In his 81 years, longtime Mesa resident Jim Weller has been a U.S. Navy submarine crewman, a firefighter for 18 years, a flight instructor and a teacher at an Oregon Christian college.
He now has added novelist to that resume.
The Sunland Village resident has just published “Flying Solo,” a story about an aeronautical engineering student eyeing a career as an airline pilot whose is struck by a tragedy that changes his life and eventually “learns that difficulty can be a good teacher, but that suffering is often the best teacher.”
A father, grandfather and great-granddad, Weller said he took up novel writing in response to his friends’ suggestions that he write about his varied life.
“That didn’t interest me,” he said. “But during the time I instructed at the university, I often would tell my students in a writing course that some day I was going to write a novel that would present character traits that others would want to share.
“It took some time to write, but during that process the story morphed into one of a person finding their way to gaining faith in God.”
Weller said “it’s almost embarrassing” that HE spent six years writing “Flying Solo” and almost grounded the project.
“Last year I just about gave up on it, but my wife and daughters encouraged me to keep at it,” he said.
Partly, his challenge involved “continuing to believe in my story as I write.”
“I start out writing and everything is going along fine, then I get stuck in the middle of a scene or a necessary transition, and it’s easy for me to think ‘I don’t know if this story is going to work or not.’
“So, I have to go back to the basics and reassure myself that it’s worthwhile to keep writing.”
He found help through his participation in the Chandler Arizona Christian Writers group, which he said helped in “keeping me engaged and moving forward.”
“I highly recommend a group like that to any writer,” said Weller, who calls himself “a seat of the pants writer.”
“I get up in the morning and think, ‘So, what is the main character up to today?’ After a round of golf, if I have energy left after I’ve napped, I’ll sit down and write about what that main character is up to that day.”
“Flying Solo” has now become the first in what he envisions as a trilogy built around the main character.
The trilogy is called “Course Corrections” and he hopes to publish the second installment, titled “Born to Fly,” next year. “Solo” is available on B&N.com, Amazon.com
Weller admitted that the novel is based loosely on his life experiences.
“In some ways it made it easier for me to start with a story like this, although it also made it more difficult as I struggled to remember details rather than just inventing them,” he said, adding:
“The plot allowed me to successfully accomplish what I had earlier told my students I desired to write. In the end, it was a win-win for me.”
He can now look on his accomplishment with a measure of satisfaction.
“In the end, what was necessary turned out to be a good thing,” he said. “It strengthened the story.”
Weller will have two book signings: 2-4 p.m. Saturday, June 1, at Barnes & Noble at Dana Park; 2-4 p.m. June 8 at Barnes & Nobel at San Tan Village.
He’s also doing a virtual book tour, including some radio podcasts – 4 p.m. June 18 on Write Stuff Radio at blogtalkradio.com/pjcmedia and June 29 at 3:30 p.m. on So Real with Madalynn Bass at blogtalkradio/sorealwithmadelyn.”