Questions for Kevin Schewe, author of Bad Love Strikes
- Bad Love Strikes is your debut novel. You have a busy and fulfilling career as a radiation oncologist. Why did you decide to write a book? As a preface to my answer, I have
a funny story. One of my patients who works in the literary field recently came in for a follow-up visit and shared with me that she loved the book. She said, “You know what, Dr. Schewe, I know a lot of doctors who say they want to write a book, but I don’t know any authors who say they want to be a doctor!” So for me personally, I do enjoy writing and I’m one of those doctors who had many ideas for various books through the years. Most of those conceptual books have been about fighting cancer, coping with cancer or keeping your immune system healthy and vigilant. In late 2018, I read the true story of the WWII Phantom Fortress and quite literally became inspired to write “Bad Love Strikes” as a time-travel novel. When I say “inspired”, it was more like being struck by a bolt of lightning! I did about six weeks of background research and started writing on 01-14-2019. The day I started writing, I had the whole story in my head and wrote every day for 90 straight days – finishing “Bad Love Strikes” on 04-14-2019. I can honestly say, I wrote this book as an act of inspiration.
- You are a World War II history buff, so Bad Love Strikes combines factual history with fiction. How did you come up with such a fascinating storyline? The match that lit this fire, was me reading the true documentary story of the WWII Phantom Fortress. World War II was a truly amazing and formative time of global history – it was a war that enveloped our planet – few places were spared and when it was over, the stage was set for new world order. My Dad was a WWII army sergeant who served under General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines. I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri that was built after the war. It was a classic baby-boomer neighborhood! Every other home had kids and we all grew up playing and adventuring outside together (there was no internet, no cell phones, no social media, no video games). My childhood gang was my life as a youngster and we played together from sun-up until sundown. We all knew about WWII and themes from that era were common themes in our playtime, all our parents had just come out of that historic event and started having us, children. As the concept for “Bad Love Strikes” brewed in my brain, I desperately wanted to connect my fun and adventurous childhood gang to the Phantom Fortress for a historic rescue mission. I have always loved time-travel stories, I wrote school project reports about the Manhattan Project and the atomic bomb and also about the Holocaust. Somehow, I was inspired to connect all these dots from my life experiences and “Bad Love Strikes” was born!
- Tell us more about the true story of Phantom Fortress aircraft. The Phantom Fortress is a true story right out of the annals of WWII (anyone can Google “the phantom fortress” and it will come right up). It was a virtually new, unnamed, B-17G Flying Fortress on its third mission ever, flying out of East Anglia, England, to bomb Merseburg, Germany oil targets, including the most-highly defended Leuna synthetic oil refinery. According to reports, the plane was damaged by German flak (aerial explosives), lost engine power to one of four engines and had to drop out of formation and head home. On the way back, a second engine lost power and the pilot changed course for allied Belgium which was much closer than England. Once over Belgium, they could not maintain altitude any longer and the pilot put the plane on autopilot and ordered the crew to bail out. The crew safely landed and were picked up by British allies and returned to England. Unknown to the crew after they bailed out, the plane somehow restarted its failed engines, flew itself to a friendly, allied airbase in Kortenberg, Belgium, and safely landed there all by itself. One of the engines was damaged on landing, but the other three engines kept running and no one exited the plane. The British troops on the ground waited a good 20 minutes, but the plane’s engines remained running. A brave British officer finally went out to the plane to investigate. Once on board, he found the plane empty and had to turn the engines off by trial and error. There were parachutes on board, leather flight jackets on the floors along with open candy wrappers and signs of recent occupancy. The damage reports on the ground did not match the crew’s damage report. The plane became known as “The Phantom Fortress” or “The Ghost Ship” and the story made its way into the history books as a bonafide WWII mystery.
- You write about serious subjects, such as the Holocaust, in a feel-good way. What made you decide to use this tone in your book? I have worked as a board-certified cancer specialist for 32+ years and every day of this career path, I have had to share both good news and bad news with my cancer patients. I live by the golden rule of trying to treat each patient the same way that I would want to be treated or how I would want my own family treated. Giving good news is wonderful. Giving bad news is challenging – you are telling patients that you care about that their cancer has either returned or spread (metastasized) to other parts of their body. I have learned that the only way to effectively tell my patients bad news is to tell them the truth about the cancer returning, and then in the next breath, tell them what exactly we are going to do about it to treat it and deal with it. This method is a way to exchange bad news for hope. Everyone needs hope and that is why I wrote my book this way. Despite the terrible and devastating horrors of the Holocaust, there were stories of hope and rescue. The Polish people rescued more potential Holocaust victims than any other people in WWII. They risked their lives in doing so, but the end result was hope for the future.
- Your book is interspersed with links to songs that readers can listen to while they read, kind of like a musical score in a movie. This adds to the emotional impact and enjoyment of your book and is quite unique in the reading world. Tell us why you decided to do this. As the book describes, I actually did grow up with a 45 RPM vinyl record jukebox in my basement in the 1960’s/1970’s and I come from a family (including my two older sisters) who all loved music. My brain is imprinted with music from my very young life going forward to today. My brain was “playing” music from the 1960’s and early 1970’s era as I was writing “Bad Love Strikes”. I actually started to listen to that music as I wrote because it just takes me back to that time of life and it helped me to better write the story! It was only natural that I made a list of those songs and it became a soundtrack to the book. In my Author’s Foreword, I encourage the reader to download the book’s soundtrack and play each of the songs as they appear in bold print in the body of the book. It makes reading the book more like watching a movie. I do not recall seeing a book using this technique – so maybe I have started something new!
- You’re a radiation oncologist of 32+ years. How has that shaped your outlook about hope, which is a strong message in your book? I am a strong advocate for my cancer patients and their treatment needs in what has evolved into a very tough world for patients to get exactly what they need with some measure of humanity. In reality, some things never change, for example – patients generally don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Patients want you to look them in the eye and tell them the truth. But the truth is this, patients are unique, individual people and they are not statistics. A patient with a warm, beating heart needs to clearly understand their own situation, they need to understand the pros and cons of treatment and they need hope. If I have to be the bearer of bad news, then I am going to immediately follow with: “Now here is what we need to do about that, here are your choices going forward from here.”
- The Bad Love Gang is based on many real characters, including the character Kevin “Bubble Butt” Schafer, who is you and narrates the story. Tell us more about these characters, and what their real-life counterparts think of being part of the adventures in your book. This is part of the “story behind the story” and it is quite fun! Nine of the original “Bad Love Gang” are “fictional” but based on real people from my childhood/young life and lifelong gang of friends. All of us had nicknames and I was called “Bubble Butt”. Of the nine folks mentioned here, two have died and seven (six-plus me) survive at this time. I sent the published book to the six surviving gang members and it has created some precious telephone, e-mail and social media exchanges among us. For example, one of the wives contacted me and said that I “nailed her husband’s personality and that he really hasn’t changed a bit” from what I described! I told them all that my goal is for “Bad Love Strikes” to be made into a movie and for us to play our air guitars to some of the soundtrack music during the movie credits! All of us really were different is so many ways yet we managed to play so well together in all our childhood adventures!
- You’re quite the entrepreneur. Tell us about your other businesses. My “day job” is my core business working as a cancer specialist full time. I co-own our cancer center with Alliance Oncology and we have a nice website at: https://www.accredrocks.com/. One of my proud extracurricular accomplishments is the creation of a skin care line for cancer patients called Elite Therapeutics which can be found at: https://elitetherapeutics.com/. Elite Therapeutics started as a pure Vitamin-E cream (Elite Premier Crème) for my patients undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer – to keep their skin healthy during and after radiation treatment. The skin care line grew from there and Elite’s products are now main stream including the in-room amenities at the world-famous, five-star, Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs: https://www.broadmoor.com/. I also serve as the Chairman of the Board of a sub-penny stock company called VIASPACE (http://viaspace.com/index.php) which is a green, renewable energy and animal feed company.
