A Trilogy of Aviation: An Interview with Mike Trahan

Mike Trahan could be described as a “living legend.” In a world where everyone is a legend, we have to take that title with a grain of salt. Let me explain how Mike actually fits that title. Mike Trahan followed his dream to become a pilot. He had true grit and fought all the obstacles along the way. He became a military pilot and fought in a conflict far removed from his homeland of America. Mike is a veteran of Vietnam. When he returned home, he became a commercial pilot for an airline called “Delta” and achieved captain status. His record of achievement is high, and yet the man himself is so humble. Ask him what he couldn’t live without in his life and he will tell you that he can’t live without God.

Read this interview and then try one of his books. “The Gift” series tells of his rise to prominence as a pilot and frankly, if you aren’t moved by them, you have a heart made of steel.

Mike Trahan is exclusively with Novel Ideas. His first two memoirs "The Gift" and "The Gift Part 2: The Airforce Years" have been extremely successful. Mike is currently working on his third installment.

What was the hardest part of writing your new addition to “The Gift” series?

Condensing it so I can get sixteen years of life in one last book.  This is the last book in my autobiographical series entitled – “The Gift.”

What did you enjoy most about writing this new volume?

This is about the culmination of my flying career. It covers all my years as a captain on Delta Air Lines.  The first three books are about striving for that goal, and now that goal has been reached. I call it my “Happy Book!”

Being a pilot do you use a lot of jargon? Can you explain some of it?

I use a lot of aviation jargon that many readers are not familiar with – such as ILS, which means instrument landing system. RVR – runway visual range.  Category III Approach – which is basically a landing in zero-zero visibility, wherein we actually touch down without seeing the runway until the nose of the airplane comes down. I try to explain these things as they come up.

What is different about this book? How did you make this book different to other books about flying?

There are many books about pilots and flying, but few that actually take the reader along on those flights. I am doing that as much as I can. I want my readers to know what being an airline captain involves, intellectually, technically, emotionally, and physically.

Are there misconceptions that people have about your book?

Yes, there are.  Since these books are autobiographical in nature, people assume they are about me.  They are not!  They are mostly about people I’ve met along the way, and the airplanes I flew. I want my readers to know the people who were influential in my life, and there have been many great ones.

What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject/genre that isn’t so?

Many of my friends, who had followed my life before reading these books, thought I had it easy, and that all these good things just fell into my lap. Many have told me that their biggest surprise was learning how hard I had to work to get where I wanted to go. I endured many setbacks along the way to my ultimate goal, and these books are about how I overcame those things.

What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your flying that they should know?

I think it is important that my passengers know that they, and my crew, were always uppermost in my mind when I was in command of their airplane.  I sincerely cared about them, and I wanted their flights with me to be as safe and smooth as possible.

Mike Trahan, you are a man with many interest and inspirations. What truly inspires you?

I am inspired by people who overcome obstacles and difficulties in their lives, in spite of great odds against them. Our “Wounded Warriors” immediately come to mind.  They come home from wars with lost limbs, blind, and with all kinds of emotional injuries, and they overcome them. That inspires me.

Mike, you are an accomplished man. How did you get to be where you are in your life today?

I got here through hard work, tenacity, a lot of luck, and refusing to give up

Who are some of your favourite authors that you feel were influential in your work?  What impact have they had on your writing?

I always enjoyed reading a local author, Gordon Baxter.  Bax was a radio announcer, a pilot, a sailor, hot-rod driver, and all around interesting guy.  He could go up on a fifteen-minute flight and write ten pages about it. He saw things that others didn’t see and illuminated them in his writing.  He had what we call a “writer’s eye,” and he taught me how to develop that.  I knew Bax personally, and he encouraged me to pursue my writing and mentored me along the way.

What did you find most useful in learning to write?  What was least useful or most destructive?

Useful?  I’m not sure if I found anything useful, but I did discover that writing has given me a new zest for life, and a greater sense of curiosity about things.  I take everything in everywhere I go, in case I want to write about it when I get home.  I haven’t discovered anything destructive about it.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?

I would have to say I am a part-time writer.  I am retired, but I have a lot of interests and obligations that take up a lot of my time. However, writing has become a wonderful diversion for me.  When I am writing a book, I usually devote four or five hours a day working on it.  I have often thought about going to the mountain region of New England and renting a cabin, so I can take a six-month writing sabbatical there.  I think that would be a lot of fun, and it would be interesting to see what comes out of it.

What are some day jobs that you have held and how have they affected your writing?

