Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Interview With Kimberly

I recently had the honor of being reviewed by Kimberly Shursen of the highly regarded Underground Book Reviews website concerning my novel Sarah Of The Moon. The review follows.

When I ask an author if he would like to do an interview, we usually communicate via e-mails. This is when I have the opportunity to get to know the person, not just the writer. When I located Mr. Mixter on Facebook I was able to observe pictures of his ‘real life’ storybook. As I introduce Mr. Mixter to the Underground, there are two words that come to mind: loyal and humble. Mr. Mixter is humble, yet knows he has something important to share, has a deep understanding for what is right for himself, but allows others the same privilege, and is totally dedicated to his wife, family and friends. Welcome Randy Mixter.

Kimberly: Will you tell us a bit about your background?

Mr Mixter: I have been writing since I was a teenager. I have had my poetry and other writings published locally. I have also written articles for a local paper and have won an award for creative writing. My first published book consisted of short stories about growing up in Baltimore City in the 1960s, titledThe Boys of Northwood. My second novel, Sarah Of The Moon, is a fictional love story, with a touch of mystery, that takes place in San Francisco during the 1967 Summer of Love. I recently completed and published Letters From Long Binh: Memoirs of aMilitary Policeman in Vietnam.That book is based on the letters I wrote home to my wife during a 1967 tour of duty in Vietnam. My short story, Eternal, will be published this spring by Sleeping Cat Books in the book anthology, The Storm Is Coming.

Since my retirement from a security position with local government, I have been able to devote more time to my wife, five cats and, of course, my writing.

Kimberly: How did your novel Sarah Of The Moon happen to evolve? Was it inspired by a true story? There are a lot of factual details, so if your novel is not based on what you personally experienced, how did you do your research?

Mr. Mixter: Several years ago I wrote a prologue and a epilogue to a book I called Sarah Of The Moon. The handwritten papers went into a desk drawer. In the autumn of 2010 I was recovering from heart surgery. I had just published my first book, The Boys Of Northwood, and thought this to be the perfect time to revisit Sarah. I began to write without any plot outline. I knew the beginning and the ending, but that was all. Luckily as I developed my characters the story came to me, a chapter at a time. Many readers have asked me if I've ever been to San Francisco. I have not. During the 1967 summer of love, I was military policeman in Vietnam. I researched the time and the place, then allowed my imagination to fill in the blanks.

Kimberly: As I read your novel, the one thing that kept coming back to me was how uninformed people were about the “Hippy” movement. Yes, there were those who were a part of it because they were into drugs more than cause, however the premise of the movement was heartfelt. Do you feel the movement had an impact on the future? How?

Mr. Mixter: I have always been fascinated with the so-called 'Hippie' culture and the music that came from it. I believe that shows throughout the book. I wanted to write a story that focused on their lifestyle and would hopefully depict these free spirits as more than druggies. I personally feel the majority of those young people believed in the tenants of peace and love and were trying to change the world for the better. It was also important to me that my three main characters, Sarah, Alex, and Matt were drug free throughout most of the novel. Although drugs played a significant role in the culture, I wanted my main characters to be enlightened without the use of drugs. In my book, I separated the true hippie from his weekend counterpart. It's significant to note the difference between the two factions in that the first group wanted to make change and the second just wanted to get high.

I would like to think the peace protests of the 1970's, which in some ways helped to end the war in Vietnam, and the protests of today can be traced back to the hippies of the '60s, and, of course, the summer of love. I also believe the movement was instrumental in passing anti-racism laws in the late 1960s and 1970s and undoubtedly was responsible for generating an interest in environmental concerns such as clean air and water, organic farming, and recycling.

Kimberly: Sarah of the Moon was written with honesty and sweetness and all the things we feel when we fall in love for the first time. How did you find those feelings, that purity, that happened a while ago?

Mr. Mixter: First and foremost, I wanted Sarah Of The Moon to be a romantic novel. I initially chose the Haight-Ashbury summer of love setting because I wanted my heroine to be a free spirit. Sarah was a product of her time as was Alex. Although they were from different cultures they became bonded through the love they shared.

