Friday, January 30, 2015

Interview with Donald Michael Platt, author of Close to the Sun

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Donald Michael Platt to Flashlight Commentary to discuss his latest release, Close to the Sun. 

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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Donald. Great to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us a bit about Close to the Sun.
Close to the Sun follows the lives of two Americans and a German from childhood through the end of WWII. As boys, they idealize the exploits of WWI fighter aces known as chivalrous Knights of the Skies. Hank Milroy from Wyoming learns his first flying lessons from observing falcons. Karl, Fürst von Pfalz-Teuffelreich, aspires to surpass his father’s 49 Luftsiegen accumulated during WWI. Seth Braham falls in love with flying during an air show at San Francisco’s Chrissy Field. The young men meet exceptional women. Texas tomboy Catherine “Winty” McCabe believes she is as good a flyer as any man. Princess Maria-Xenia, a stateless White Russian, works for the Abwehr, German intelligence. Elfriede “Elfi” Wohlmann is a frontline nurse. Mimi Kay sings with a big band.

Flying fighters over Europe, Hank, Karl, and Seth experience the exhilaration of aerial combat victories and acedom during the unromantic reality of combat losses, tedious bomber escort, strafing runs, and firebombing of entire cities. Callous political decisions and military mistakes add to their disillusion, especially one horrific tragedy at the end of the war.

How do Hank, Karl and Seth differ as characters?  
Hank is the son of a Wyoming rancher. Seth is a sophisticate from San Francisco. Karl is of the old German aristocracy. 

The novel also has strong female cast. Why did you feel that balance important? 
Close to the Sun is set during WWII, which brought out in women strengths they might not have discovered had there been no war.

Historically speaking, what drew you to WWII and what did you enjoy about researching the event for you work? 
WWII was a “current event” for me. I was 13 when it ended. I have loved reading and writing History, taught it. Later I met many fighter aces from the USAAF, Luftwaffe, and the RAF. One became a great friend, and he suggested I write Close to the Sun and offered me permissions.

Your narrative touches on many themes. Which is your favorite and why? 
All three male protagonists as boys romanticized the WWI gallant Knights of the Skies and who inspired their desire to fly. During WWII, war in the skies became less chivalrous with certain exceptions, and they become disillusioned through horrors of modern war, outrageous political decisions, military stupidity, and personal experiences.

You probably have many, but is there a scene you particularly enjoyed writing?
Hank flying General Patton low into the Grand Canyon – based on a true event.

What scene posed the greatest challenge for you as an author? Why was it troublesome and how did you work through it?  
Aerial combat New Years Day 1945 was difficult because I had to create a narrative that made sense amidst so much chaos in the skies from 4 POVs.

Sometimes fiction takes on a life of its own and forces the author to make sacrifices for the sake of the story. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time with or expanded on?
I thought about spending more time describing the home fronts and decided those chapters would have slowed the pace of the story. I also did not go into detail about the death camps for two reasons: that material is more effective  in novels where the MC is a prisoner in the camps; and the horror of the final chapters would have had less impact.

Historical novelists frequently have to adjust facts to make their stories work. Did you have to invent or change anything while writing Close to the Sun and if so, what did you alter? 
I created composite main characters, fictional USAAF bases, Seth not being sent home after being shot down, and both Seth and Hank being sent to the Continent with Patton’s Third Army as interpreters during the final weeks of the war.

If you could sit down and talk with one of your characters, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you choose and why?
The one character with whom I would have shared conversation and drinks is Hank Milroy. The reason is simple. He is based on my real life friend from the AAC, USAAF, and USAF who suggested I write CLOSE TO THE SUN.

Just because I’m curious, if you could pick a fantasy cast of actors to play the leads in a screen adaptation of Close to the Sun, who would you hire? 
I am not all that familiar with actors in the age group late teens to mid-twenties. I would have to mention them by type physically. Hank/early William Holden; Seth/early Spencer Tracy type/Karl/younger DiCaprio type; Brax/young Robert Stack type; Winty/young Sally Field cuteness but blonde; Mariya-Xenia/Kidman or Theron or Beverly Michaels type/ Elfie/Natalie Portman type/Mimi/any current young singer with a true voice and who needs no studio gimmicks.

