- How did you get interested in the topic that's featured in your book?
My book, Unsung Patriot, is about my grandfather, Guy T. Viskniskki, and how he started The Stars and Stripes newspaper during World War I. The easy answer to how I got interested in the topic is that I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't know that my grandfather started the paper. Admittedly, for many years, I had no idea what the paper was. In fact, I remember asking my mom, “If Guydaddy started the paper, why don't we get it?” This was in the 1950s; there was no Internet and only the armed forces received The Stars and Stripes.
After my mom died and I found that I had inherited my grandfather's 437 page manuscript about his experiences trying to start the paper, I thought I should write up something for my grandchildren. It grew - because I had to know more and more. And finally it became a book.
- Tell us a bit about your background. What have you done in the past that relates to your book and your topic?
Obviously, being the granddaughter of the man who started The Stars and Stripes and having information only the family had uniquely qualified me to write this book. On another level, I was a history major in college and then became an attorney so much of the writing that I had done has been on either historical topics or non-fiction, such as legal briefs. Since my topic is historical non-fiction combined with family information, I think I am a 'natural' to write Unsung Patriot.
- What advise would you give to someone who is interested in your topic?
First of all, that person should read my book. Second, The Stars and Stripes Museum/Library in Bloomfield, Missouri, has exhibits covering the whole history of the newspaper and they also have a research library. Third, you can join the European-Pacific Stars and Stripes Association. Initially the group was composed of men and women who had worked for the paper during their time in the armed forces. However, they have recently expanded their membership to include people who are interested in The Stars and Stripes. The yearly dues are nominal and you get 4-6 issues of their newsletter a year plus they meet once a year in various locations. I am waiting for 2009 when they are meeting in Reno, NV, to go again.
Other than those suggestions there is no a tremendous amount of information out there about the newspaper during the First World War.
- What do you see as the benefit of participating in groups and organizations? My first thought would be networking opportunities and the chance for personal and business growth. What are your reasons?
Certainly those are good reasons, Nikki, and they are some of the reasons I belong to various groups and organizations. Obviously belonging to the S&S Association is a plus for information about the paper today. I also belong to several genealogical groups because I have a real interest in tracing my family's origins and those of my husband. Some of those contacts have resulted in sales of my book - probably because of the similarity of interests among the participants. And, besides, some of them have monthly meetings nearby and it's fun to get together.
- Who is the ideal person to read your book? If each person that reads this was going to recommend your book to one person, what sort of person would they want to choose?
Unsung Patriot would appeal to a person who is interested in history, a person who is interested in genealogy, a person interested in military history, a person interested in journalism and newspapers.
As one reader said, “Virginia, I finished reading your book about your grandfather and enjoyed it tremendously. I am so amazed at all your grandfather accomplished and love how he stood up to his military superiors to keep his promise to the regular soldiers. This book is such a memorable way to share his story and the accolades that he received during his lifetime.”
- What do you think ignites a person's creativity?
First and foremost, I think a good imagination is necessary. Even when writing non-fiction, you have to be able to imagine or see how the book will flow together. This is especially true when you are gathering information from a variety of sources.
Believe it or not, for me walking in the woods and fields of our farm helps my creativity immensely. My mind is free-floating, looking at the world around me, wondering what my dogs are scenting, yet it seems I come back from a long walk refreshed and with new ideas. Yet I am not conscious of thinking about anything in particular.
- What have you found to be the biggest stumbling block for people who want to start writing?
I think potential authors look to the end result - will someone publish this book? How do I get it published? Do I really want to have to do my own marketing?
It can be daunting and scary.
When I started writing Unsung Patriot, I started writing for my children and grandchildren so that they would know about my grandfather. I never thought I would actually write a book that would be sold at book fairs, in stores and on the Internet. That came much later. I believe I probably wouldn't have started writing if I had realized what I was really going to do with the end product. I had to work in to the idea of being a published author.
- How would you suggest they can overcome that?
Write for your own enjoyment. Write for one other person - a spouse, a child, a grandchild. Don't think that what you write must be published. Think about just telling your story.
One of my neighbors is 80 something and tells wonderful stories about growing up in rural Kentucky. She has finally written down some of her memories and we are all elated. It brings this small part of the world to life - what it was really like to live here back in the Depression. And it's a very different that the story you hear of how the Depression affected city dwellers.
- What do you find is the biggest motivator for people to succeed? Is it money, security, desire for fame or something else?
I think it varies from person to person. Some people want they approval of their readers. Others want to make lots of money from their books. Still others want to prove to themselves that they can do it.
For me, I think it's a combination. I wanted my family to know about my grandfather. Now that the book is out there, I would like to make at least enough money to pay for the cost of getting it published. And I am on my way to accomplishing that!
- Who is the “perfect” person to read your book?
The “perfect” person would be anyone with an interest in, or a love, of history.
- Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Virginia G. Vassallo