“Author Don Brown: Just learning how to listen, and to do so respectfully, would be one of the greatest things that could help solve a lot of problems we have in this country, and the world”

“I think one of the biggest problems we have in the world today, is that we don’t listen to each other, and we try to talk over one another. I’m not just talking about the big political issues of the day, although lack of listening is a big-time problem there, obviously. But I’m also talking about listening as part of the art of one-on-one communications and intimacy with others. Listening, truly, is an art form that few have mastered. I think just learning how to listen, and to do so respectfully, would be one of the greatest things that could help solve a lot of problems we have in this country, and the world. Listening is an art form, and listening, frankly, can be a scary thing. But when we lock into others and really listen, not only to we show respect, which breed good will, but we might actually learn something. That doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything, but listening and good will go a long way in making the world a better place, and learning to live with and respect others who may be different or even have different ideas. I think maybe even a self-help book called “The Art of Listening” might be helpful, but I would like to see listening conferences all over the country, teaching listening techniques, how to focus on others, and how to respond accordingly. There’s nothing wrong with writing or talking, which I do for a living. But oftentimes, instead of listening to the other person, we are just focusing on what we are going to say next, before the other person is even finish talking. We can do better. I think we would all be better off if we learn to listen much better, and that I suppose is a passion of mine.”

I had the pleasure to interview Don Brown. Don, a former US Navy JAG Officer, is author of the national bestseller, LAST FIGHTER PILOT: The True Story of the Final Combat Mission of World War II, and twelve other books about the US Military, both fiction and nonfiction. His publishers include Harper Collins, Rowman & Littlefield and Regnery. Newsmax recently included him as one of the best 25 Military Writers in the Country.

Don recently gave a talk on behalf of Heaven & Earth Oasis, a California nonprofit organization that provides a safe and peaceful healing space with an array of professional holistic healing treatments at no cost to active duty U.S. Military Service Personnel, including U.S. Military Veterans.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

DB — The decision to write professionally was a late-in-life decision for me. Actually, I was in my early forties. I’d been to a party at a friend’s house, just after New Year’s, and wrote a thank-you note. The friend wrote back and said that it was the best note that she ever read, and said that I should write a book. So, I thought, “what the heck?” And it all started on a lark, just like that.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

DB — The most interesting story for me, related to my writing, was getting to speak at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in August of 2017, along with my friend Captain Jerry Yellin, who flew the final combat mission of World War II, and who was the subject of my most recent book, Last Fighter Pilot. All the love, and admiration, and adoration, that the packed house at the Reagan Library that night had for Captain Yellin, so well-deserved, was a moving experience that I will never forget.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

DB- I have made so many mistakes, and many of them are hilarious, that I could probably write a book about the mistakes alone. But when I’m writing, I get lost in the projects, and I lose track of time. Once I was headed to a speaking engagement in Dallas, on a very tight timeframe. I was working on another book and sitting in the airport, right beside the gate, so I know I’d hear the gate call, and would be able to board on time. The next thing I know, I look up, and plane is pulling away from the taxiway and I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to find another plane, when all the planes were booked. Somehow it worked out. But the moral of the story, is always set the alarm on your cell phone, especially at the airport if you like to work there like I do, or time can get away and things like this can happen.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

DB — I am currently working with a couple of our soldiers who served in Afghanistan, who are suffering from PTSD. I hope that we will be able to grab some things that will bring the light to this very serious subject, and help bring healing to them and others. Also, I’m headed to Los Angeles today to be the keynote speaker for a Veteran’s non-profit event on Saturday, November 3rd. Heaven and Earth Oasis offers free holistic healing to Veterans and Active Military.

Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

DB — My most recent book published, THE LAST FIGHTER PILOT: The True Story of the Final Combat Mission of World War II, about Captain Jerry Yellin, and the last six months of the air war against Japan, and about the very final combat mission of the war. To me, the most interesting part of this story, is that two young Jewish fighter pilots, Captain Jerry Yellin and First Lieutenant Phil Schlamberg, flew the very final mission of the war, and were executing an attack against a Tokyo airfield, almost at the same moment that the Emperor was announcing Japan’s surrender.

Lieutenant Schlamberg was shot down on that mission, and is the last known combat death of World War II. Captain Yellin flew back to Iwo Jima, alone, and did not learn that the war was over until he landed. To me that is a very fascinating piece of history that had been missed, up until now.

What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?

DB — That there are certain things that are larger than life, and that we should not be afraid to become part of things that are larger than life.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

DB — My friend, the Late Captain Jerry Yellin, who flew the final combat mission of World War II, inspires me not only because of his great historical feat, but for 70 years after his historic mission, he became a warrior for other warriors, not only spreading the mission of the men who he served with, were his friends, and many who died in World War II, but also reaching out to so many other younger soldiers who are suffering from PTSD. Jerry made it his life’s mission to try and help and inspire others. I also admire Winston Churchill, because he was in some ways like a visionary prophet, who spoke against the evil of Nazism long before anyone else realized what a real evil Nazism represented. As John F Kennedy said, “Churchill’s words were like a thousand regiments to the British Army.”

Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?

DB — I love historical fiction, especially good historical fiction, because it is not only entertaining, but in my opinion is the best and most fun way to learn history.

How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?

DB — In my writing, I hope the stories that I tell will Inspire others to reach for the stars, to realize that nothing is impossible, and to understand that the great stories of life are sometimes larger than life itself. There is nothing wrong with being caught up in a mission that is larger than our own individual lives. I hope my writings, both nonfiction and fiction, have this type of an impact, to inspire others with this message.

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?

DB — For anyone starting out, and anyone who’s serious about becoming an author, I am really high on writer’s conferences. There are many of them out there, but the best, will often have authors teach courses about the various aspects of writing, like dialogue writing, story structure, character development, etc. Moreover, the best writer’s conferences have acquisitions editors from publishing houses, and literary agents, where aspiring authors can mix one-on-one with these folks, and perhaps even acquire an agent or sell a story to a publisher. I got my start at a writer’s conference, and I think it is well worth every dime spent, if you can find a good one.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

DB — That’s a tough one. But I think one of the biggest problems we have in the world today, is that we don’t listen to each other, and we try to talk over one another. I’m not just talking about the big political issues of the day, although lack of listening is a big-time problem there, obviously.

But I’m also talking about listening as part of the art of one-on-one communications and intimacy with others. Listening, truly, is an art form that few have mastered. I think just learning how to listen, and to do so respectfully, would be one of the greatest things that could help solve a lot of problems we have in this country, and the world. Listening is an art form, and listening, frankly, can be a scary thing. But when we lock into others and really listen, not only to we show respect, which breed good will, but we might actually learn something.

That doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything, but listening and good will go a long way in making the world a better place, and learning to live with and respect others who may be different or even have different ideas. I think maybe even a self-help book called “The Art of Listening” might be helpful, but I would like to see listening conferences all over the country, teaching listening techniques, how to focus on others, and how to respond accordingly.

There’s nothing wrong with writing or talking, which I do for a living. But oftentimes, instead of listening to the other person, we are just focusing on what we are going to say next, before the other person is even finish talking. We can do better. I think we would all be better off if we learn to listen much better, and that I suppose is a passion of mine.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

DB — 1. It’s easier, a lot easier, to critique a book than it is to write one. The first “one star” reviews on Amazon, and everybody gets them, will slap you like a cold washrag in the face if you aren’t prepared.

2. If you are going to write, you need to treat it as a full-time profession, even before it is a full-time profession. I write every day, even if I’m not working on a book manuscript that day, I’m writing something, even if it’s keeping a log of writing ideas.

3. It is impossible to be both an author, and a perfectionist, although we should strive for perfection. Take your pick. I have friends who are much more talented than I am, but because they are perfectionists, they keep re-writing Chapter 1, and don’t make it to Chapter 2 of their manuscripts. At some point, like a bird must fly from its mother’s nest, we have to let go and let the manuscripts fly. In other words, write, then let go.

4. Make sure you write every day, working on the craft as you write. Practice makes perfect.

5. Develop a systematic means of editing, every time. Start by eliminating adverbs, then passive verbs, then ambiguous pronouns where there is ambiguity. Then determine any bad habits you have, and eliminate those as part of the editorial checklist. I’ve learned that once a writer develops a tried-and-true editorial checklist, which starts with a document search, say of every word with “ly” — to attack adverbs, or every instance of “was” — to attack passive verbs, or other idioms or bad habits the writer may have, that the work flows faster.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them :-)

DB — Now that’s a tough one, as there are so many talented people I admire. But if I picked one? Well I’m a huge Eastwood fan. The man’s talent, not only as an actor, but as a producer director, that he has shown over the years, amazes me. I admire his energy, his talent, and he also has some of the best one-liners in moviedom! He produces and directs with an unceasing passion, and his talent and eye for a good story are incredible. Clint Eastwood would be at the top of the list.

I also think Jack Nicholson is an incredible talent. His work in “A Few Good Men” is a classic in my opinion. Especially the court-room scene. That movie means a lot to me because it’s based on a true story about the Navy JAG Corps, where I served, and I knew the officer who later became the Tom Cruise character.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Thanks for asking. On facebook, https://www.facebook.com/donbrownbooks/ on fakebook, & on twitter, @donbrownbooks.

You can also email me at my website, www.donbrownbooks.com, or donbrownbooks@gmail.com

You can also find LAST FIGHTER PILOT on Amazon at https://goo.gl/BSZWDG

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring