Southern Writers Magazine presents “The Journey to Johnnie” by Kathleen M. Rodgers, author of Johnnie Come Lately

Posted May 4, 2015

Kathleen M Rodgers - SW May 2015 teaser
Click the photo to enlarge the image. If you aren’t a subscriber to Southern Writers Magazine and you’d like to read the entire article, please click here to order the May/June print or online edition with my story featured on page 30.    

 

01 SW Cover May 2015 (1)
Honored to see my name featured with other contributors on the cover of the May/June 2015 issue of Southern Writers Magazine.
Signing copies of my latest novel, Johnnie Come Lately, at Hastings Books in Clovis, New Mexico. To read more about my work, please visit my website @ www.kathleenMRodgers.com
Signing copies of my latest novel, Johnnie Come Lately, at Hastings Books in Clovis, New Mexico. To read more about my work, please visit my website @ www.kathleenMRodgers.com

Featured author in Southern Writers Magazine:blue

 

From Fighter Pilot to Book Publisher…RIP Lt. Col. Neil Levin (USMC Ret.)

My former publisher passed away on January 1, 2015, in Oceanside, CA. The day after his passing, I reflect on what this man did for my writing career. Before 2008, I was a longtime freelance writer with multiple credits in national publications. But my one dream…the dream that eluded me for nearly two decades…was to get my first novel into the hands of a traditional publisher, i.e., a publisher who believed in my work enough to invest time and money into my work.

“My favorite TOP GUN, fellow warrior, author, and friend - Neil was truly a man’s man and the very living image of a Leatherneck! He and I had many long engaging conversations over the last decade - about books, the Vietnam War, life, spiritual matters and family. He will not be forgotten by me and those who had the pleasure and honor of getting to know him.” Rev. Bill McDonald, Founder of Military Writers Society of America
“My favorite TOP GUN, fellow warrior, author, and friend – Neil was truly a man’s man and the very living image of a Leatherneck! He and I had many long engaging conversations over the last decade – about books, the Vietnam War, life, spiritual matters and family. He will not be forgotten by me and those who had the pleasure and honor of getting to know him.” Rev. Bill McDonald, Founder of Military Writers Society of America

On June 29, 2008, Neil Levin, Founder and CEO of Leatherneck Publishing, said YES to my first novel, The Final Salute. After sixteen years and over one hundred revisions and that many rejections, I finally found that one person in the universe who believed in my story enough to publish it. The novel was released in paperback that October, just in time for my 50th birthday.

Looking back, I don’t think Neil had any idea what he’d just set into motion.

About nine months after my book came out, Neil decided to leave publishing and closed his business, but he didn’t leave me hanging. He switched from being my publisher to becoming a supportive friend, and my book continued to sell on several online retailers.

"Giving Voice to these ghosts" appeared in all the editions of Military Times. Similar stories ran in USA Today and The Associated Press.
“Giving Voice to these ghosts” appeared in  Military Times. Similar stories ran in USA Today and The Associated Press.

Four months after Neil shut down Leatherneck Publishing, my book won a national book award from Military Writers Society of America. That same year, Army Wife Network selected it for their monthly book club pick. In early 2010, USA Today, The Associated Press, and Military Times carried the story of my sixteen-year journey to bring the novel to life, and the book hit #2 on Amazon’s paid bestseller list for Military Aviation. In 2011, Navigator Books released the Kindle edition with a new cover, and in 2012, the book hit #1 on Amazon’s Top Rated War Fiction. In 2014, my literary agent and I signed a contract with Deer Hawk Publications, and the second edition of The Final Salute once again soared to the top of Amazon’s bestseller charts for several days in December. To date, I have 137 reviews and most of them are five and four stars.

My only regret is that I never met Neil in person. But he knew that I never stopped being grateful. The last time I heard his voice was on my home answering machine last April when he called to check on us after my husband underwent major surgery. I can still hear Neil’s voice in my head. He was a big old gruff teddy bear. He was my hero.

From Neil’s daughter’s Facebook post moments after his death: “Talk about a lovely exit. My sister and I opened a bottle of champagne and went into my Dad's room. Turned on some jazz music and raised our glasses in a toast to Neil Levin and the grand life he led. We left the room for a couple of minutes and when we stepped back in he was gone. Good-bye Daddy Boy, now go dance with your Laurie in heaven!” Debbie Clolinger, Neil’s daughter
“Talk about a lovely exit. My sister and I opened a bottle of champagne and went into my Dad’s room. Turned on some jazz music and raised our glasses in a toast to Neil Levin and the grand life he led. We left the room for a couple of minutes and when we stepped back in he was gone. Good-bye Daddy Boy, now go dance with your Laurie in heaven!” Debbie Clolinger, Neil’s daughter’s Facebook post moments after his death.

Because of Neil Levin, I became a published novelist. He was the catalyst that started everything in motion. My second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, has just released from Camel Press, and I’m currently working on the sequel. When I started my first novel in 1992, I had no idea that a retired Marine fighter pilot would become my publishing angel.

To read more about my work, please click here:

Kathleen M. Rodgers