Robert Hays has been a newspaper reporter, public relations writer, magazine editor, and university professor and administrator. His publications include academic journal and popular periodical articles and several novels and non-fiction books.
Robert is a fellow Vanilla Heart Publishing author.
Thank you so much for meeting me here today in the Potpourri Parlor.
So what have you been doing with yourself since your role in Airplane? (just joking, seriously) Have you ever heard from a reader/fan who thought you were the actor turned writer? Any amusing stories about the name similarity?
Robert: Yes, there have been a couple of instances in which fans of the movie star got in touch. One of them pretended not to have made a mistake, but the other wrote from the outset that he liked my movies very much. I probably benefit from the name similarity in ways I never know. I sometimes go onto Web sites devoted to him and find links to me. Computerized listings just can’t seem to tell us apart!
Would you describe the type of fiction you write? Is this the same type of material you like to read? If not, what do you read?
Robert: After spending most of my adult life as a journalist, I am a realist and find it most interesting to read and write about the human condition. I strayed a bit in The Baby River Angel, but my other three novels and some of my non-fiction are pretty gritty. My books don’t always have happy endings.
What are you working on now?
Robert: I’ve started a new novel, which once again gets pretty close to reality. I’m not moving very fast on it at this point, though, feeling somewhat worn out by the research and writing of my tenth and most recent book, Patton’s Oracle. This is a biographical memoir about Gen. Oscar Koch, who was intelligence officer for Gen. George S. Patton Jr. in World War II and with whom it was my honor and pleasure to become friends toward the end of his life.
What do you think makes a good story?
Robert: For me, compelling characters make for compelling reading. Real people in real situations. These don’t have to be overly dramatic, in my opinion, but may simply reflect the way people deal with personal crises or unexpected events.
Plotter or Pantser? Why?
Robert: I always have a mental outline of where I want a story to go. I write a beginning and an ending, then bring the two together in a way that I hope provides a logical continuity. Perhaps this comes from my non-fiction writing, which typically is linear in some fashion. This may relate to time-frame, or it may relate to how a situation develops and how it is resolved. I apply a similar structure to fiction—something I had not realized until this very instant!
Tell us about your family.
Robert: I have been married for 55 years to the former Mary Elizabeth Corley of Columbia, South Carolina. I dedicated Blood on the Roses to her with the inscription, “To the most beautiful person ever produced by the American South,” which is an honest description of my feelings. We have two sons—wonderful young men that we are immensely proud of—and one grandson, now eleven. In January we lost our beautiful daughter-in-law, Kelley, loving wife and mother and dedicated RN, to a sudden and unexpected heart attack at age 39. And then of course there is our cat, Eddie, shared with the family next door and the one around whom every activity in the household revolves.
What is the hardest part of writing your books?
Robert: Fiction writing for me is a favorite pastime. I would do it for relaxation even if I never expected to complete a story and get something published. Non-fiction is a different matter. The hardest part is the research. I always assume that it is going to take a minimum of four hours of research for every hour of writing. But I find great satisfaction in both forms and would find it difficult to admit to a “hard” part. But I would say it is “demanding.”
Who are your favorite authors?
Robert: My favorite American novels are Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Insofar as contemporary authors are concerned, I love Kent Haruf. He seems to view fiction much as I do, writing about ordinary people facing the trials of day-to-day life.
How many books are in your office or home?
Robert: I couldn’t even hazard a guess. There are too many and they have long since outgrown the space available. And yet I rarely reject an opportunity go get more.
Please tell us what you are most passionate about outside of writing.
Robert: Doing my best to care for the people I love.
What’s the elevator pitch for your most recent release?
Robert: Oscar Koch’s sterling performance as General George S. Patton Jr.’s intelligence chief, G-2, was a critical element in Patton’s success in World War II and earned Koch the reputation as arguably the best intelligence officer in US. Army history. Koch went on to help overhaul the CIA and, in retirement, earned a coveted Guggenheim Fellowship to support research and writing on intelligence in combat. His unlikely friendship with Robert Hays, a young journalist who also happened to be a veteran of Koch’s beloved U.S. Third Army, led to a book that has become a crucial source for military historians. Now, Robert Hays offers a deeply personal account of their relationship, reveals the general’s astonishingly gentle and caring nature, and describes Koch’s philosophy and concerns about the intriguing field of intelligence. Overarching all is the poignant story of Koch’s valiant battle with terminal cancer. The reader will understand why Hays grants Oscar Koch the eminent rank of personal hero and feels obligated to help assure his place in history.
In your novels, is there a character you love to hate? Why that one?
Robert: Yes. Bishop Collins in Blood on the Roses. He represents the most dangerous type of bigot, one who is powerful and influential and who firmly believes that God is on his side.
Morning Person? Or Night Person? How do you know?
Robert: Neither. I began my career as a newspaper reporter and learned to gather information and write to pressing deadlines without regard to time or circumstances. I still write that way, and because writing is my dominant activity since I retired from teaching it’s the only measure I have.
What would we find under your bed?
You mean besides dust? Well, there’s a big jar of pennies that should have gone to the bank years ago but which I just can’t bring myself to face up to. Oh, and a few boxes of outdated clothes that should have been thrown away, and a couple of boxes of unsorted photographs, and . . . but you get the picture.
When you taught journalism at the university, what do you feel was the most difficult concept for your students?
Robert: The dedication and work ethic required. If they couldn’t accept it, they soon washed out.
Can you tell us where to find more information on you?
Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Robert-Hays/e/B002SKIKDE
Goodreads page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/619529.Robert_Hays
Smashwords page: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/RobertHays
VHP page: http://www.vanillaheartbooksandauthors.com/Robert_Hays.html
Is there a place where readers can reach you?
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Robert: I hope you find something of value in what I write.
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