Interview with Author Kent Hinckley and excerpt

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Denise Alicea

This blog was created by Denise in September 2008 to blog about writing, book reviews, and technology. Slowly, but surely this blog expanded to what it has become now, a central for book reviews of all kinds interviews, contests, and of course promotional venue for authors, etc


Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!

Born and raised in Palo Alto, California; started working at aged 8; put myself through Stanford

University via many jobs and a basketball scholarship. After a 2 year stint in the Army (1 year in

Vietnam), I worked 16 years for Bank of America in lending and management positions which

included 5 years in Asia (Taipei and Tokyo). For the past 25 years I have worked on my own in

real estate development now emphasizing green technologies in my properties.

Tell us about your book? How did it get started?

I wanted to avoid any story that had to do with Vietnam and the army, but the movie “Dancing

with Wolves” showed the viewpoint of the Indians. Since America repeated the same mistakes

of Vietnam with our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, I decided to write about peace with

the backdrop being Vietnam. The story came to me where enemies can help each other, and

underdog misfits who don’t buy into military regimen save American and Vietnamese lives. The

story seems naïve, but it made sense to me. At the time, we owned a wolf hybrid that even the

postman loved, and “Wolfie” taught me lessons of dispelling myths and stereotypes.

What inspires and what got your started in writing?

I love story telling, reading a good story, or watching a film with a great hook where the

underdogs overcome adversity. I like movies such as “The Big Country”, “Twelve Angry Men,”

“Chariots of Fire,” and “The King’s Speech.” They follow that pattern.

I wrote a play called “The Interrogators” which followed this formula. In this play, I had a German

sergeant get disgusted with his country’s death camps against Jews, and out of shame went

against the Gestapo to save an American POW. Once I started writing, I loved it, got help from

other writers, read books in my genre, went to writer’s conferences, did webinars, and voila. I

found that I enjoyed telling a story. Feedback was excellent as well as the criticism, so after 10

years, I published my first book. Reviews on Amazon surprised me. Even women, whom I didn’t

expect to like army novels, loved the story, the characters, and the relationships. Most cried at

the end which included some Vietnam vets.

Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)

I write principally in my home office. I have written in other places when I did a project, but home

is my main location. I sometimes listen to music but usually all I need is minimal distractions.

I do have two German shepherds who sit around my chair and desk to prevent interruptions.

I write for two to four hours about five days a week usually in the evening. And I make sure

that I get exercise daily whether it’s gym work, bike riding (I bike everywhere), and always dog

walking, Once every week or so I’ll play 9-18 holes of golf.

How do you get your ideas for writing?

Ideas come from reading, movies, the news, but mostly from watching everyday life. Ideas have

an easy time of reaching me, and I savor each one. I find that as I follow the ideas, they lead

to others, and I am constantly surprised at how everything comes together as long as I get out

of the way. I do some outlining and often write extemporaneously. No rules but I do need some

direction and an ending. I rewrite more than I write as new ideas keep surfacing – for the better.

I rely on readers to give me a broader perspective so I can improve the story and my writing.

They are a real blessing.

What do you like to read?

I love history, thrillers, and mysteries. I read plenty of non-fiction which has included the history

of World War I and Watergate. Recently I finished “Boys in the Boat” which was an entertaining

true story. Favorite authors are: Margaret MacMillan, Will Durant, Winston Churchill, and

Barbara Tuchman.

For fiction from the past, I loved James Michener, Robert Ludlam, James Clavell, Agatha

Christie, and Alan Drury of “Advise and Consent” and others. Today I enjoy David Baldacci,

John Grisham, Nelson DeMille, Daniel Silva, and Steve Berry, but there are so many other fine

authors that write well and weave a gripping story.

What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?

Everyone advises to just write (pardon the split infinitive), and I concur. Start with a short story

or event in your life that your friends and family would enjoy learning about you. Short stories

are harder to write than novels.

Second, for whom are you writing? Yourself? Then write for healing, learning, progressing. If

you write for others, find out what readers in your genre like to read and write to those criteria.

To find out, read books in your genre, and you will gain a better understanding about the story

you want to write. And then keep writing and enjoy it. Complete the first draft and celebrate.

Then the real writing commences as you refine and improve the story. Use beta readers after

refining the first draft. Then keep going even if you have to throw out portions.

Third, follow your own instincts. Don’t pay any attention to people or rules that say how it is

supposed to be done. You do it your way and have fun with it.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I didn’t realize the universal benefits of reading and writing. I have found that the more coherent

my writing becomes, it transfers over to improve the coherency in my life. Writing, reading or

being read to contributes to personal growth, peace, happiness, and a caring for others and

gives you more self-esteem.

I am so appreciative to the writers’ world. Everyone in this industry is so helpful and supportive

of other authors. Thank you all.


And now an excerpt from Kent’s book.

TITLE: “Hearts, Minds, and Coffee – A Vietnam Peace Odyssey”

By Kent Hinckley


Chapter 1 – Highlands, Vietnam — January 13, 1970

From a remote valley in the highlands near Pleiku, Second Lieutenant Slater Marshall and three enlisted men took cover behind an earthen rampart. Lying prone on the cool ground one hour before sunrise, the Special Forces quartet, alone with their thoughts, waited to face a company of North Vietnamese regulars. Holding rifles loaded with blanks gave them little comfort.

Two weeks ago, the world welcomed a new year. Six months before, America put two men on the moon. None of these events impressed Slater because the government forced him into a war that he thought was wrong.

Two administrations proclaimed that our country was fighting for democracy, so families would send their sons to kill. The military proposed a goal of winning the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese. This propaganda and other programs were aimed at Congress to obtain the war’s funding.

The hearts and minds campaign sounded feasible in the States, but it didn’t work in the jungle. Each foot soldier on patrol literally fought to stay alive against a determined foe. No one was able to pause and talk about civics or international relations especially when both sides carried weapons with hair triggers.

Despite its deficiencies, Slater carried the spirit of the program. He tried to reason with the enemy. His men thought he was nuts, but the tactic succeeded for a while until he realized that the village had won over his mind and his heart.

Risking their lives, he and his men set up an ambush against the NVA to protect both sides: the American soldiers to the east and the village and its coffee crop to the west. Being this brave or foolish depending on the point of view went outside the bounds of Slater’s quiet nature.

For most of his young life, he avoided confrontation and followed society’s dictates of being seen and not heard. Given his shyness, he wondered how he got into this mess. Maybe he shouldn’t have vocalized his anti-war stance during infantry training in Georgia. Maybe he should have escaped to Canada. He definitely should not have enrolled in the ROTC program at the University of Iowa.

These thoughts added to the stress of the impending battle, but he couldn’t dislodge them.

The more he reflected, the more he returned to Fort Benning where he constantly stood at attention and received verbal abuse from his commanding officer. Captain Gray stuck with him like a bad case of VD. No matter how much penicillin he took, the CO wouldn’t go away.

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