My father was a
career army officer. His chosen vocation made the world my backyard. Living in postwar Okinawa, Japan, Germany and
other faraway places stirred my young imagination. I developed a sense of war and its aftermath,
and the people changed by it. My
identical twin brother and I attended the Virginia Military Institute, where I
graduated with a degree in English and a commission in the infantry. After serving multiple tours in Vietnam, I
became part of the Cold War machine with military intelligence assignments
in Germany and England, and far too many years at the Pentagon. Along the way,
I found time to earn a masters degree from Boston University. I retired from the army after nearly 30 years with the rank of colonel. I continue to believe to this day it was both an honor and a privilege to serve.
While living in
England I had a chance to see Hadrian’s Wall, which kindled my desire to write a novel featuring this remarkable
structure. Years later, I superimposed my own military experience onto the
landscape of Second Century Roman Britannia in the ARRIUS Trilogy. As one agent said, ARRIUS
is too big a project for a debut author. Two of my favorite rejects were: “I
loved the plot, didn’t care for the writing,” followed a few days later by a response from
another agent, “I liked the writing but not the plot.” The latter feedback did
not discourage me from writing, only from sending out queries; consequently,
for a long time, I concentrated on what I like to do best - create interesting
characters, put them in an unusual, historical context, and have them face
challenging circumstances. Well time moved on and the publication of the Westphal mystery series gave incentive to put ARRIUS forward again, and thanks to my publisher, the protagonist Marcus Junius Arrius will be exposed to a modern century: With volume 1, Sacramentum, was published in 2017, volume 2, Legacy, was released in April 2018 and volume 3 Enemy of Rome is under contract for release in early 2019.
A recent unexpected surprise from my publisher was an invitation to publish a modern-day novel, Looking for Steiner, featuring the private investigator Jason Dermott who specializes in finding missing persons (see the synopsis under "Commercial Fiction"). Because Volume 1 of the Arrius trilogy came out in July, I was advised to use a pen name for Steiner, thus I would like to introduce you to Wayne Preston. I wrote this book in four months as a break and a change of pace while writing Arrius.
Currently, I have an unrelated Civil War era historical
novel underway that takes place along the Missouri/Kansas border. In case I get tired of the heat and dust in Missouri and Kansas, I put on my Wayne Preston hat and work on a sequel to Steiner. I can't seem to resist the attraction of ancient Rome, which is the reason I'm also developing the concept and plot for another novel set in early Britannia.
My approach to a writing project starts with the easy part, namely visualizing a plot concept. Next comes the harder part, chiseling away at a slab of granite prose to pull together events and characters to tell a story both believable in terms of setting and human nature. At the earliest opportunity, I try to get out of the way and let the characters take over. The unpredictability of an individual faced with a critical decision and multiple outcomes fascinates me and reminds me no matter how the story ending seems predetermined, the outcome is not predictable at all. I suppose that’s why my novels, whether historical, mystery, or commercial always focus on the prismatic dimensions of human nature. I’m always surprised how the story turns out and often different from the original concept.