Reblog: Interviewed by W. Wang on his World Commentary site.
Recently, I and eleven other writers collaborated on a book offering tips for writers–aspiring or otherwise. In connection with that, all of the contributors are being featured on Wang’s site.
My interview is on the long side–great for me! But maybe a bit much for you. As much as I appreciate the time and space Mr. Wang put into it, I’m going to offer a slightly condensed version here. But please do read the rest here.
W.: What made you start your writing career, especially writing stories of your own?
Maberry: I dreamed of writing since second grade. I began with stories in elementary school. High school offered both classwork composition and creative writing clubs. A dream unfulfilled is just a fantasy. It took retirement to act on it.
W.: On the “about” page on one of your blogs, you seem to have led a fascinating life: Hard childhood, failed marriages, and spending one year in Vietnam. Tell us more about these, and how they influenced your memoirs.
Maberry: Ah, the heart of the matter! The childhood goal was to write sci-fi. In 9th grade, I asked Clifford Simak (a sci-fi writer of many books) about that career. He explained that I needed a day job; the genre didn’t assure a livable income. His was being City Editor of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune newspaper. My older brother suggested writing tech manuals or perhaps ad copy. College courses could get me there, or so my plans were then.
Fast forward to Vietnam. I was drafted six weeks before entering college—no deferment unless in classes. By the time I got out of the military, my college objectives had changed. As the back cover blurb of my memoir, Waiting for Westmoreland (WFW for short) says,
“Spending a year in Vietnam, with its readily available sex and drugs, thoroughly corrupts his youth. Then the political realities of the war and Watergate shatter his idealistic illusions about America. So, to reclaim his virtue and ideals, he thinks he must reform the people or institutions that failed him.”
. . . .
I studied philosophy and a panoply of social science courses in college. History, psychology, sociology and more explanations about why society is like it is and how humans can make it better or worse. Humanism introduced me to Voltaire. I saw myself as a 20th century Candide. I read a multitude of books exploring the mind, the self and society. Neither college nor the outside readings offered the answers I sought—recovering myself and changing the world.
Finally, again from the cover blurb, “Finally, he encounters a person who reveals that the credit or blame for all of life’s events lies within. Looking for happiness outside oneself is fruitless. Reforming oneself, not changing others, is the means for attaining happiness and making the world a better place.”
W.: Also, you are a 40+ year Bodhisattva. How has that changed your life and your writings?
Maberry: When I published the 10th Anniversary Edition of WFW, I added a subtitle, The path from Vietnam to enlightenment. That means what? Life is a chain of causality. The memoir reveals the antecedents to my acceptance of Buddhism. I survived the deaths of first a father and later a mother before 18. Poverty. Vietnam. Bored, I listened half-heartedly in a shopping mall to a person explaining the practice of Buddhism. The soil of my life wasn’t ready for the seed. Two years later, the last semester at Georgetown Law Center, my second wife had left me. Now what? I was ready for the tree to sprout. I encountered a person with a life force I didn’t have. What was it, I asked. She told me she practiced Buddhism–and chanted. Immediately, I responded, “What do you chant, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo?” The very same phrase I’d heard two years before at the mall. Yes, she had the answer to the mysteries of my life—and those around me.
. . . .
My writings are about seeing life and the world as it really is. Without the illusions or delusions. It’s not because of the boss, the President, your spouse or anyone else that you’re unhappy or unsuccessful. My writings are about creating value. Dispelling the mistaken notions. When you’re writing fiction, few readers want to be preached at. I won’t be doing that. Well, OK, there are some blog posts that might hit hard. Political analyses or satire aside, I’m trying to write from and about life—even if it’s about worlds, times and places that exist only in my mind.
. . . .
W.: Any final comments/thoughts for our readers?
Maberry: The pandemic that struck the world has and will continue to cause much pain and suffering. Grief at the loss of friends and loved ones. Economic losses will be as great as any in the last 100 years and more. The current and future lives of many will be upended as much and more so as many who lived through the planet’s many wars and events such as the 9/11 attack in the US. Political polemic won’t help. Only honest and caring efforts to aid the many who need assistance not simply surviving but thriving in a very different world. I hope that I can make some meaningful contributions to that endeavor in my senior years.
We thank John Maberry for answering these questions and for accepting this interview with us. You can learn more about him through his “Eagle Peak Press” website: eaglepeakpress.com