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IR Approved Author Steve Wilson: “…the best part of being an indie is the independence and opportunity to write from the heart…”

Advising Chiang’s Army: An American Soldier’s World War II Experience in China received a 4+ star review, making it an IndieReader Approved title.

Following find an interview with author Steve Wilson.

What is the name of the book and when was it published?

Advising Chiang’s Army: An American Soldier’s World War II Experience in China.  The book was published on June 14, 2016.

What’s the book’s first line?

“It was his first deep-sea fishing trip.  From a boat off the southern Florida coast, Phil was enjoying simply being on the ocean and looking back at the shoreline.  Suddenly he hooked a fish that sent his line singing.”

What’s the book about?  Give us the “pitch.”

The book recounts my uncle’s (Phil Saunders) wartime service.  He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1942.  After receiving further training in the United States, he was assigned as a combat liaison officer with Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist army in China.  He arrived in the China-Burma-India theater in the fall of 1943 and soon discovered the Chinese soldiers were underfed, underpaid, unprepared for combat, and reluctant to engage the Japanese.  The book details Phil’s two years spent in China and describes how the troops he worked with gradually became an effective fighting force, shifted from defensive to offensive combat, and ultimately defeated the enemy.

What inspired you to write the book?  A particular person? An event?

My dad Allen Wilson and uncle Phil Saunders were fraternity brothers in college, World War II veterans, and lifelong friends.  In 2006, I first published a memoir about my dad’s (and, to a lesser extent, mom’s) war experience.  (The book is titled Answering the Call: With the 91st Infantry Division in the Italian Campaign During World War II–now in its third edition.)  After reading that book, Phil’s four children (my cousins) encouraged me to do a similar work regarding their dad’s wartime years spent in China.  That encouragement, along with input and help from them and many others, resulted in Advising Chiang’s Army.

What is the main reason someone should really read this book?

On a big-picture level, those who want a better understanding of America’s role in China during the Second World War should read this book. On a more personal level, readers who want to know about the day-to-day routine, sacrifices, and hardships of an individual American soldier at the small-unit level will also find that information in Advising Chiang’s Army.

When did you first decide to become an author?

I was a partner in a Minneapolis law firm that implemented a three-month sabbatical program in 2005.  During the three months I was absent from work in the fall of that year, I decided to write a book about my parents’ WW II experiences.  In that time, research for the book was mostly completed, and I finished a significant part of the first draft.

What do you do for work when you’re not writing?

In 2013, I retired from a 35-year law career.  During that period, I worked for three different law firms and spent five years with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of the General Counsel in Washington, D.C.  Since 2010, I have been an adjunct professor in the History and Political Science Department at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota.  There I teach an introductory course in American government titled “Government and Politics.”

How much time do you generally spend on your writing?

Approximately four to six hours per day, and I typically try to take Sundays off.

What’s the best and the hardest part of being an indie?

To me, the best part of being an indie is the independence and opportunity to write from the heart without being constrained by requirements that a traditional publisher would likely impose.  The hardest part is the lack of support that would presumably be provided by a traditional publisher.

What’s a great piece of advice that you can share with fellow indie authors?

In my view, the keys to being a successful author are to find a subject that you are truly interested in, do whatever research is necessary to become knowledgeable and conversant in that subject, prepare an outline before you start writing, plow through the first draft, and then rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite again until you have told the story you want to tell to the best of your ability.

Would you go traditional if a publisher came calling?  If so, why?

I would entertain going with a traditional publisher if I could maintain a substantial amount of control over the final product.  The support that a traditional publisher could provide would be welcome (in both publishing and marketing phases), but I would not want to trade my independence for that support.

Is there something in particular that motivates you?

With respect to the two books referred to above, I was inspired by the sacrifices both men made to serve their country in wartime; and I was motivated to learn about their stories and then tell them.  I am currently working on a third book about my great uncle Francis Case, who served in the U.S. Congress for 25 years.  Again, I am motivated to research and then tell the story about a selfless public servant.  Asked to describe him, one of his fellow senators simply said: “He gave more than he took.”

Which writer, living or dead, do you most admire?

Ron Chernow, whose books have changed the way history has remembered and evaluated some of America’s most consequential leaders.

Which book do you wish you could have written?

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow.


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