Let’s Welcome 
Author of:
What price leadership?

Born into a family of fishermen and sailors, Patrick O’Toole has always known the U.S. Navy was his destiny, and World War Two made it so. Assigned to the destroyer U.S.S. Green just months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, young Lieutenant O’Toole is devastated when his warnings about battle readiness go unheeded by the ship’s captain. As a result, the Green is destroyed and most of her crew lost while O’Toole is on bridge watch—a catastrophe that will haunt him forever.

Rising up through the ranks as the war surges on, O’Toole is assigned a new ship, and earns the nickname “Terror” from the crew he insists on pushing beyond their limits. Because Patrick O’Toole is a man plagued by the demons of self-doubt and dark memory, and never again will he allow brave American sailors to needlessly sacrifice their lives by following the flawed orders of incompetent officers. But his unspoken oath to his fallen comrades could lead him to the perilous brink of deception and mutiny—and in the chaos and fire of naval conflict he will be forced to confront hard truths about honor, duty, survival, and the staggering cost of victory.

Author Larry Laswell explores how a leader can emerge like a phoenix from the ashes of wartime tragedy in Vows to the Fallen, a moving and powerful tale that crackles with action and authenticity. Set in the Pacific theater during the dark years of World War Two, it is the enthralling story of U.S. Navy Lieutenant Patrick O’Toole. A natural born seaman but plagued by self-doubt, he is haunted by the memory of the devastating loss of hundreds of crewmates whose deaths resulted from the incompetence of a commanding officer. The thrilling chronicle of O’Toole’s rise through the naval ranks and his remarkable emergence as an unparalleled military strategist and leader of fighting men has all the makings of an enduring classic of World War Two fiction, as it carries the reader on a breathtaking journey from the bloody battle for Guadalcanal to the victory at Ubella Atoll and ending with the suicide mission at the Battle of Mujatto Gulf. 

Rad-Reader:  What made you want to write historical fiction books?

Larry:  If I look back, I think historical fiction chose me. I coauthored an adult fantasy novel titled P.A.D. (Probationary Apprentice Deity), which was a humorous satire on American culture. Agents loved it and compared us to Mark Twain but, regrettably, it was a genre that didn’t sell, so it didn’t go anywhere. So I did some research and found that sea stories are perennial sellers. I also heeded the advice of other authors and chose to write what I knew. I knew the navy, and my first novel, The Marathon Watch, was born. Ever since, I have been typecast as a historical/military fiction author, although I long to write literary and science fiction.

As a matter of fact, I see my novels as literary fiction: the navy setting and era are merely the milieu. I think my readers will agree that my books are unlike any existing military, war, or historical fiction they have encountered because the ships and battles are merely stage props to examine the conflicts and struggles of real people. If you read my reviews, I have as many female admirers as male. This is something unique in my genres.

Rad-Reader:  How do you pick your subject?

Larry:  In The Marathon Watch and Vows to the Fallen, my subjects are the same. My characters struggle to find themselves and their place in the world. I put them in situations where they need to find a moral compass to guide them so they can meet their responsibilities while still being true to themselves. In both books, the characters discover that honor can only be obtained with great courage in the face of dire personal risk.

Rad-Reader:  On this book “Vows to the Fallen” how did you come up with the characters?

Larry:  The three main characters in Vows are O’Toole, Admiral Garrett, and Ship Shape.

Without giving too much away, The Marathon Watch required an admirable character that personified selfless sacrifice in the pursuit of duty with honor. Thus Captain “Terror” O’Toole was born for the sole purpose of taking down the villain in one short, delicious scene and O’Toole instantly became a readers’ favorite. 

Having created Terror O’Toole, I began to wonder how this tough, uncompromising, no-nonsense teacher came to be that way. That lead to Vows to the Fallen, where the man we know as O’Toole was forged in the crucible of combat.

In Vows, O’Toole needed a kick in the butt and someone who would point him in the right direction. That led to Admiral Garrett, who I saw as a tough leader but a thinker who could see beyond the surface. I used Henry Fonda as a visual model for Admiral Garrett.

O’Toole was not driven by ego nor by hatred for the enemy but, instead, by his love for his men. His duty to his country and his love for his men were in conflict and forced him to adopt the persona of a tough, relentless, and uncompromising taskmaster and warrior. But inside, O’Toole was dying. As an author, I needed a way to expose O’Toole’s humanity, so I gave him Ship Shape.

Rad-Reader:  What type of research does it take to write a book like “Vows of the Fallen?”

Larry:  Wow! I spent months doing research. I studied the geopolitical events that led to our war with Japan as well as Japanese and American culture of the 1940s. Then, before I started to write, I had to know everything about US and Japanese ships, weapons, and naval strategy. 

