anything else that you would like to see published?

I'm completing novels number 2 and 3 at the moment.

Can you share a little?

Book number two is entitled "Journey from Darkness" and tells the tale of two brothers trying to save a tribe of ancient Desert Elephants from savage poachers as they make their way across South Africa after the first World War. It's part thriller, part adventure, part love story. Quite emotionally charged, I think.If you enjoy Finding Jack, I think you'll love this one as well. Book number three's working title is "The Phoenix Child". It's about an author who loses his daughter in a botched kidnapping and then, weeks later, receives a letter which carries a single white card. Written on the card are six words: I can bring your daughter back... A powerful love story with a difference, I hope.

Crazy Quiz!

1. Your favourite movie of all time


2. Name one pet peeve that you have


3. You favourite show as a child


4. Early bird or Night owl?

Night Owl.

5. What super power would you like to have?

The power to incinerate book reviewers (only the bad ones, of course...)

Thank you so much Gareth! It was a pleasure interviewing you!

Gareth Crocker, a former journalist, lives with his wife and two children in Johannesburg, South Africa. Finding Jack is his first novel, which he wrote in the company of his three dogs, Jill, Rusty and Jack (pictured with the author).

Click here to visit authors official website

Be sure to check out FINDING JACK when it releases on February 15th
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