Everything Nonfiction is happy to introduce author Cilla McCain and her new book Murder in Baker Company. You can read a full review of the book here.
Can you talk a little bit about your road to publication?
It was long and tedious. I think I made every mistake a writer can make at the very beginning. But I believed in this story and that passion pulled me along.
Did you have an agent? Did you seek an agent?
Yes, I sought an agent, but luckily a fellow writer put me in touch with her agent. His name is Frank Weimann of The Literary Group, New York. www.theliterarygroup.com
Did you write a proposal first?
Yes I did and to me the proposal was harder to write than the book! But a good proposal is essential for a non-fiction book.
How long was the process from start to finish?
It took about three years to research the book and another year to actually write and edit it.
What type of other writing have you done?
I don’t limit myself to one genre and I am inspired by many different types of stories. I love exploring what makes seemingly normal people do twisted and unusual acts. I’ve written countless short stories and essays to that end. Besides non-fiction, I especially love historical fiction.
Yes, this is my first and it has been a great learning experience. I hope to just get better and better as I continue to write.
Can you talk about your experiences interviewing the four soldiers who were involved in the killing?
Unfortunately, I was unable to interview Alberto Martinez. I did speak on several occasions with his attorney. Martinez claims that he doesn’t remember anything about the murder. It was the same with Douglas Woodcoff. Both would only speak through their attorney. However, I don’t find anything wrong with this because from a defense standpoint being quiet is the smartest thing to do. I sent questions to Mario Navarrete through his girlfriend and he did mail a lengthy letter at one point toward the end of my research. Jacob Burgoyne has sent me regular correspondence and called several times too.
What has been their reaction to your book?
I’m not sure about Martinez or Woodcoff but I’ve been told that Navarrete is hoping that it will help him in some way. As for Burgoyne, I have been completely upfront in letting him and his family know that I didn’t pull any punches with his troubling behavior before , during and after the murder. Burgoyne has said many times that he realizes how dangerous his behavior was and he readily accepts that truth. He has expressed interest in helping other soldiers like himself before tragedy strikes for them. Only time will tell.
Do you think Mario Navarrete deserved the sentence he received?
That is a complex question. If the sentencing of all of the soldiers had been similar, then yes, I think “Life” is appropriate but when you look at the sentence Burgoyne and Woodcoff received it seems completely unfair and lopsided to a lot of people. After all, Navarrete was never accused of stabbing Richard Davis by the prosecution. He got life because he was there and because he went back to the scene a week later to help further conceal Richard. It was legal but to a lot of people that does not make it justice.
Did you have any reservations in writing this story knowing that a movie version had already been made? And how did that factor into you getting Chicago Review Press to publish the book?
Not at all. I knew that a book could delve into the topic on a much deeper level than a movie could. I also knew that the movie would be fictionalized. I think the fact a movie was made helped a little bit. But ultimately, the book had to stand on its own legs. It was turned down by all of the larger publishing firms because it wasn’t ready for release along with the movie. But I don’t regret it. I would rather have taken the right amount of time for research than rush through a manuscript for marketing purposes. This story and our soldiers are too important to let money determine its fate.
What other titles for your book did you consider?
Oh my goodness, I wrote down dozens of titles. “Smoke and Mirrors: The Forgotten Soldiers,” and so on. But what I learned through my wise editor, Sue Betz, is that the title of a non-fiction should be obvious and upfront. A reader should know what they are buying by the title.
How much of a factor was PTSD in what happened?
There were many factors leading to this horrible night. I personally don’t think this murder was a true PTSD episode. It was deliberate and planned. From my understanding, a violent PTSD episode is very sudden with little to no warning. However, I do think that war prepared these soldiers to be totally apathetic about the murder as they committed it. But no, despite at least two of the soldiers being diagnosed with PTSD, I don’t think it is solely responsible.
I was very interested in what you had to say about the drug Lariam, but I don’t think it was mentioned by any of the defense lawyers. What is your opinion about this as a possible factor?
I don’t think it was a factor anymore than the other issues but like everything else that went wrong, Lariam could have been the major factor all by itself. Although it was never mentioned in court, I think if this same case were to happen today, it would definitely be considered as a defense. These soldiers were overdosing on Lariam in massive amounts because there wasn’t proper oversight. In reality, proper oversight is impossible in a war zone but steps could have been taken to make sure that overdosing didn’t occur. Even without over dosage the Lariam issue is a volatile one at best and I’m positive we will be hearing more about the damage it has caused for years to come. Some scientists are linking Lariam directly to the historical rise of suicides in the United States.
What are you working on now?
I have two projects already started. One is a historical novel set in 1930’s Georgia and the other is a non-fiction story tentatively titled “A Non-Hostile Incident: The Untimely Death of Marine Colonel Mike Stahlman.”
Thank you for your time and interest.