Sunday, January 2, 2022

Lew Maurer Interview - Herman and The Princess Gull

Photo Content from Lew Maurer

Captain Lew Maurer grew up on fishing boats, and spent his entire life on the water, repairing, building, and operating commercial and pleasure vessels all over the world. This depth of knowledge and experience gave him the ability to build and captain Moana a very special, long-range power catamaran. His love affair with the sea is tangible as he describes in authentic detail, his fifteen-year odyssey to the most remote places on our planet. He calls San Diego home … when he is home.

Greatest thing you learned in school.
There is a difference between testing well and learning. The teachers who give us lasting knowledge of any subject are rare.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
My lifetime love affair with the marine environment continues to be the biggest influence on my writing, followed by my love of storytelling for children. My extensive knowledge of the sea and all its creatures gives me the opportunity to share it in authentic detail with my young readers.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Storytelling is the open door to knowledge, adventure, and the power of learning.

What was your favorite subject when you were in school and why?
If I were asked this at the time, I would have said sports because I was a gifted athlete. Looking back, it is easy to recognize and appreciate the efforts of my exceptional English teacher. I was not an easy student for him, but he found a way to plant the seed that became my inspiration for writing, years later.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your-all time favorite book?
Beginning with All the Pretty Horses, the Border Trilogy, by Cormac McCarthy is my all-time favorite. For me, McCarthy is the most gifted writer of our time.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
My current and future project is a four book series of non-fiction children’s picture books. They capture the reality, drama, and humor of a very young boy growing up in lower class 1950’s Los Angeles. I am having a lot of fun with these stories that capture a bit of history and true events in an interesting era. I am also considering a memoir. Those who know me have been nagging me for a long time. I have led an amazing life that some would find hard to believe, but it would be a big undertaking and I’m not sure I want to give up the time it would take.

In your newest book; Herman and the Princess Gull, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?
I wrote the first version of this book twenty years ago, for my twin grand daughters. It was based on a true event that took place while I was on vacation with my girlfriend, on a beautiful beach in Costa Rica. I was out surfing and she was going to take photos of me catching fantastic waves at Pavones, a world-class surfing spot. Instead, as I looked in, Debbie had something in her hand and was pacing up and down the beach, picking up things and quickly dropping them, uninterested in my surfing. The mystery was solved when I came in and discovered she had a hermit crab inside an old coconut shell. She had found it under some kelp on the beach and seeing it had no shell for protection, knew it would soon be eaten by a predator. As hermit crabs grow, they need to find a larger shell, like a child needing larger and larger shoes. Searching for an empty shell he could use, she was placing them in the coconut shell with her little friend. It was interesting and amusing how quickly he would try to crawl into the shell and then find it was too small. The search was on and we soon discovered there were no shells large enough for him on that beach, which explained why he did not have one. We went above the highest tide line, to an area where long ago storms might have thrown some shells, and found one that was just the right size. It was really gratifying to see him climb into his new home, and we took him back to the beach and put him on the sand.

This was the original story of Herman, which might have been, “How the Hermit Crab Got His Shell”, but something was missing and I did not do anything with it. Years later, I was inspired by a true, amazing friendship between two marine animals that brought a “Princess gull”, Antares, into the story.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I would hope my young readers make the connection between the fantasy world of fiction and the good values that can sometimes be found in our real world. Courage, friendship, and love can win the day, even between total strangers.

What part of your characters did you enjoy writing the most?
Herman, the hermit crab, and Antares the seagull are the stars of the show. I enjoyed describing their individual challenges that bring them together and thrust them into a situation where they must choose courage and trust over fear and instinct. My storytelling for children always has a heartwarming message and I think they will love this one.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Herman would love to compare his fear with the mouse in the story “The Mouse and the Lion”. Both chose courage and kindness to help a stranger who posed mortal danger. Classic, wonderful values.

Where did you go on your first airplane ride?
From Los Angeles to Seattle. It was a business trip, a yacht delivery job from Seattle to Newport Beach, CA. A brand new, high end, 65 foot power yacht, I was twenty years old.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
For me, it was bungy jumping. I am afraid of heights, so looking down from the platform high above the jungle canopy in Cairns, Australia, was like looking at death, face to face. “Watch where you are going, be careful, don’t fall down”, all the words I grew up with told me I was about to die. This is the brain game I came to love when I jumped off things like high bridges over crocodile infested rivers. I probably jumped more than 100 times and learned the truth of “adrenaline junkie”.