And finally, what's next for you? Do you have a new project in the works? 
I am nearing a final draft of a dark novel set in 1946. After that, I have too many novels in my head to think about the next.

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“Donald Michael Platt’s Close to the Sun is an amazing story told from the perspective of average male fighter pilots in the onset and during WWII, juxtaposing between various men from many sides of the war. The details in this novel were spectacular, creating imagery and depth in the scenes and characters, as well as the dialogue being so nostalgic and well-written it felt right out of a 1950’s film. The romantic nuances of his storytelling felt incredibly authentic with the tug and pull of the men being called to serve and the women whom they loved who had their own high hopes, dreams, or work. I loved how he portrayed this women the most—strongly and fiercely independent. I’ve read several other books by Platt, and this is the best one I’ve read yet! I couldn’t stop reading. ” – Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Hook of a Book

“Donald Platt’s Close To The Sun, is nothing short of Historical Fiction gold. Platt’s flair for emotionally provocative storytelling makes this book attractive to both male and female readers. Seamlessly weaving the threads of action and feeling into a brilliant tableau of humanity. This is a masterfully penned tale of war, ambition, love, loss, and ACES!” – Frishawn Rasheed, WTF Are You Reading?

“Fast-paced and riveting I couldn’t get enough of Hank, Karl and Seth’s exploits! CLOSE TO THE SUN is a thrilling novel that leads readers through idyllic dreams of heroism and the grim reality of war. Platt provides readers with a unique coming-of-age story as three adventure-seeking boys discover far more than how to be an aerial combat pilot. CLOSE TO THE SUN is an amazing tale of adventure, heroism, war and the drive within us all that keeps us going when things look bleak.” – Ashley LaMar, Closed the Cover

“I found Close to the Sun to be an entertaining read, it was well written, with well developed characters, these characters had depth and emotion. A unique plot, told from the point of view of pilots prior to and during World War II. It was a well researched and interesting book” – Margaret Cook, Just One More Chapter

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Author of four other novels, ROCAMORA, HOUSE OF ROCAMORA, A GATHERING OF VULTURES, and CLOSE TO THE SUN, Donald Michael Platt was born and raised in San Francisco. Donald graduated from Lowell High School and received his B.A. in History from the University of California at Berkeley. After two years in the Army, Donald attended graduate school at San Jose State where he won a batch of literary awards in the annual SENATOR PHELAN LITERARY CONTEST.

Donald moved to southern California to begin his professional writing career. He sold to the TV series, MR. NOVAK, ghosted for health food guru, Dan Dale Alexander, and wrote for and with diverse producers, among them as Harry Joe Brown, Sig Schlager, Albert J. Cohen, Al Ruddy plus Paul Stader Sr, Hollywood stuntman and stunt/2nd unit director. While in Hollywood, Donald taught Creative Writing and Advanced Placement European History at Fairfax High School where he was Social Studies Department Chairman.

After living in Florianópolis, Brazil, setting of his horror novel A GATHERING OF VULTURES, pub. 2007 & 2011, he moved to Florida where he wrote as a with: VITAMIN ENRICHED, pub.1999, for Carl DeSantis, founder of Rexall Sundown Vitamins; and THE COUPLE’S DISEASE, Finding a Cure for Your Lost “Love” Life, pub. 2002, for Lawrence S. Hakim, MD, FACS, Head of Sexual Dysfunction Unit at the Cleveland Clinic.

Currently, Donald resides in Winter Haven, Florida where he is polishing a dark novel and preparing to write a sequel to CLOSE TO THE SUN.

Website ❧  Facebook ❧  Twitter

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Format: Print & eBook
Publication Date: June 15, 2014
Released by: Fireship Press
Length: 404 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
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Check Out All the Stops on Donald Michael Platt's Close to the Sun Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, January 26
Spotlight at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, January 27
Guest Post at What Is That Book About
Wednesday, January 28
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books
Friday, January 30
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Monday, February 2
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection
Tuesday, February 3
Guest Post at Latte Da
Friday, February 6
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Spotlight at Boom Baby Reviews
Wednesday, February 11
Review at Back Porchervations
Thursday, February 12
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation
Monday, February 16
Spotlight at So Many Books, So Little Time

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