Lloyd Lofthouse - Thriller and Romantic Suspense Inspired by PTSD
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and combat vet. He’s the author of the award-winning novels My Splendid Concubine, Running with the Enemy, The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova, and the memoir Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé. His short story, A Night at the Well of Purity was named a finalist in the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about his book, The Patriot Oath.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Patriot Oath is about.
The Patriot Oath has many plot threads. I don’t see how I can cover all of them in a short introduction but I’ll keep it under a hundred words.
Just because someone serves in the U.S. military and retires doesn’t mean their oath to defend the Constitution ends.
And, just because someone is loyal to a sitting president, that doesn’t make them a patriot no matter what they think.
Josh’s only sister is a rape victim, and she needs help to manage the PTSD that’s destroying her.
Josh is in love with two women. He’s struggling to get over one of them, and it isn’t easy.
What inspired you to write about a retired Special Forces guy?
For several years, I’ve been a member of a VA Vet-Center PTSD support group. We are all combat vets and meet once a week to share our writing about topics related to PTSD. Writing is a form of therapy that works. Two of the vets in our team served in Special Forces. One fought in Vietnam in the 1960s and the other in Somalia more than 25 years later.
From what Jim and Robbie wrote, I learned a lot about what it means to succeed and serve in Special Forces. Jim served two tours in Vietnam and wrote enough short stories to publish Warriors and Friends. Robbie served 13 years in the military first as a Marine and then in the Green Beret. His SF team was sent to Somalia right after Black Hawk Down. Robbie’s story turned into the SF PTSD memoir Next Mission.
Tell us more about Josh Kavanagh. What makes him tick?
Josh Kavanagh is a complex character. When he left home at 18 to join the Marines, he didn’t know that the military was going to replace his biological family. He’s addicted to the rush that comes with combat and sees it as a weakness. What no one knows, but him and me, is that he is a member of Warriors Anonymous (Shhh, don’t tell Josh I told you that. I promised I’d keep his secret).
Josh despises sex traffickers because of what he learned about them in Haiti when he and Cheéte rescued Mia after she was kidnapped.
He loves two women, hopes he has enough time left to have the family he’s always wanted with one of them, has mixed thoughts of religion, and doesn’t see himself as a hero.
When Josh is on a mission, he’s willing to die if that’s what it takes to succeed and keep his Special Forces family safe.
You are a former Marine and combat vet yourself. How many of your own experiences have you written into the story?
There’s an expression that’s been traced back to 1907, that says, “Once a Marine, always a Marine?” That doesn’t mean former Marines still think like/act we did when we got out of boot camp. Instead, it’s a mindset, contributing to our perception of the world around us and of ourselves, at least for most of us.
The Marine Corps taught us to work/fight together as a team and what we do is almost always mission-oriented. Heck, I still make my bed every morning like I did when I was in the Marines, except for bouncing a quarter off the blanket to make sure it’s tight enough. For Special Forces, troops like Josh Kavanagh who started out as a Marine, multiply that by about one hundred.
Wow, I just realized for the first time that I have been mission-oriented most of my life since being honorably discharged from the Marines in 1968. Even when I’m writing, I’m mission-oriented. Before I joined the Marines, I was an undisciplined, spoiled, wild child without a mission and didn’t know it.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Those sort of secret skills are mission-oriented. I’m a craftsman, a woodworker. I started learning woodworking soon after I was discharged from active duty. Working with table saws, planers, routers requires a lot of focus so you don’t cut fingers off. When I start a project, I imagine what I want it to look like and reverse engineer that image in my mind, before I start working and I don’t stop until I finish what I’m building no matter how long it takes. There are completed projects scattered inside and outside of my house. The custom back fence I built. The patio cover Robbie says I could park a car on. The corner dresser in my bedroom-office is made of birch, acacia, mahogany, cherry, and walnut.
Why did you title this book "The Patriot Oath"?
The title was inspired from the U.S. Constitutional Oath that George Washington was the first president to take. Until Traitor Trump came alone, no matter whom the president was, they all lived by that oath. Trump was the first president to attempt to pull off a coup when he lost the election in 2020. Every member of Josh’s Oath Group is 100% dedicated to defend that oath. I started this story in March 2018 and even then it was apparent Trump would never honor the oath he took.
Which of your characters was the most challenging to create?
That would be Mia Belle-Chanson, Josh’s Haitian, French lover. Although she’s a minor character in this story and readers will not meet her until near the end, she has a major role in the sequel, Never for Glory. That rough draft is about two-thirds complete. I spent more time learning who Mia was than I did with any other character in The Patriot Oath.
What did you have the most fun with when writing this book?
I had the most fun writing the rough draft when the story flows like a river. The characters, the plot threads, the story is like an explosion in slow motion always expanding until it takes on a life of its own, and I become driftwood in its current.
Do you plan your books out before you start writing, or does some of it just "happen" along the way?
I’m a pantser, a writer who loves flying by the seat of his pants and writes without an outline. I have an idea, usually something I dreamed, and if the same dream repeats enough times, eventually I’m going to write about it. The only novel I have written that didn’t start as a dream was The Patriot Oath. That story started with a prompt in my VA PTSD support group. At the end of each session, our VA coach/counselor gives us a prompt we can use if we don’t have anything else to write about. That’s when Josh was born. The following week, I decided to make Josh the character in the next prompt. That went on for several weeks before the story took on a life of its own, and I ignored all the prompts after that.
Tell us more about The Oath Group.
Everyone in The Oath Group was invited to join after they left the military. They were handpicked by Josh and his partner, a retired lieutenant general known as LG. The Oath Group is employee owned with profit sharing. Ever member has a vote. It is an elite private military contracting outfit that works for the Department of Defense (DOD) and/or the CIA. To give you an idea of how many private outfits are hired by the DOD as contractors, in 2018, about $300 billion went to private contractors. Not all of them are combat troops. Some drive trucks delivering supplies. Others repair and maintain equipment. Even after our military troops leave Afghanistan, I suspect that thousands of military contractors paid by the DOD/CIA will still be there fighting the Taliban. Even before President Biden decided to pull our troops out there were more military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan than there were regular troops.
When starting on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
Simply, when I’m ready to start something new, I sit down and start writing. I don’t worry if what I’m writing is worth reading. Revisions and editing will take care of that later. If you write that first draft you will never have anything to improve. You can’t edit and revise a blank sheet of paper.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I think that might be the white board in my home office where I keep track of my writing goals. Everyone that sees that colorful white board asks me what that’s for. At the top of the white board my four writing goals are written in detail (each goal is a different color). The rest of the board is where I record the date each morning, and the times I started and stopped writing to prove to myself that I did what the goals at the top of the board say.
There are days that I watch the clock and stop the minute I complete one hour of writing (the minimum daily goal). Then there are days that I write for several hours. On August 12, I wrote about 5 hours. I’m writing for more than an hour today while I’m working on this. When I fill up the date and time columns on that white board and there’s no more space, I erase the dates and times, and start over. I never erase the four goals at the top. I have never missed completing my minimum daily writing goals. This Q&A counts, too.
What are you working on right now?
Revising old poems that I wrote years ago with themes that dealt with PTSD, and working on the rough drafts of two books. One of the two is Never for Glory, the sequel to The Patriot Oath. The other one is Becoming Merlin, a SF-fantasy, ET, shifter, time travel paranormal/supernatural hybrid genre story that I started dreaming of decades ago. I’ve dreamed more about this story than anything else I’ve written.