David Litwack is here at Land of 1000 Wonders today to chat about his latest novel, Along the Watchtower. For all the stops on this tour, visit the tour schedule.
Thank you for your interview. Can you tell readers a little about yourself? Why did you decide to become a writer?
The urge to write first struck me when I was working on a newsletter at a youth encampment in the woods of northern Maine. It may have been the night when lightning flashed at sunset followed by northern lights rippling after dark. Or maybe it was the newsletter’s editor, a girl with eyes the color of the ocean. But I was inspired to write about the blurry line between reality and the fantastic.
Using two fingers and lots of white-out, I religiously typed five pages a day throughout college and well into my twenties. Then life intervened. I took a long break to raise two sons and pursue a career, in the process becoming a well-known entrepreneur in the software industry, founding several successful companies. When I found time again to daydream, the urge to write returned.
My wife and I split our time between Cape Cod, Florida and anywhere else that catches our fancy. I no longer limit myself to five pages a day and am thankful every keystroke for the invention of the word processor.
Who are a few of your favorite authors? What are a few of your favorite books?
Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea, Arthur C. Clarke’s The City and the Stars, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Douglas Adams’ The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
Where do you like to write?
In my office, sometimes with the door closed. I’d love to say I write with a view of the ocean or something like that, but I’m too easily distracted.
When we bought our house in Florida, the selling point for me was the office, since I spend so much time there. This office was pre-furnished in a kind of a Caribbean motif, complete with a three-foot-tall, plastic parrot. He’s painted bright green and orange with a yellow beak and sits above me on a brass swing, looking over my shoulder as I write.
When I first saw him, I wasn’t sure I liked him. But then, on a trip to Key West, I was fortunate to tour the home where Hemingway lived for ten years and wrote some of his greatest novels. The office he wrote in was also decorated in Caribbean style. Since that trip, I’ve named the parrot Ernest. Each morning, before I settle in to write, I look up at the parrot and say “Good morning Ernest” before getting to work.
Along the Watchtower is your second novel, centered around the traumatic effects of being a war veteran. Could you tell us a little about your main character, Freddie?
Lt. Freddie Williams wakes up in a VA hospital after being severely wounded in an IED attack in Iraq. There, he struggles to recover, not just physically, but emotionally, from both the trauma of war and a tragic family background. Freddie has always been positive, able to overcome the many obstacles in his life. But this is his greatest challenge yet.
Why did you set Freddie up in such a parallel universe in his dreams?
In Iraq, Freddie played the multi-player, role-playing game, World of Warcraft, with the men in his squad (something very common for soldiers, a way of dealing with their off time, bonding with each other, and escaping the harsh reality of war) . Through his difficult recovery, he lapses in and out of reality, in his dreams seeing himself as a Prince in the gaming world, challenged with fighting off despair and saving his people. His quest in the real world mirrors that of the fantasy world—to find a reason to live.
What inspired you to focus this novel on the subject of PTSD?
I’ve always been fascinated by how our view of reality is subjective, how each of us brings our own experiences and biases into play. But when we’re ripped from our normal lives and placed in extreme circumstances, our reality becomes fragmented. Such is the case with hospitals and war.
A couple of years ago, I became engrossed in the online game, World of Warcraft, thanks to my son. I’m on the east coast and he’s on the west, so we’d meet every Wednesday evening in the virtual world of Azeroth, where our avatars would go on quests together. I was struck by how immersed I became in the mood of the game as we wandered through castles and crypts, solving riddles and vanquishing demons. For a short period of time, I could totally buy into the alternate reality.
The gaming experience has a dream-like quality to it. And I began to wonder: how would this experience affect the dreams of someone whose reality has been fragmented by the trauma of war? These concepts—war, hospitals, and the fantasy world of online gaming—came together in Along the Watchtower.
Your first novel, There Comes a Prophet, is structured in the years following the destruction and downfall of a society, and the rebirth. Your third novel, The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky, has just been released, also about the aftermath of war. There seems to be a common characteristic to your novels: a period of downfall, and a bond between a male and female character. Why have you chosen to write your novels in such a way?
Any good story is based on the struggle of a character to overcome a challenge and achieve some worthwhile goal. While war is in the backstory of all three novels, none of them take place during a war. The backstory in each of these books has created the situation the characters need to overcome: for Orah and Nathaniel, overcoming the powers that stifled growth following a war; for Freddie, fighting the despair brought on by his experiences in Iraq; for Jason and Helena, saving Kailani despite her being an “enemy” from a war fought long ago.
For all my characters, what helps them in that battle is the bond with another person, who gives them the strength to prevail.
What do you want readers to take away from Along the Watchtower?
Playing a make believe fantasy game and going to war both have a surreal quality that takes us out of our normal reality. But for war veterans, the sense of normality doesn’t return without a struggle.
The Wounded Warrior Project is a wonderful organization, dedicated to helping veterans adjust. Their stated mission is: “To foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.” How successful we’ll be at achieving that goal will tell a lot about who we are. It’s one of the most important stories of our time.
Do you have any other books in the works? Will any of your novels to date develop into a series?
I’m working on a sequel to There Comes a Prophet. I hadn’t planned on writing a sequel, but the main characters, Orah and Nathaniel, told me their quest wasn’t complete and kept nagging me to finish their story. Now, I plan on making it a trilogy.
****About the Novel*****
Title: Along the Watchtower
Author: David Litwack
Publisher: Dragon Publishing
Release Date: June 2013
Length: 214 pages
Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy
Source: Masquerade Book Tours
A Tragic Warrior Lost in Two Worlds…
The war in Iraq ended for Lieutenant Freddie Williams when an IED explosion left his mind and body shattered. Once he was a skilled gamer and expert in virtual warfare. Now he’s a broken warrior, emerging from a medically induced coma to discover he’s inhabiting two separate realities. The first is his waking world of pain, family trials, and remorse—and slow rehabilitation through the tender care of Becky, his physical therapist. The second is a dark fantasy realm of quests, demons, and magic that Freddie enters when he sleeps.
In his dreams he is Frederick, Prince of Stormwind, who must make sense of his horrific visions in order to save his embattled kingdom from the monstrous Horde. His only solace awaits him in the royal gardens, where the gentle words of the beautiful gardener, Rebecca, calm the storms in his soul. While in the conscious world, the severely wounded vet faces a strangely similar and equally perilous mission—a journey along a dark road haunted by demons of guilt and memory—and letting patient, loving Becky into his damaged and shuttered heart may be his only way back from Hell.
*****About the Author*****
The urge to write first struck when working on a newsletter at a youth encampment in the woods of northern Maine. It may have been the night when lightning flashed at sunset followed by northern lights rippling after dark. Or maybe it was the newsletter’s editor, a girl with eyes the color of the ocean. But he was inspired to write about the blurry line between reality and the fantastic.
Using two fingers and lots of white-out, he religiously typed five pages a day throughout college and well into his twenties. Then life intervened. He paused to raise two sons and pursue a career, in the process becoming a well-known entrepreneur in the software industry, founding several successful companies. When he found time again to daydream, the urge to write returned. His novels include: There Comes a Prophet, Along the Watchtower, and the newly released The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky.
David and his wife split their time between Cape Cod, Florida and anywhere else that catches their fancy. He no longer limits himself to five pages a day and is thankful every keystroke for the invention of the word processor.
Displaying masq tour button.pngThere is a giveaway for this tour. A $100 Amazon/B&N Giftcard or a Book Depository shopping spree of the same value, plus two print copies of Along the Watchtower will be given away. Open Internationally. Ends 7/7.