After doing all of that research, I feel like I didn’t use more than 5 percent of it, but I know better because the research certainly colored my thoughts and my writing.

Rad-Reader: I did not read your first book.  With this one it reminded me of some of the Navy battles in History books I’ve read.  Did you use those as a form of reference?

Larry:  Yes and no. The book opens with the first battle of Savo Island the day after the American invasion of Guadalcanal. I took literary license by putting my fictional ship, the USS Green, in the place of the real USS Blue; the Japanese sank the Green, but in the real battle, the Blue survived.

The last battle in Vows, the Battle of Mujatto Gulf, is loosely based on the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which became known as “the navy’s finest hour” and “the last stand of the tin can sailor.” It was a heroic, desperate battle, with the American ships outnumbered and outgunned. You’ll have to read Vows to find out what happened.

The other two battles I just made up by diagramming the battles on a piece of paper. 

Rad-Reader:  Is your future book still going to be about the Navy?

Larry:  Yes, I have at least one more Marathon novel to go. There may be more, so stay tuned. I am also working on a science fiction series and a few other novels that would be clearly considered literary fiction in the mold of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Rad-Reader:  Are any of your characters based on real people?

Larry: I’m not sure how to answer that. First, I determine what role the character will play in the story and how he or she will impact the story. That determines a lot about the character. For example, Doc Strong in Vows served to mold O’Toole’s character by being, at one time or another, O’Toole’s confidant, supporter, critic, and opponent. It takes a special kind of character to pull that off, so I made Doc Strong a “dumb as a fox,” easygoing troublemaker with a purpose.

With the character’s role defined, I create the character the way you make fruit salad—a little of this person, a little of that person, a little idea I had, and a suggestion from my wife topped off with imagination. 

Rad-Reader:  Do you find it interesting to write about WWII?

Larry:  Not the war itself. I hated writing about the violence and death; however, it was necessary for the growth of O’Toole’s character, and I held the violence to a minimum. I was always exhausted when I finished writing the battle scenes. What I do enjoy writing about is the courage and sacrifices the men made.

Rad-Reader:  Do you use an outline for writing or just see how the overall story flows as you write?

Larry:  I work with an outline that goes through two phases. The first outline is a fairly detailed outline of how I think the story should unfold. This gives me an understanding of the main character’s challenge, growth, and resolution. I then write the first chapter, the last chapter, and the middle chapter. These three chapters tell me where I have things wrong and give me insights into what has to be changed.

I then revise the outline to include what I have learned and start writing. Once I start writing, the story grows organically as character possession takes hold. I never fight these moments just because I want to stick to the outline. I let things flow. When I finish the first draft, I cut what didn’t work and start to polish my prose.

Rad-Reader: Even though this book is historical fiction, do you think the reader expects a lot of facts and details in describing events?

Larry:  Handled right, I think facts and details add to the reading experience. I like it when I read fiction and learn things about the real world. Some readers consider my novels “techno-thrillers,” but I don’t see it that way. The trick is to provide tidbits of information that support the action rather than getting in the way. Some of Tom Clancy’s stuff was interesting, but it got in the way of the story. When that happens to me when I write, I cut it out and find a way to sneak it in along with the action. 

Rad-Reader:  I imagine you still have to do a lot of research about the design of ships at the beginning of the war and changes that were made?

Larry:  WWII was an amazing time. Aircraft became dominant in naval warfare while battleships had little influence. Radar was in its infancy, and weapon systems were in constant development and improvement. These innovations forced changes in ship design, tactics, and the way a ship’s crew managed the battles. In Vows, the reader will see all of these changes. 

I wanted to make sure I portrayed these changes faithfully, and that did take a great deal of research. 

My next novel is about WWI, and I am back into the research on that era. Unfortunately, there is far less information available about the navy during WWI.

Rad-Reader:  Did you plan on your main character going through PTSD?  Or was this something you decided as you were writing the story?

Larry:  Many readers have commented on O’Toole’s battle with PTSD, but that was not my intention. Without a doubt, O’Toole is traumatized by the events in the first chapter. I thought long and hard about how those opening events would affect someone like O’Toole, and I wrote what I thought. It wasn’t till I was well into the story before I realized what I was describing was PTSD.

This is one of the things I love about writing. In my attempt to write credible fiction, I created a reality. It’s magic. Pretty cool, huh?

Rad-Reader:  I know you are a self-published, but this book “Vows to the Fallen” especially the cover looks like it came from a big publisher. Did you have difficulties getting either this book or your first book published? 

