|Astronaut and Author Tom Jones
As an author, whose work has influenced you the most? What type of books do you like to read?
I enjoy historical nonfiction, historical fiction, techno-thrillers, and anything dealing with American history. My favorite recurring authors are Bernard Cornwell and Patrick O'Brian. I've been inspired by writers like Stephen Ambrose, David McCullough, and way back in the 1960s, aviation writer Martin Caidin.
"Sky Walking" is a very personal, almost intimate view of life as an astronaut. What were you hoping to achieve through sharing your story?
During my work as an astronaut I never had the time or means to reach large audiences with the personal impact of the spaceflight experience. I wanted to share the richness of that experience through remembering and writing about it in detail, something my public speaking opportunities to that point did not permit. Through sharing this story, I hoped to engage the public in the excitement and wonder of human space exploration.
|"Sky Walking" was listed by the Wall Street Journal as "one of the best five books" about space. How do you think it has it touched people?
Most readers who contact me are amazed at the human experiences I detail in the book, and most say they never imagined the enjoyment, excitement, and sheer hard work required to travel to and work in space. They also are surprised at the impacts on the astronauts' families as they prepare to send their loved ones into orbit.
"Planetology" is a completely different type of book to your memoir (Sky Walking). It is a highly visual book, with many thought provoking images and words about our Solar System. Where did the concept for that book originate?
The idea came from my friendship with Ellen Stofan, and our work together on the Space Radar Lab missions aboard the shuttle (STS-59 and -68). We shared a wonder at exploring the planets with robots and people, and wanted to capture that human excitement at seeing Earth and its fellow planets revealed in such beauty and scientific complexity. We want to bring to young people, in particular, a realization of how exciting their new adventures in exploration will be.
|Hell Hawks" was a collaboration with Robert F. Dorr. It's about young
American fighter pilots during World War II who flew for a year against
Hitler's forces, supporting ground forces across France and into Germany. As
a former miliary pilot yourself, how did you relate to those pilots as you
wrote about them?
The airmen who flew combat missions in WWII were my heroes as I grew up in the 1960s. Now those veterans are leaving the stage, and I wanted to talk to these men, and relate their rapidly vanishing stories to a new generation of readers. They deserve to be heard. Bob and I wanted to thank these men for their courage by sharing their true story with Americans of all ages.
As an author of several books now, what are your greatest challenges as a writer, and what do you enjoy most about writing?
The best part of writing is seeing one's new book in print, and then speaking about it to new audiences. The biggest challenge is organizing the project - research, drafting, schedule - and then beginning the work in earnest early enough to avoid a stressful conclusion to the project. I've only been partially successful at that!