When I began writing, the words that inspired me were these: ‘A writer is someone who has written today.’ If you want to be a writer, what’s stopping you?
-- J.A. Jance
Author of the J.P. Beaumont crime novel series
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Retired after thirty-six years as an auditor/analyst with the US Government Accountability Office, Lynn decided to pursue writing for fun and perhaps profit. Under the tutelage of Lauran Strait and the watchful eye of fellow class members at the Virginia Beach Adult Learning Center’s Writers’ Workshop, he completed a novel based on the first-hand accounts of his father, Sergeant Aaron Johnson, and several other men from his WWII unit, G Company of the 339th Infantry Regiment.
Written as a novel, the book reveals previously untold feats of bravery and historical significance from the hard-fought, but often overlooked, Italian Campaign.
“The Allied efforts in Italy are often referred to as a mere ‘holding action,’ implying that little fighting took place there,” Johnson said. “But,” he added, “after Monte Cassino and Rome, a lot of brutal fighting took place in the Apennine and Dolomite Mountains where the Allies fought an uphill battle against some of Germany’s best and most determined troops.”
As a boy, Johnson often sat with his father on the front porch of their North Carolina home where Aaron related his wartime experiences. After Aaron died in 1998, Johnson wrote down everything he could remember that his father told him about the time he spent in Italy. “We had a special relationship. Dad spoke of things he never even told my mother or brother.”
After retiring from a thirty-year career with the Government Accountability Office, Lynn joined Lauran Strait’s writing classes. Strait, founder and president of Hampton Roads Writers encouraged him to turn his fifty pages of notes into a novel. “Lynn’s debut novel, appealing both to men and women, transports readers back to that time when the Greatest Generation was coming of age,” Strait said, “Juxtaposed against scenes that depict the frustrations, fears, and harsh realities of war, Lynn has weaved in home front scenes from his mother’s perspective.”
Johnson also became an associate member of his father’s WWII reunion group, where he met the men his father had spoken of so often. “Meeting these men has been one of the highlights of my life,” he said. “They are an amazing group of guys. My life has been greatly enriched by them.”
One of Aaron’s former platoon leaders, Lieutenant Hoy Shingleton of Romney, West Virginia, described the book as “…accurately capturing the essence of the way it was.” He went on to say, “The Germans we faced were outstanding soldiers and they always held the high ground. Sometimes I wonder how we prevailed against such odds, not to mention the harsh terrain and weather conditions.”
Read Nora Firestone's interview with Lynn about the writing of his debut novel.
Lynn has attended writing workshops hosted by James River Writers and Christopher Newport University to further hone his writing skills and to gain insight into such topics as how to search for and approach agents, write query letters and target potential publishers. He strongly encourages any and all aspiring writers to pick up pen and paper or sit at the keyboard and pursue their dream.
Lynn is the former Treasurer of the Board of Directors and one of the founding members of Hampton Roads Writers. He currently serves on HRW's advisory board and is an integral part of the finance committee.