Bruce McCandless III has published poems, stories, and essays in The Seattle Review, The Asian Wall Street Journal, Pleiades, Bayou, and other journals. He is also the author of the novels Sour Lake and The Black Book of Cyrenaica, as well as a modern fairy tale for preteens called Beatrice and the Basilisk.
In this post, Bruce discusses finishing what his father started in his new memoir, Wonders All Around, how it shifted from memoir to biography, and more!
Name: Bruce McCandless III
Book title: Wonders All Around: Wonders All Around
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group
Release date: July 13, 2021
Elevator pitch for the book: Meet the Man You Never Knew You Knew
Previous titles by the author: Sour Lake, Beatrice and the Basilisk, Carson Clare’s Trail Guide to Avoiding Death (And Other Unpleasant Consequences)
What prompted you to write this book?
Toward the end of his life, my dad finally decided he wanted to write an autobiography, after having been encouraged for many years, by many people, to do so. Unfortunately, he died very suddenly in December of 2017, so he was unable to follow through on the project. I decided to do it for him.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?
I came up with the idea in the spring of 2019, as my wife and I began going through my deceased parents’ belongings. It turned out that my mom and dad kept nearly everything they ever came into possession of, including numerous old Navy and NASA files. I soon realized that I had everything I needed to write the story that my dad wanted to tell. It took about two years to create a manuscript that I felt comfortable with. I also spent a fair amount of time during this period reading as many books and articles as I could about space and space exploration. As a result of that reading, and the files I had on hand, the book gradually became more technical, a little less of a memoir and more of a biography.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
I was surprised by how many decisions I had to make. Creating a book is a bit like building a house. Never mind getting the wording right, now you have to worry about the weight of the paper, the size of the pages, the look of the cover, etc. There are lots of things to think about. My publisher, Greenleaf Book Group, did a great job of helping me figure out what I wanted, and together I think we produced something remarkable, which is fitting, given the subject matter.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
Many. My father was a quiet man who didn’t like to talk about himself. I found out all kinds of things about him and his accomplishments through review of his files. For example, I learned about the time his A4 Skyhawk caught fire in the sky over the Mediterranean Sea and he had to eject. It was a harrowing event in a young pilot’s career, but he very rarely spoke of it.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
A couple of things, really. I hope readers come away with a sense of the human being—"the man you never knew you knew,” as we say in our marketing materials—behind a couple of NASA’s biggest and most visible accomplishments of the Space Shuttle era, the MMU space jetpack, and the Hubble Space Telescope. But I also want to get general readers excited about the story of America’s space exploration program, which I think is something my father cared about more than his personal reputation.
If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?
Keep writing! Many major religious authorities insist that struggle is good for the soul. So, there’s that.