The author gives a magical account of the ageless wanderer
Irene Watson, managing editor of Reader Views, talks to Richard L. Evans, author of The Eagle’s Life.
Irene: Your book The Eagle’s Life is considered mystical and magical, drawing the reader into the life of a man who cannot die but must watch generation after generation pass before his eyes. Please tell us about the struggles your character has as he watches things happen that he has no control over.
Richard: The main character (he is never mentioned in the book) first discovers that he has a “gift” to heal while still a child. But every time he cures someone of a serious illness, he dies soon after under horrific circumstances. Shouldn’t he use such a wonderful gift? Growing to manhood, he finds that he remains young and strong while other men his age do not – he has stopped aging. Why? He later came to believe that God kept him alive for a reason. But what reason? Is he to perform some task, some miracle that God has in mind? And if he really does what God intends, then will God grant him his greatest wish – his death? There is a terrible downside to immortality. He also bears a scar, a scar made from the first time he killed another human. Is it the mark of Cain? God marked Cain so that no man would kill him, so he would live…and more.
Irene: Although it is considered fiction, how much truth is there in this story?
Richard: The truth in the story is the story that the reader sees through the eyes of the main character. The entire story is accurate within this framework. And there’s a lot of history. My research required me to explore all of the following: what a boy would have learned about seafaring in colonial days; on the slave trade in the Middle Passage, including life on a slave ship; General Washington’s military campaigns during the American Revolution; frontier life in the eastern woods, including the language and customs of the Shawnee people; the lives and studies of the Western Highlands men in the fur trade; San Francisco and the Gold Rush Days; how to command a clipper ship sailing from San Francisco and rounding Cape Horn to the East Coast; the Civil War battles of New Bern, North Carolina, and Antietam; medical school practices in 1870; the early Marine Corps aviators of World War I; World War II and Korea (The Chosen Tank); Vietnam and the Hue Massacre (of which so few Americans have heard); and many biblical passages (The Eagle’s Life is a spiritual journey as well as a great historical adventure).
Irene: You’ve written two other books, but The Eagle’s Life seems very different from your previous writings. Tell us what inspired you to write this book.
Richard: The Eagle’s Life wasn’t supposed to be a book. I had never written a book before and had no intention of writing one. This was supposed to be a feature article about modern Americans’ attitudes toward death and dying. But it became a book about life and living. Once it became clear that it was going to be a book, I just sat back and enjoyed it.
Irene: Your main character is a metaphor for each one of us. Please tell our readers how they can get in touch with this character.
Richard: I never studied writing. But I have a friend, a creative writing professor, who told me after I wrote the book that he always has his students name their characters because it helps readers identify with them. Well, I guess I screwed it up. But we are all mortal. We don’t like to think about it, but we know it. So you might think we can’t understand this non-mortal man, but we do. We identify with his greatest desire, to have what we have: the limited life warranty. If you think death is horrible, don’t even think about immortality.
Irene: Often writers put some of their own personality into one of the characters in a fictional story they’re writing. Is there a part of you that is written in “The Eagle’s Life”? If so, what areas of your own experience or thoughts did you incorporate into the story?
Richard: My main character is not a bad person. He does some very bad things in his life, but very rarely are they done out of malice. Does this sound like someone you know? It’s like that for me.
Irene: You made the comment that you “don’t want to live forever.” Many people would not understand this statement, some really want to live forever. Could you give us more insight into your thoughts?
Richard: Well, let’s say that medical immortality is now possible, which may actually be true – if it’s not right now, it will certainly be with us in less than ten years – I’ve done the research – believe me. So, take a little pill and you’re done! you got it. No more wrinkles, age spots, osteoporosis, decayed teeth, vision, hearing or breath. You can also remember things. But now you’re a pariah. You’re not like anyone else and that makes you look dangerous. You will have to watch everyone you love die. All your old friends will go too. And then your new friends will follow. You have to learn not to love, it would be too painful. However, let’s assume that you are not alone, that there are others who have also chosen to take “the pill”. How will you arrange your new society? What about the kids? I believe there can be no family units as we currently think of them – unless you want to starve forever. And what will you do with all this new, long life? Whatever it is, you’ll have to be careful – break your back and you’ll spend eternity in a wheelchair or worse. I leave you with this quote from Susan Ertz that I use to open my book: “Millions yearn for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.”
Irene: There is a hidden message in every story. What is the message you want readers to get while reading this book?
Richard: God is with us. God works through us. There are indeed angels in this world.
Irene: Thank you very much Richard. Is there anything else you would like your readers to know about you or your book?
Richard: No, I can’t think of anything else. If anyone wants more information about me or my books, they can visit my website at http://www.ncauthor.com/. And thanks for the thoughtful questions.
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