I must admit I incorporated the feelings I had for my wife then (and now) into the character of Alex. Our relationship had the same purity about it. She was the free spirit and I was the reckless soldier. Somehow, due to a lot of persuasion and perseverance, it worked. I was able to connect with her when I returned from Vietnam. My wife and I both feel that the war changed me for the better, or maybe we both just matured in that year I was away.

Kimberly: The main character in your book is Alex. Alex’s father served in World War II. Alex’s father not only insisted, but ordered his son to follow in his footsteps. Was this to show that during that time offspring respected our parents’ wishes? That, at that time, many of us didn’t question but did as we were told?

Mr. Mixter: Many of the parents in my age group served in World War II, my father included. Patriotism was in the air in those days as well as the notion of a solid family unit. My father died when I was young, but I think his sentiments would have been similar to Alex's father about the honor of serving your country. In that regard, times have certainly changed between then and now. My father's respect meant everything to me in my youth. Not surprisingly, that came through in my writings.

Kimberly: Hindsight, do you feel serving your country in Vietnam was a mistake?

Mr. Mixter: I spent the year of 1967 in Vietnam and boarded the plane to the war zone at exactly midnight on January 1st. I volunteered for duty in Vietnam. At the time my reasons for this were purely selfish. Nineteen year olds live for the moment and I wanted the 5 day leave between my MP training at Ft. Gordon, Georgia and Vietnam to see my girlfriend. Also, I didn't want to be away from her through the longer tours of duty in Germany and Korea.

Vietnam proved to be a valuable learning experience for me. I still communicate with some of the friends I made over there, and participate in bi-annual reunions. I have no doubts, looking back on it, that I would have done it again. Would I feel differently about it had I been injured or traumatized in some manner? Perhaps. However, I'm glad I went to Vietnam. I'm grateful for what I saw over there and the lessons I learned. I believe it made me a better man.

I should also note that the girl that I saw on leave before I left for war, and the girl I wrote to nearly every day during my year away, is now my wife.

Kimberly: Sarah has premonitions. Her parents were killed when she was very young, yet she still has an ongoing relationship with them and tell her what will happen in the future. They even tell her she will meet Alex. Is Sarah’s character based on someone you know?

Mr. Mixter: No. Sarah’s character just grew in my mind as the story went along. I didn't know why she danced on a hill, or of her parents. I had the blueprint for Sarah in my mind but, much like the flowers she loved, she blossomed on the pages. I sometimes feel like a proud father when I talk of her.

None of my characters throughout the novel were fleshed out until they went on the page. I based my hippie character, Chick, on a free spirit friend I once had of the same name. Matt, the Vietnam war hero, was a composite of several of my veteran friends from Vietnam. The cat, Jezebel, was based on a stray cat with the same appearance that my wife and I befriended while on vacation in San Antonio, Texas. All else, including Oswald the chicken, came to me as I wrote.

Kimberly: What is one thought you wanted to convey in Sarah Of The Moon?

Mr. Mixter: I attempted to make the point that we should be tolerant of cultures different from ours. Each of my three main characters came from different backgrounds and had different philosophies on life, yet they were willing to make compromises and adjust their way of thinking in order to fit in. Of course they took it a step farther and all three fell in love, but then again it was the summer of love.

Kimberly: Can you share with us a bit about getting your book published?

Mr. Mixter: I self-published Sarah Of The Moon with CreateSpace last year. I currently have sent out query letters to several agents and I am optimistically waiting for a response. I am happy that now, with the advent of print-on-demand and e-books, there are more opportunities for aspiring authors to present their books to the reading public.

Kimberly: Tell us about the next project you are working on.

Mr. Mixter: I am currently one-third through writing my latest novel, Swan Loch. Much like Sarah of the Moon, Swan Loch involves two people very much in love. Unlike Sarah, it takes place in today's world. Swan Loch is about love found, lost, then found again. There will be mystery, adventure, tragedy, romance, and a bit of science fiction. Once again, I have a beginning and an end and I'm filling in most of the blanks as I write. Wish me luck!

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