- This isn’t the first thing you’ve written. Every year you write a skit for cancer survivors, which you put on with other doctors. Tell us about that. The first Sunday of every year is officially “National Cancer Survivors Day”. Ever since we opened the Red Rocks Medical Center in 2011, we host a themed event for all our cancer patients, their families, friends, and the surrounding community. The event is held in our parking lot from Noon to 4PM on that first Sunday in June and we usually host 700-1,000 people. The event is totally free and open to the public. We have multiple food vendors, various cancer-related services, live music, games for children, building tours, door-prizes and last but not least, a live doctor’s skit correlating with the chosen theme. I have written the skit each year and it consists of the doctors/themed characters asking each other questions or posing various dilemmas. The answers to the questions or dilemmas are clips from songs and the doctors roll playing then dance and lip-synch to the music clips. It is hilarious and has become quite the yearly attraction. It is great for the patients to see their doctors “let their hair down” and “make fools of themselves” in front of the crowd! This past year, on June 2, 2019, our theme was “Guardians of Survival” and the doctors were all dressed as characters from the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the music was from the 1970’s.
- You have said this book would be a perfect read for teens. In what way? OMG in a big way!!! “Bad Love Strikes” is the story of a group of teenagers (The “Bad Love Gang”) who accidently find a WWII time-travel machine called the White Hole Project and subsequently decide to take the adventure of a lifetime to try and rescue potential victims of the Holocaust! These teenagers all have different skills to contribute to the mission and they work together as a team to achieve an incredible outcome! They literally change the course of history for a small group of potential Holocaust victims who were otherwise scheduled for extermination and they do it in a way that takes the reader on an adventure of grand scale back to WWII and 1944. The book is rich and accurate in historical content and will teach today’s teenagers about life in America in the 1960’s/1970’s, the origins of Area 51, the Manhattan Project that brought the world into the atomic age, the idea of exotic matter and time/space travel, WWII and the air war over Europe and the Holocaust. There is no drinking, no drugs, no “F” word and no bloody gore used in this book. People have compared this book to a teenage version of “The Goonies” or “Stand by Me” and an adventure along the lines of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.
- The book is dedicated to your sister. How has she been an influence in your time travel story? I dedicated this book to my oldest sister, Kathy Williams. Kathy and I have shared the love of time-travel stories/movies for as long as I can remember! She was diagnosed with Stage III, triple negative breast cancer (a particularly virulent form of breast cancer) in early December 2016. She endured six months of very intensive chemotherapy followed by double mastectomy and reconstruction. It was grueling treatment but I am pleased to report that she remains in a complete remission now 2.5 years since finishing treatment. I started writing “Bad Love Strikes” in January of this year (2019) and roughly two weeks into writing, I went back to review my first day of writing and it was then that I realized that I had started writing on Kathy’s birthday. I took that as a sure sign that I should dedicate the novel to her! Kathy graduated from college as an English teacher. When she first read “Bad Love Strikes” in its draft form (before it was even edited), she was impressed that it was hard for even her to tell the difference between real history and fiction! It was then that I knew that I might be on to something big.
- You’re writing a sequel to Bad Love Strikes. Can you tell us about it? What’s next? Wow!!! Yes, it is true, a sequel is now underway! I actually started writing on 10/27/19 which happens to be my other sister, Denise Bourg’s, birthday. I was on a plane coming back to Denver that day and started writing on the plane. It just happened that way! President Roosevelt looms large in the plot development of the sequel and the “Bad Love Gang” are back, actively exploring the close connection between time and space travel, protecting the integrity of the White Hole Project from potential malfeasance, taking another mission back to a specific time and place of WWII history (one of my personal favorites) and, as always, focused on their theme of rescue! I am shooting for the summer of 2020 and interestingly, the book cover art is almost done and a new soundtrack is nearly halfway there! Buckle up, because it will be quite the ride!!!
Categories: Guest Blog