SWITCHING GENRES—AN AUTHOR’S NO-NO . . . SO WHY AM I DOING IT?

The B-24 Sandman over the refineries of Ploesti, Romania, August 1, 1943 (photo: USAAF).

The conventional wisdom in the world of writing is that it may be unwise for an author, once he’s established himself (or herself) as a writer in a particular genre, to switch genres. 

So why, then, am I switching genres?

I’ve carved out a bit of a name for myself as a guy who turns out novels with a background of big weather events—hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes—and geological phenomena—megathrust earthquakes and tsunamis.  I guess the key phrase in the preceding sentence is “a bit of a name.”  While I’ve racked up decent sales with my books, it’s not like I’ve cranked out any blockbusters or NYT bestsellers.  Thus, I’m willing to step off the trail I’ve been following and thrash into the jungle of the unknown, pursuing something completely different from what I have in the past.  Because I want to.

While I don’t consider myself a military or historical fiction buff (I do read some), there’s a WWII event that has absolutely captivated me for almost twenty years.  I’ve always thought it contained the foundation of a great novel, but I couldn’t figure out how to weave fiction and fact together into a compelling tale.  Now, I think I have.

The event I’m referring to occurred on August 1, 1943, when 178 American B-24 bombers took off from Benghazi, Libya, to bomb the oil refineries of Ploesti, Romania, refineries that supplied the German war machine.  The story of what happened on that mission is astounding.  While only half the bomber force made it back to north Africa, the valor displayed by American airmen was stunning.  Five medals of honor were awarded, the most ever for a single mission on a single day.

The working title of my novel is OREGON GRINDER, which is the name of a fictional B-24 that goes on the raid.  OREGON GRINDER unfolds from two viewpoints, one as seen through the eyes of Albert Lycoming, Oregon Grinder’s pilot, and the other as seen through the eyes of Egon Richter, a German fighter pilot.  Their lives, unknown to one another, are on a collision course.

Aside from what takes place between Oregon Grinder and the German fighter, the events portrayed in the novel actually happened.  And the characters portrayed really existed except, of course, for the crew of my fictional bomber, the German fighter pilot, and a WAFS (Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron) pilot named Vivian Wright.

I’ve included in OREGON GRINDER some scenes of what it was like living in Germany just before and during WWII.  Some of that is based on my research, but much comes from my wife who grew up in Nazi Germany.

I’ve completed the second draft of the novel and will let my beta readers have a crack at it next.  It’ll probably be quite awhile before the book becomes reality, though, since my jungle safari includes, of necessity, finding an appropriate literary agent and a new publisher.  (My current publisher doesn’t do WWII novels.)

But the bottom line is this: I’m fully invested in OREGON GRINDER.  It’s something I’ve wanted to write for a long, long time.

Comments

  1. Pat Werths says:

    Oh, my! I absolutely LOVE that time period. I have been so impressed by your books, and definitely want to read Oregon Grinder! If you need another beta reader, let me know. I catch typos really well, and have beta read for several authors before.
    Keep me posted on when this is due out. I will be first in line!

    • Buzz Bernard says:

      Thanks, Pat. There seems to be more readers than I thought interested in that WWII period. And to my surprise, most so far have been female. Anyhow, I’ll keep everyone posted on the progress of the book.

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