I'm really proud of my mom Anne Tazewell and this book she wrote about my grandfather James Eichelberger. I am so happy to be offering A Good Spy Leaves No Trace on my website now. I thought it would be fun to interview her about her process and what it took to bring this story to life.
Can you tell us a little bit about your process in writing this book? How long did it take and what kind of learning process did you experience?
The book was over ten years in the making if you count both the research and writing . When I would describe the project to my friends they would say " Anne it sounds like you want to write 3 books" and I would reply, " No, I want to have one book and include these three topics: my exploration of my dad's life decades after his death, my own life, as well as my career in clean energy." It took a long time to figure out, lots of tries and getting a MFA in Creative NonFiction to put me over the finish line.
I think one of the main takeaways I learned is to not give up. i don't know how some people write dozens of books over their life time as it can be a daunting process that arguably has got a lot easier with the advent of self publishing and hybrid publishers. I am grateful for these options as the traditional publishing world has shrunk and become tremendously competitive. It is said 500,000 to one million books published annually.However, if you include self-published authors you’re looking at close to 4 million new book titles published each year . I really have enjoyed the experience of working with my independent publisher BQB Books.
What was the most surprising thing for you to discover in your journey of writing this book?
The most surprising was uncovering the political history my father was involved in and how my career inadvertently mirrored his but in opposites. He was on the ground floor of helping to get the U.S. hooked on cheap Middle East oil and I have been working on the vanguard of getting the country off of oil as the primary fuel to get us down the road.
Can you share a little bit about what you learned about the CIA in your uncovering of this story?
The CIA was heavily involved in securing the close relations the U.S. was developing with Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia , all places with substantial amounts of the world's oil. As you may expect they worked behind the scenes with country leaders to grease the wheels for U.S. business interest. I had known this intellectually but it was quite different when I saw my father's work in this light.
Do you feel closer to your fathers spirit now that you have completed this deep dive in to his story and life?
Yes, I do. I developed a lot of empathy for my father after learning more about WWII, where he was a Captain in Military Intelligence and part of the elite Office of Strategic Services ( OSS). This is where he got his start in espionage. My father was clearly a product of his time where one thing leads to another. My dad grew up as a WWII soldier while I grew up a flower child protesting the Vietnam War.
I especially love the opening paragraph in the Preface where you state your interest in the past in relation to how it effects the present and the mysterious forces that guide us humans to a greater understanding of our true selves. Can you share more about your experiences of this as you wrote the book - what you learned on a personal level and how important it was that you followed the call to do this important work?
One thing that stands out in my mind ( now years after I started my research) was how my father and I were similar as young adults in that we loved to travel. I discovered that he convinced his mother to pay for private French lessons then after he graduated from college he went to France. His love of the culture and language set the stage for his ability to step into an espionage / gathering intelligence role at the onset of WWII.
I also know that the father intended to write his life’s story. In fact he wrote me a number of letters telling me how he was up to 300 page, then 400 pages. He was writing about his experiences and all the people he met over his life. Sadly, none of these typed up pages were found after his death. In my own way I am telling his story, since he was unable.
What has the feedback been like for you now that the book has been out and this personal exploration has been read by so many? Any specific stories you can share regarding readers' comments and insight?
Readers told me that I was brave to be so vulnerable in telling this story. One unsolicited email I received shortly after it was published really moved me in that it was from a retired CIA agent. He wanted me to know that he had been trying to write his story about working in the Middle East, how difficult it was for his children but that he couldn’t bring himself to do it because of the pain. Now that he had found my book he felt better knowing they could read my story as a stand in for him. I was very moved upon receiving this note.
Do you have any advice for aspiring memoir and creative non fiction writers?
Stick with it and get lots of feedback as you go down the road of writing and publishing your work. I took writing workshops and joined a writers group before deciding I wanted to get even more experience by going to graduate school. The main advice is to stick with it. Don’t give up. It is easier than ever to publish.
Greg K here, fellow KHHS classmate with your mom. We met once at Omega and I’ve visited with your folks a few times over the years.
Enjoyed your post and very much enjoyed reading the book. Both the personal journey aspect and your grandfather’s history in the Middle East. Probably learned more about oil history than I had in all the articles I’ve ever read! Or at least it felt that way lol.
Wishing you all lots of success and much happiness in the coming year!
Peace – Greg