In my youth, I worked at my father’s mowing and landscaping business.  As a teenager, I worked out at the airport. My job was servicing airplanes and helping the mechanics. I was a part-time rancher for twenty years. I spent four and a half years as a pilot in the Air Force, and thirty-two years flying for Delta Air Lines.  All of these things gave me many interesting experiences to share with my readers.

For those interested in exploring the subject or theme of your book, where should they start?

It depends on which theme you are talking about.  If they want to be successful in life, they should read the books with that in mind.  I came from an average background and have average intelligence, but because I had a passion for what I did, and the discipline and drive to get it done, I succeeded.   If they are interested in flying, reading these books will tell them what is involved in getting into that.

How do you feel about E-books vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

I think ebooks are great for people who like to read a lot and tend to travel.  They can carry an entire library in their Kindle reader if they wish.  Ebooks are quick and easy to publish, so, as soon as the manuscript is ready to go, you can have it in front of the readers in less than twenty-four hours.  That gets your book out there, and it creates interest for those who like paperbacks.

What do you think is the future of reading/writing?

I think ebooks are the coming thing, as well as audio books.  Those who cannot read because of blindness, or just bad eyes, can enjoy an audio book.  People who drive long distances can listen to them.  When I finish this last book in  this series, I am going to go back and do all four books in the audio format.

What process did you go through to get your book published?

At first, it was trial and error – lots of errors.  I discovered CreateSpace, which is the self-publishing arm of Amazon, and my friend, Fred Hubbard, who is an expert at MAC Computers, helped me format my first book and get it on Amazon.  Then I had the great good fortune of meeting one Nick Wale, who took an interest in my writing, and he has guided me through this maze since then.  All I have to do is write the book, and get it edited by a professional.  I use the services of Becky McLendon, who is a retired English teacher, and whom I call the Grammar Nazi.  Once Becky helps me find and correct all my errors, I send the manuscript to Nick, and he formats it and sends it to Amazon.  Once the book is on line, Nick takes over the promotional side of it.  I have been very pleased with both Becky and Nick. They have taken all the aggravation out of it for me, and all I have to do is write!

What makes your series of books “The Gift” stand out from the crowd?

I believe the subject matter is compelling.  Flying is still a romantic endeavour in most people’s opinion, and they like to read about it.  I also think my writing style appeals to the reader.  I write like I speak. The readers tell me that reading my books is like having me sitting there telling them the stories.  Apparently they like that.

How do you find or make time to write?

I am an early riser every day, so most of my writing is done before most people wake up.  I just make the time at other hours of the day.  If I am in the mood to write, I just go to my room, fire up my MAC, and write!

Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Can you tell me a little about your writing process?

Since I am writing about the experiences in my life, I rely on memory more than anything.  For instance, if I want to write about a particular flight, I go to my old Flight Log Books, look up that flight, and start remembering everything about it.  I ask myself questions like – What kind of airplane was I flying? Who was with me? What were we doing?  Where were we going? What was the weather like?  Soon a picture of that event begins to emerge, and then it becomes a movie playing in my head. If I get deeply enough into it, I find myself present in that moment again. It is like I am re-living that experience, and all the emotions and feelings come back to me.  That can be a powerful experience, and some of my best writing happens when I reach that level of recall.

It’s hard to be a writer these days with all the competition you have to face. How do you promote your work?

I rely on Novel Ideas to do most of my social media promotion, and that relieves me of a lot of that hassle.  I also sell autographed books from home, and go to local book signing events.  Promotion is not my favourite thing to do, but I know it is a necessary evil, if I want to sell my books. And it does detract from my writing time.

How would you describe yourself as a writer?

I’m not sure.  I’m just a guy, who is telling a story.  I would have to say that, at this point, I am still a writer.  After I sell one hundred thousand copies of one of my books, I will call myself an author.

What do you like to read in your free time?

I like to read books by my fellow local authors and friends.  I am reading Becky McLeondon’s “The Day I Grew Wings” right now, and I just finished Captain Steve Taylor’s “Wheels Up.”  Both are excellent books.

What projects are you working on at the present?

“The Gift Part Three – The Delta Years” is done now.  This is the last book in a three volume autobiographical series, and covers all thirty-two years with Delta.  I’m not sure what I will be working on next.

What are your plans for future projects?

I am not sure which direction I will take after this autobiography is finished.  I am toying with the idea of writing a novel, but I am not sure I have the imagination required for that.  We’ll see.

Mike Trahan is currently having his series of books turned into audiobooks. The second in the series will soon be available on Amazon read by Paul Provo. You can download all three books in the series as E-books and as Paperbacks by clicking on the covers below.

The Gift The BeginningThe Gift The Air Force Years The Gift The Delta Years