Welcome to the TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome Thomas Josef, author of Incoming! Secrets Of A Contract Warrior In Afghanistan for an author interview.
Can you please tell my readers a little bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Wisconsin, and I’m a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. I took a short time off between my sophomore and junior year of college to hike the epic 2000+ mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.
From 1989 to 1991, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tunisia, North Africa as a community service worker helping local farmers manage greenhouses. We were ordered out of the region by decree of the State Department because of the initial Iraq-Kuwait conflict that escalated to the Gulf War.
With my Peace Corps assignment cut short and the US is on the brink of war, I decided to travel to Mexico and Central America where tensions were much more subdued. I learned Spanish in Mexico and Guatemala. When I returned to the states, I endured my career with the State of Texas and continued to reside in Austin.
After nearly ten years of service to the state, I was looking for a change in my career and one that would offer an excellent compensation package and travel opportunities. I decided to take a military contractor position with a Fortune 500 engineering and construction company to help serve the Warfighters of Afghanistan. During that time I started to write about daily accounts that became the premise of my book.
Please tell us about your book?
Life as a military contractor working in a war zone is very different, yet fascinating as you can imagine. It’s more about attitude than aptitude. It takes a unique personality and character to stick it out in a war zone and probably more so for a gay man on a military base.
Every day in a war zone, you’re reminded of death. We were working seven days a week, 12 hours a day. Frequently it’s melancholy, but there’s also beautiful cultivation of how you handle your work and what you do outside of work. I worked out nearly every day. I trained to run marathons. I made lasting friendships, had libidinous love affairs, and knowing you’re working alongside our men and women in uniform serving our country as well as our NATO allies made the experience rewarding.
I have a passion for life and adventure and things out of the ordinary, so I decided to keep a journal of the highs and lows of my experiences and feelings during this time in Afghanistan. I started writing stories and sharing some of them as newsletters back home. I had several friends tell me I should compile the newsletters and make it a book. So I did.
How long did it take you to write it?
The book spans four and half years of my time that I served in Afghanistan. It took me another four years after my service to rewrite, rethink, and rework the book for publishing.
Why did you choose this topic?
It’s a memoir, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts and feelings of war that are not shared in newspapers or magazines, how I was able to find peace and happiness in a place that reminds us of dark and gloom almost every day, and that it’s more about the journey, not the destination.
Which writers in your field inspire you?
I’ve always been fascinated by writers that wrote about their life experiences, thoughts, and how they handle things on a daily basis. A few writers that inspired me are Sylvia Plath, Anne Frank, Alice Walker, Khaled Hosseini, and Kevin Powers.
What inspired you to write?
Life’s an adventure. I think it’s great to live and talk about my unique life and experiences that are outside of the norm.
Are you working on any other project(s) right now? If yes, what are they?
Not at this time. I want to see how this book is perceived before I pursue another.
How do you prefer to write? On computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?
I prefer to write using a computer or laptop. I can’t imagine how writers did it before computers.
What are your 5 favorite books and 5 favorite authors?
The five authors that I mentioned that inspired me to write are also on the list of my favorite books:
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
- The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
- The Kite Runner and 10,000 Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
- The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
Non-Fiction deals with a lot of facts and real-life study. How do you deal with the all research work?
My memoir is a real-life study, so I guess that portion speaks for itself. I made several political and social comments in my writing on topics that I explored and researched. I have a personality trait as a thinker and analyzer. I love to study subjects that interest me, so it’s something I enjoy to find differences in thought and perception, but also familiar ground.
What advice would you give to new aspiring authors in your genre?
As a friend and fellow author told me, “Everyone has a story to share; share yours.”
Thank you, Thomas, for all your honest answers and for the simple yet powerful writing advice!
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