Retired engineer and entrepreneur Larry Kilham is a novelist, poet, and nonfiction author based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His latest nonfiction release, Destiny Strikes Twice: James L. Breese Aviator and Inventor (November 2020), is the biography of his grandfather who was the flight engineer on the first transatlantic flight in 1919. James Breese went on to develop 130 patents for home and military space heaters and built an oil burner business in Santa Fe with millions of dollars in sales. Lessons from Breese’s adventure-packed life will appeal to all readers, including aspiring inventors and entrepreneurs. You’ll find Larry on his website LarryKilham.net and blog, on Facebook and Twitter, and on his Amazon author page. Read more about Larry’s work in his 2017 and 2019 SWW interviews.
What would you like readers to know about Destiny Strikes Twice?
Although Jim Breese was a great achiever in aviation and technology, he was challenged to find a lasting relationship with a woman. This deeply troubled him and led to some degree of self-doubt. With his last wife (whom he did love very much) and the sale of his business, he ultimately restored his sense of self-worth.
Why did you feel compelled to share your grandfather’s story?
The primary reason I wrote my grandfather’s story is that he was an important 20th-century industrial entrepreneur in Santa Fe who seemed to be slipping away into obscurity. I also hoped he would be an inspiring role model for current emerging entrepreneurs.
What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
One unique challenge was talking to family members about taboo events. One was my grandmother’s apparent suicide. Another was gathering enough evidence to convince a family member that their version of an event was wrong. For example, my grandfather landed his plane in Santa Fe because he was down to his last spoonful of gas. Years later he drove me to the spot where it really happened—not where and how family legend said it happened. There’s no airport there now.
Did you have any “Oh, wow!” moments while doing research for the book?
My “Oh, wow!” moment was to discover that without hesitation my grandfather decided to give up a successful and glamorous naval aviation career to become that most uncertain of pursuits, an inventor. I never found a rationalization of why he decided on this abrupt career change.
Tell us how the book came together.
The basic research and organization of files took about three months. Some of that was talking by phone and by email to historical societies, museums, and individuals who had special knowledge. That process was more tedious than normal because most places were essentially closed due to Covid-19. The writing took another three months—there’s only 127 pages—and my wife was the editor. Luckily, all the family photos had been digitized so they were easy to retrieve, review, and edit.
How did you choose the title?
Of course, I wanted an attention-grabbing title for an adventure story. I thought of all those early comic books and broadcasts of heroic adventures and recalled that many had “destiny” in their title such as Destiny Rides Again. For my grandfather, with his first transatlantic crossing and loads of lucrative patents, destiny struck twice.
What was the most rewarding aspect of writing Destiny Strikes Twice?
Reviewing all the boxes of family files, letters, news clippings and books forced me to put all the people and incidents together. Sweeping family history came alive, and I will certainly understand those reclusive relatives and other characters better.
You’ve authored 13 books among the genres of science fiction, memoir, and other nonfiction. Which of your books was the most challenging to write, and which one was the most enjoyable?
My science-based novel Free Will Odyssey was the most challenging to write, based on emerging science and events from my life, and it was fun to compose. Unfortunately, it was my worst seller. Ah, well.
What do you want to be known for as an author?
Honesty. I didn’t make anything up and in my novels, I tried to stick to what reasonably could have happened. I have revealed nature, technology, creativity and invention based on personal experience in ways that will make the greatest impact on readers.
What writing projects are you working on now?
I’ve just released a new poetry collection called Dirt Road Poems (April 27, 2021). It’s available on Amazon along with my other books.
KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.