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Author Update 2021: Loretta Hall

Freelance writer Loretta Hall is a space enthusiast and an award-winning author of nine nonfiction books and hundreds of magazine articles and reference book chapters. Her newest book release — this one co-authored with Wally Funk — is Higher, Faster, Longer: My Life in Aviation and My Quest for Spaceflight (Traitmarker Books, October 2020). “Traveling the world, shattering glass ceilings, and always keeping one eye on the stars, Wally relentlessly, joyfully reached higher, flew faster, and traveled longer on her way to space.” After waiting six decades to fulfill her dream, Wally Funk finally made it into space on July 20, 2021 onboard the first human flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard. You’ll find Loretta on Facebook, her Amazon author page, and several websites including Visit and read more about Loretta and her writing in SWW’s 2016 and 2018 interviews.

What do you want readers to know about the story you tell in Higher, Faster, Longer?
The book is Wally Funk’s memoir, for which I did the writing. I think Wally is a great role model for positivity and perseverance. She continued to pursue her lifelong goal for sixty years despite repeated roadblocks. She shrugged off each dead end and looked for a different path. And in the meantime, she developed an outstanding professional career and enjoyed an adventurous life.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
I wanted the book to be Wally telling her own story. That meant we collaborated closely on the content of the book. There was one interesting anecdote I would have liked to include, but she didn’t want it included. On the whole, though, it was a very enjoyable experience.

Tell us how the book came together.
I met Wally when I was giving a talk at a national conference. The talk was “Women Space Pioneers of New Mexico,” and she was one of the people I spoke about. She came to hear my presentation; and at the end, she came up and gave me a big hug. We quickly became dear friends. I kept telling her she should write her amazing story, and finally she asked me to help her do that. She lives in Fort Worth, Texas, so I made a couple of trips there to interview her and examine her photo albums, scrapbooks, and other memorabilia. We also spoke on the phone numerous times. Each time I drafted a chapter, I mailed her a copy (she doesn’t do email), and we discussed any changes she might want. The process took longer that I had hoped, because my husband’s health failed during that time. We published the book about two and a half years after we started working on it.

What is it about Wally Funk or her life that made you pursue writing her story?
For the past dozen years, I have focused my writing primarily on human space exploration and its history. One of the aspects that I find particularly interesting is women in space. Wally was one of a small, elite group of women who first challenged NASA to consider women as astronaut candidates at the beginning of its manned space program. Even though they didn’t succeed, they laid the groundwork for other women to finally be accepted and prove their worth as astronauts.

What are some interesting facts you discovered while doing research for the book?
When I started the project, I thought it would just be about Wally’s efforts to fly in space. Then I discovered what an amazing, barrier-breaking career she had in aviation as well. Back in the 1970s, aviation was definitely a male-dominated field, but she became the first female inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration and the first female accident investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board. She made huge contributions to aviation safety.

Do you have a quote you’d like to share from Higher, Faster, Longer?
One of Wally’s favorite sayings is “throw it a fish.” When something goes wrong and she has no control over it, she “throws it a fish” and moves on in a new direction. She learned the expression from the Taos Pueblo Indians when she was growing up, and it has served her well. Now I find myself using it sometimes!

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
There have been two favorite parts. One was getting to know Wally on a very personal level. She is a wonderfully caring and capable person. The other was making her story accessible to the general public. I think its inspiring, and it’s a fun read because she is such a fun-loving woman.

What writing projects are you working on now?
We are working on a children’s version of Wally’s story. She loves to encourage youngsters to learn about STEM subjects, and we hope to inspire students to follow their dreams with enthusiasm and determination. Now that she has finally flown to space with Blue Origin, the story will have an ending that will be more satisfying, especially for children.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
People who are interested in Wally’s life story can find more information at I update the website monthly with new photos and anecdotes. The announcement of Wally’s participation in the Blue Origin flight created a flurry of interest in her story. I was grateful that we had a website up and running long before that flurry occurred, and that it was one I could update quickly and easily.

KLWagoner150_2KL 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 and writes about memoir at

2020 New Releases for SWW Authors #2

Parris Afton Bonds, Loretta Hall, Esther Jantzen, Dennis Kastendiek, and Paula Paul are a few examples of the dedicated members of SouthWest Writers. Each of these authors represents a different genre, but all pushed through the craziness of 2020 to see their work published. The releases in this post couldn’t fit into this year’s interview schedule, but look for interviews or updates for most of these authors in 2021.

A list of previously interviewed SWW authors with 2020 releases is included at the end of this post.