Larry:  Amazon makes it very easy (perhaps too easy) for someone to publish a book. Literally all you need is a manuscript and a cover, and you can publish on Amazon or Smashwords. This has created a market with a very low barrier to entry with no quality control. On one hand, it allows gifted writers to publish, but for every gifted writer there are those who never studied the art and craft of a novelist. This may be harsh, but in today’s world, I believe most e-book authors should not have published. Industry statistics support my opinion.

What is hard is getting it right. I edit my manuscript until I hate every word I wrote. I then turn it over to a professional editor to polish. That’s expensive; think $1,000 plus. Then there is the cover. You can buy covers today on the Internet for less than $100, but they are worth what you pay for them. I paid a professional more than $1,000 for the cover of Vows, but my goal was to create a visual brand. You should be able to see this by comparing the covers of Vows and Marathon Watch. My name is in bold blue, the title is in red, and there is very little additional color (other than white and gray) on the covers. This will be my trademark on all future novels.

So I think the answer to your question is it is difficult for me to publish only because I promise my readers a quality book, and I take that promise seriously.
Rad-Reader:  Are you working on a new book already?

Larry:  Yes, and it has been a bumpy ride. I have created two novel outlines and wrote my first, middle, and last chapters for each. Both times I discovered I had a story that wouldn’t measure up to my quality promise. Not wanting to break my promise to my fans, I threw them away.

I am now on my third attempt to write a quality novel, and I hope I am on the right track. The outline isn’t done yet, but it feels right, and I have a strong urge to tell the story of Chief Barnes and Admiral Garrett in WWI.  

Rad-Reader:  If your book was made into a movie who would you want to play…

Patrick O’Toole (Terror) : Jon Hamm –

Admiral Garrett -  Jason Isaac

Larry:  I will leave it to the director to pick the actors, but here is what I would look for.

Patrick O’Toole (Terror): An actor who can both visually and emotionally depict a young, haunted man who has aged beyond his years. In battle, his stare could cut steel. After the battle, when his guard is down, you might catch a few flickers of a hundred-yard stare. He is always tough—in battle, a titan. Inside, he bleeds, and with every man who dies, a piece of him dies as well.

Admiral Garrett: When I think of Admiral Garrett, I see Henry Fonda. The actor would need to be able to portray a thoughtful, insightful man. When Garrett does speak, he has a point, and everyone listens.

Ship Shape: Ship Shape is a small dog, eight inches tall at the shoulder. He is a ten-pound dog with a 200-pound attitude. Physically, he epitomizes the word mutt, and his demeanor shouts attitude and intelligence. He thinks he runs the ship.

Rad-Reader:  What song out now would best describe this book for you?
 "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Words" - Elton John
Larry:  The emotions in Vows to the Fallen cover such a wide range, I think it is impossible to describe it with one song. When I write, I listen to music because it helps me feel the torments and joys of the characters. At times I have to stop writing to take a break because I get so giddy, or I start crying. As the author, I struggled with O’Toole against his demons and grieved with him. This is hard on me, and even though Vows ends on an upbeat but bittersweet note, I still can’t reread the last two chapters without crying. Those two chapters were written to the sound of “Ashokan Farewell.”

When I wrote Marathon Watch, my theme music for O’Toole was the “Shaker Melody” and “Simple Gifts” by Aaron Copland. My “soundtrack” for Vows included:
 Ashokan Farewell -

Folk Alley Sessions: Jay Ungar & Molly Mason Family Band

The William Tell Overture - Rossini
Les Preludes - Franz Liszt
The 1812 Overture - Tchaikovsky
Taps - 

performed in Arlington National Cemetery (summer and winter)

The Great Gates of Kiev 
Shaker melody

Simple Gifts 
Saving Private Ryan Theme 
Independence Day Theme
Fanfare for the Common Man 
Sau Gan 

Rad-Reader:  Where can our readers find your book?

Larry:  Only on Amazon. Paperback copies can be found at: http://amzn.to/1SWZLxz

The Kindle version is at http://amzn.to/1Sklrbh.
Rad-Reader:  Where can our readers find you on the Web?

Larry:  http://LarryLaswell.com.  I encourage my fans to visit me on my website and send me emails.  I answer every email and I appreciate it when my fans take to the time to tell me what’s on their mind. I love the interaction and my fans are the energy that keeps me going.
We can't thank you enough for being with us.  For taking the time to answer all our questions and for adding the songs at the end.  Your thoughtful responses were very much appreciated and I hope will bring more people to your books.  Thank you once again. 
P.S. Larry,
I wanted to thank you also because I often wonder when my daughter, 15, and her father start talking I just laugh and think, "It is above my pay grade" and keep on laughing especially history which they both love.  I just loved your answers because it made it interesting even to me.  So thank you for that.  You were a joy to email with and Please stop by again anytime for you are now a 1Rad-Reader Misfit.
Char :)

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