Interview with Pat Hogan, author of Silent Spring- Deadly Autumn of the Vietnam War

1. Which Book (or other media) would you say is your largest influence?

While there were many influential books, if I had to pick just one, it would have to be Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962).

2. What part of the book was the most difficult to write?

The most difficult parts of the book to write were Larry’s Story and reliving the time I spent in Vietnam and my illnesses over the years.

3. What was the seed of the book or the very first thing that came to you as you started the writing process?

In the beginning, writing a book was the further thing from my mind. However, shortly after I had returned home from Vietnam for the last time, my father urged me to file a disability claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) for medical problems I had experienced during my service. I began the process without much enthusiasm and quickly got sidelined by my new civilian life. Little did I realize that I wouldn’t revisit those claims again until almost forty years later when I watched President Barack Obama give a speech on the horrors of the Vietnam War. I’m still not quite sure what happened that day, but after listening to the president, I felt an determination to commit myself to investigate the causal link between my myriad of health problems and my exposures to Agent Orange in Vietnam.

4. Did the book change a lot through different drafts? How so?

          The book went through so many drafts I lost count.  The original first draft was about 400 pages. The final published book ended up being 198 pages.

5. If you had to pick any aspects of the book to change what would it be?

          I would have liked to change the chemical and biological aspects of the book and make them simpler.  Unfortunately, even with all the drafts, I couldn’t make that aspect less complicated and draggy.

6.  How much of yourself did you include in this book?

          The book is 100% me from beginning to end.

7.  Did you discover anything new/unexpected while doing research?

When I started my investigative journey into Agent Orange, I never suspected what I would discover. But, I quickly learned we were exposed too much more than just the one infamous pesticide. The deeper my exploration went and the more I thought about all the lives which had been taken and damaged by the rampant use of pesticides during the war; the more determined I became to try to set the record right. So, starting with the death of my friend Larry White the book was born.

It’s a disgrace that so many lives have been lost over the last half-century, and no one knows the truth or even how many veterans died because of the chemicals they were exposed to in Vietnam.  Likewise, our government can’t or won’t tell us how many of the three million “in-Country” Vietnam Veterans are still alive today. One of my biggest regrets is it took me so long to wake up and write the book.

8. If this is your first experience writing in this genre, what drew you to write the book specifically this way?  (If not what makes this genre one you like to write in?)

          This is my first book, but God willing it will not be my last. Originally, writing a book about the Vietnam War or being an author was the further thing from his mind. However, after my intense interaction with the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and lengthy investigation into the pesticides we were exposed to eventually the very reluctant writer within me emerged out of sheer exasperation and sorrow for all the lives lost and governmental indifference.

9. Did you ever find yourself burning out on the book? How did you get through that?

          I never burned out while writing the book. But I did burn-up at the administration hamster wheel the DVA runs veterans through.

10. What do you most hope readers will take away from this book?

The book discusses not only the conditions in Vietnam but also all the toxic herbicides and insecticides used during the War. Unfortunately, most people today believe Agent Orange was the only pesticide we were exposed too. The truth is that the Vietnam War was turned into a disinformation campaign by the government to downplay or outright ignore all the other chemicals we were exposed to there. Had the government been forthcoming with the same information as in my book, there would have been no misconceptions. Then again, no one has ever put together an investigation or book on all the complex issues and chemical of the Vietnam War before either. At least as far as I know.

11. Was this book easier or more difficult to write than others you’ve written?

          First book.

12.  Is this a book that could be easily adapted to other media (movies, podcast, etc.)?

How much do you think an adaption might change it?

          I don’t think it would be easy to adapt to other media. The only way that it could be done is if they took “Larry’s Story” or the life story of any other veteran and just make their life the focus.

13. Has writing this book changed your world view at all?

          Writing the book hasn’t changed my world view, but it did change my view of our politicians and governmental leaders.

14. How much do you think your life impacted how the book turned out?

          The impact was 100%.

15.  Is there a certain place/time of the day that most inspired you to write?

          There was no certain time or place, but it got to a point where I had to carry around a pad and pen because I would get inspirational flashes at the most inopportune times.

16. Do you have a writing routine? How well do you follow it?

          No routine. I just let it flow as freely as I could recall.

17.  Do you think any book (or other media) have been a bad influence on your writing?

          No.

18.  If you could pick any book to write differently (yours or another’s) which would it be?

Walden

19. What writers do you look up to most, either for their writing or as human beings?

Henry David Thoreau and Albert Einstein

20. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

          I’m still new at this myself.

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