Best date you’ve ever had?
Probably the one that saved me a lot of time and money. As we got into my truck, she saw my Labrador retriever and said, “You are taking me on a date with your dog?” Fastest start to finish date I ever had.

What event in your life would make a good movie?
As a boat captain, several life and death situations come to mind, including being inside the torture chamber the Nazis built in Brazil, or one of my secret jobs with the US government, but the one I would enjoy the most would be “The Boogeyman and the Tricycle”, my next children’s picture book. It is the true story of how as a six-year-old boy I solved the mystery of my stolen tricycle.

What is your favorite restaurant in town and why?
Betsy’s Crepes, in Southern Pines. Betsy is a real person, a great businesswoman, has a fab menu, and her place has a wonderful small town ambiance. Most importantly for me, it has outside tables on the sidewalk where my young Labrador retriever greets every passerby.

First heartbreak?
Shanna Rae was also the first girl who kissed me, something she loved to do whenever she saw me outside on her way home from school. My mom and the neighbor were always sitting on the front porch and laughed endlessly while I tried to escape the affection of an “older girl”. I was seven years old and actually missed her when she moved away.

Favorite things to do alone?
Writing, and my daily two-mile walk in the woods with “Tess”; my young Lab takes up a lot of my reclusive life these days.

Where can readers find you?
The hermit writer lives in Pinehurst, in the beautiful sandhills of North Carolina. My website, link above.

I wanted to share my lifelong love affair with the ocean and its inhabitants by telling the story and making the illustrations as factual as possible. Except for the relationship between Herman and Antares, everything else in the book is very factual.
  • Herman is a land hermit crab who has no shell. This is rare, but does happen when a crab outgrows his shell and cannot find a new one. In some cases, they even use plastic bottle caps or other debris they find until they can find another shell. And they do have one large claw that they use as a shield to cover themselves when they hide in their shell.
  • The seagulls are Herring Gulls. They are the big, loud, obnoxious gulls of the waterfront that fight over food all day long. They will eat anything they can swallow, including baby birds of other species. This fact I deleted so not to upset my young readers. In the illustration where a Herring Gull is attacking Herman, the red spot on the beak of the gull can be seen. When a baby gull pecks this spot, it triggers the adult to feed them.
  • Antares is a Heermann’s Gull, a beautiful seagull native to the Southwest coast of North America. I chose her species because in the pecking order of seagulls, they are smaller than the Herring Gulls, not aggressive and more dynamic fliers than the larger gulls.
  • A princess gull should have a special name, so I chose the star Antares for her, and explained in the backstory that Antares is classified a “Red Supergiant '' because it is a reddish color and much larger than our sun. When Candace Camling, my world-class illustrator, read that Antares was in the constellation of Scorpius, it was her idea to include the constellation in her illustrations. Bravo, Candace, especially for the last page, where Herman says goodbye to Antares
  • The snappers are Cubera Snappers, large snapper specie common to the west coast of Central America. Typical of snappers, they prefer to feed at night, live near rocks and will eat anything they can catch. The illustrations are anatomically correct, including the silver color when underwater. One of the species sometimes sold as Red Snapper in our supermarkets, their skin color becomes reddish when they die.
  • Algal, or plankton blooms, near seashores are a very real and serious problem. Often attributed to man (pollution), it can be responsible for the death of thousands of fish in the areas affected. The plankton is also ingested by shellfish and although they are not affected, their meat can then be rendered unsafe to eat for humans. It is common to see seagulls searching for food far offshore, when conditions such as “Red Tide” make it difficult closer inshore. This was what drove Antares far from her island.
  • Even though they have the ability to sense atmospheric pressure and know when storms are approaching, seagulls like Antares do indeed get caught offshore in storms. In the case of fast moving, severe storms like cyclones, thousands of seabirds have been known to seek shelter on offshore oil drilling rigs when they were exhausted and unable to reach land or an island. As a boat captain, I have had many birds, usually lost land birds, land and rest on my boat over the years.
  • Migratory birds use the sun and the stars to navigate during their long migrations, but not all seabirds migrate. Some never travel far from their island nesting grounds and return every evening. The ancient Polynesians knew this and knew the maximum distance every bird species could be found from land. This was one of the many tools they used while navigating the open Pacific for thousands of miles without modern electronics or even a compass.
  • The mussels are California Mussels, as noted in the backstory. Different species of mussels are grown, harvested, and eaten by man, all over the world. The fibers that hold them to the rocks are quite strong and require a big effort for a bird or other animal (I have seen bears, in Alaska, tear them off tree limbs covered with mussels) to rip them off. The shells are quite strong and are difficult for seagulls to open, so they sometimes drop them from high in the sky, onto rocks to crack them open.
  • On my dedication page, there is a boat just offshore in the seascape illustration. It is the likeness of “Moana”, the power catamaran that my company built and I captained for 15 years and 118 thousand miles to some of the most remote places on our planet. It is the subject of my first book of the same name, and the small boat will be a trademark to be found by my young readers in all of my Captain Lew Series.
My journey to publication.
In high school, I had a remarkable English teacher who planted the seed to write professionally. Over the years, the seed grew in my mind, especially when doing reports for clients and the occasional magazine article. I began to think seriously about writing and started basic outlines of career stories I thought would be fun and interesting. I had no idea how challenging it would be.