In The Barons (Lagan Press, July 2020), the second entry in the Texicans saga, New York Times bestselling author Parris Afton Bonds tells a tale of intrigue and loyalty stretched to the breaking point. Politics, plunder, passion, profit, and power collide in a new and bountiful land through the eyes of the Paladín family, a captivating, richly-painted cast of characters playing out their lives against the backdrop of history. Their loves, their desires, their perils and rewards — all rendered in service to create a new state in America’s southwest — take on an urgency and realism unlike any before.

With the third volume in her Texicans saga, The Bravados (Lagan Press, November 2020), Parris Afton Bonds weaves a spellbinding tale of love, hate, revenge, and reconciliation set against the milieu of the turn of the twentieth century. From the streets of Dallas to the oil fields of Louisiana and the blood-soaked jungles of Cuba, the Paladíns find themselves caught in the great struggle between the traditions of the past and the technologies that will shape the future. Can bonds of blood withstand such tides of change? What about the feuds of ages long past? With true-to-life characters, high drama, and painstaking authenticity, The Bravados is a masterpiece of epic romance.

Visit Parris at and on her Amazon author page.

Higher, Faster, Longer: My Life in Aviation and My Quest for Spaceflight (Traitmarker Books, 2020), by Wally Funk and award-winning nonfiction author Loretta Hall, tells the story of a unique American space pioneer. Since she was a girl in a Superman cape jumping off the family barn and stargazing from the slopes of Taos Mountain, Wally Funk has kept going higher, faster, and longer every time she saw an opportunity. She soared through the aviation program in college, landing herself a flight instructor position after graduation. From there, she set a record in astronaut testing. The scuttling of the Mercury 13 program didn’t stop Wally, who used her dreams to fuel an adventure-studded life. Traveling the world, shattering glass ceilings, and always keeping one eye on the stars, Wally relentlessly, joyfully reached higher, flew faster, and traveled longer on her way to space.

You’ll find all of Loretta’s books on her Amazon author page.

In September 2020, Esther Jantzen published WALK: Jamie Bacon’s Secret Mission on the Camino de Santiago, her first fiction book for children and young adults. This is the story of Jamie Bacon who’s angry at his parents for making him walk 500 miles in Spain as part of their homeschooling plan. He’s especially disappointed that his dad can’t come along, which means he’ll be alone with his mom and sister. But when Jamie meets Father Diego and hears the backstory of the Camino de Santiago, he becomes intrigued. And when he naively agrees to the request by two pilgrims to secretly carry a heavily taped envelope, unopened, all the way to Santiago de Compostela, Jamie is stuck with keeping his word and finishing the very long walk.

Visit Esther on her Amazon author page.

Dennis Kastendiek’s first novel, A Seven Month Contract at Four Thousand Per (September 2020), tells the hilarious story of Johnny, a small-town Kansas high school graduate who feels guilty after a prank results in his sister breaking a leg just before her community playhouse debut. Fortunately (or not), Johnny learned all her lines while watching her rehearsals. And when a talent scout passing through town sees a girl he thinks is the most gifted actress to be found on the plains in ages, shit really hits the fan for Johnny/Johnnie. Broadway, here he/she comes! Reviewers call the story “brilliantly written, with compelling characters” and “plenty of bumps and thumps to enlighten and delight.”

Murder is Contagious (February 2020) is Paula Paul’s sixth installment in her Alexandra Gladstone Mystery series. Several children have died in a measles outbreak in the village of Newton-Upon-Sea. Equally as frightening is what begins to look like an epidemic of murder that may be related in some way to the measles contagion. Dr. Alexandra Gladstone finds herself deeply involved in both threats. Not only is her own life endangered, but the lives of members of her own household are at risk. Her attempts to stop both epidemics are hampered by the reappearance of an old lover who threatens to reveal secrets from Dr. Gladstone’s past.

Visit Paula at and on her Amazon author page.

SWW Author Interviews: 2020 Releases

Connie Flores
Our Fascinating Life: The Totally Accidental Trip 1979
Sue Houser
BR Kingsolver
Knights Magica
Dr. Barbara Koltuska-Haskin
How My Brain Works: A Guide to Understanding It Better and Keeping It Healthy
Manfred Leuthard
Broken Arrow: A Nuke Goes Missing
Shirley Raye Redmond
Courageous World Changers: 50 True Stories of Daring Women of God
J.R. Seeger
A Graveyard for Spies
Lynne Sturtevant
Hometown: Writing a Local History or Travel Guide and The Collaboration Kit
Patricia Walkow
New Mexico Remembers 9/11

KLWagoner150_2KL 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 and writes about memoir at

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