Author Interview: Ian Lahey

Title of Book: The 45th Nail

Authors: Ian Lahey, Michael Lahey

A short description of book:

Uncle Jim was a US army sergeant and munitions expert, reported missing and presumed dead at the end of WWII. This secretive man suddenly reappears on the scene, when his nephew Bob receives a gold Etruscan medallion by post with an invitation to visit Italy. Intrigued by the mysterious uncle, Bob embarks on a trip which he mistakenly believes can be lightly trod in tourist’s shoes. Instead, he finds himself in a minefield of memories when Bob discovers Jim’s true motive for inviting him to Italy and his secret is finally revealed. Bob is the storyteller and fits all the odd and sometimes dangerous bits together, as his strange and obscure Uncle Jim gradually opens up on a trip to Anzio in Italy, where the old soldier's story really begins, in 1944.

What inspired you to write? And what was the inspiration for this book?

I feel compelled to write. Once a story develops I need to put it down, otherwise it will keep on nagging at me, with a progressively angry picket of characters in my head.

I started with short stories when I was in high school. Being bilingual I wrote both in Italian and English, but soon discovered that in my case English allowed for a broader range of emotions, possibly because I’ve always been an avid reader of fantasy and sci-fi, and when we traveled to the U.S. my dad would always take us to a used books shop called “Chandler’s” in Chicago, and I’d stock up with about 50 books each year.

This book is very special to me, especially now that my dad has passed away. We took a trip through Italy together with my mom and my brother, about thirty years ago. I was barely a teenager then. During that tour my father put together the descriptions of the locations in the book. The same places which I then visited again and again on my own. He also spoke to many people, interviewing them and collecting their memories. Practically all the characters in The 45Th Nail are based on real people and their real stories of how they survived the war.

When my dad started getting sick, a few years ago I rediscovered all of this material, together with the outline of the story. (He also was a published author, with “Quest for Apollo” published by DAW books). I edited his part and completed it with additional material, still all based on true stories, and was able to have it published and let him hold a copy in his hands. The inspiration for Jim Savorski, the troubled veteran, is my dad’s own father, and my inspiration for this book was my father, Michael Lahey.

What is the last book you read?

I’ve recently finished the fourth installation of “The Science of Discworld”, which is a delightful series of witty novels by Terry Pratchett interwoven with a scientific commentary by Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. I am particularly attracted to fantasy and especially well-written sci-fi rooted in solid, scientific fact.

Who are your favorite authors?

There are so many… each one is my favorite for one or more aspects of writing. Apart from Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams whom I refer to for wit and humor, I go to Neil Gaiman for dialogue and characterization, Tolkien and Brian Jacques for world-building and Anne McCaffrey for her outstanding vocabulary and richness, to name a few.

What are your favorite books?

The two books I’ve picked up more than three times in my life are “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams, so I would be fooling myself if I were to start my list with Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury”, Richard Adams’s “Watership Down” and Brian Jaques’s “Redwall”, although they too are my favorites.

After all of your hard work, what does it feel like to be a published author?

First of all it’s a relief to see my characters romp around in the manuscript and out of my head. Of course it doesn’t last long because another story will start brewing. I am currently drafting the first book of my fantasy series “The Fairlight Project”.

Being a published author also means I have the opportunity to see the impact of my story on other people, and I absolutely love to read their reviews, even when not positive (hasn’t happened yet), just to discover the ways my stories and characters played out for them. For this book, The 45th Nail, it also meant for my father to see our work completed and turned into reality, so this one holds a special meaning for me.

Was it hard to find an editor?

E-mails, I’ve sent a few. But the world today is much different from when my dad got his own first book published. Back then he had to find an agent, who then was able to obtain a contract with Daw books. Without an agent even a very good writer usually had a very hard time being accepted by major publishers, because of the economical risk of investing in an unknown name, and the publicity needed to make a new name popular. Nowadays there are many small publishing firms with incredibly talented people who are interested in a good, well-written story and are on the lookout for talented new authors. One recommendation I can make is to look for submission requests for short story anthologies, which is a great way to show off your storytelling abilities as well as practice writing on a given theme and, sometimes, on short notice. That’s how I started, when I co-authored the first international short story anthology with S&H Publishing.

Author page:

Rachel Beyer

I am a full time engineer and a part time blogger/writer. I am passionate about reading, writing, biking, volleyball, and my pets.