In 1980, my company launched a large, amazing yacht I built for a European family. Although I only intended to build the boat, we became very close over the course of the construction and they asked me to become the captain. Initially, I turned down their offer, but when they told me where they wanted to go with the boat, I could not resist the chance to visit faraway, remote and primitive places. It was a fisherman captain’s dream job and as we began cruising to some of the most beautiful places on our planet I realized an extraordinary story was unfolding before my eyes. I began to organize all my ship’s logs, photos, correspondence, and every scrap of everything that told the remarkable story I was living. I was amassing all the ingredients, but did not know how to bake the cake! And then one day, a small sailboat came into our anchorage in the Solomon Islands and aboard that boat was a very successful author of several books on the Vietnam War. Otto Lehrack was a retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel and an amazing man who became a dear friend and inspired me to begin writing “Moana”, my adventure/travel/memoir book.

Writing a book definitely demanded a new skillset, so I did what I always did when taking on a new project; I researched and self educated myself as much as possible. I was always a storyteller, but putting it down on paper, for the entire world to see was tantamount to walking around naked. It was intimidating, but as I filled page after page, I gained confidence and began to think, “I can do this”.

“I can do this” turned out to be the classic thought that all writers probably have in the beginning. I soon learned the reality of how difficult it is to write a book. After a couple months and about five or six drafts of the first chapter of my book, I shared it with a good friend who was very well educated, a prolific reader, and someone I trusted to be honest. “Lew, you need to learn about omissions” was his sympathetic assessment of my awful scribbling’s. I needed to learn to cut (the bad stuff, which was pretty much all of the stuff).

“Moana; 118 thousand miles to the most remote places on our planet” would not have happened without the help of Otto Lehrack who became a wonderful friend and mentor. Because I was writing my book at the same time I was running the boat, I was not able to write full time. As I finished my drafts, I emailed them to Otto for his thoughts. His “thoughts” were actually red ink that he mercilessly drove through my work like a lawnmower through new grass. I grew a thick skin, but appreciated the sincere help Otto gave me. The months and years flew by and in the process, Otto and I joked about how much effort on both our parts was going into the book. At one point I nicknamed him HAME (HardAssMarineEditor), much to his delight and a name I call him to this day. I wrote and rewrote every page at least six times in the seven years it took to finish the text.

After fifteen years and enough miles to circle our planet five times, my captain job on Moana ended (We took her to Italy, where my engineer and I trained a new crew to take over.) and I was able to turn all my attention to writing. I finished and self published Moana, and set out on my new road of children’s picture books.

Herman and the Princess Gull was published on November 2. I learned a lot with my first book and kept most of my team together for this, my first children’s picture book. If the book is successful, it will be in large part because of the sensational work of Candace. Her illustrations are simply wonderful and will capture the hearts of children everywhere. Also, over the years and endless drafts that I shared with so many, I developed a “fan club” of people who believe in me and I will forever be grateful for their support.

When two unlikely characters find each other they decide that friendship is better than instinct.

Remember that wonderful, feel-good moment when, for the first time, we see a tender, loving exchange between two animals? In Herman and the Princess Gull, it is especially heartwarming because the two animals would normally be life and death enemies.

Herman and Antares will melt hearts and become heroes of the sea for children everywhere. Be prepared-kids ask to hear this story night after night.

Captain Lew Maurer grew up on fishing boats, and spent his entire life on the water, repairing, building, and operating commercial and pleasure vessels all over the world. This depth of knowledge and experience gave him the ability to build and captain Moana a very special, long-range power catamaran. His love affair with the sea is tangible as he describes in authentic detail, his fifteen-year odyssey to the most remote places on our planet. He calls San Diego home … when he is home.

You can purchase Herman and The Princess Gull at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you LEW MAURER for making this giveaway possible.
2 Winners will receive a Copy of Herman and The Princess Gull by Lew Maurer.