An Interview with Alexs Thompson

Carol Novis has worked for publications including Winnipeg Free Press, Cape Times and The Jerusalem Post. She has more recently started working in fiction, including a children’s book, entitled The Adventures of Mary Fairy. Today she joins me to talk about her cozy mystery series, Tension on a Pension.

Q: Can you sum up the I’ll Go book series in 20 words or less?

Trauma transformed to triumph. Rather than succumbing to the labels assigned to me, I forged my own path toward success.

Q: What inspired you to write this story?

In 2014 I had the kind of life crisis that cannot be ignored. I locked myself in my bedroom for days on end in the dark wondering if life was worth living. I was haunted by the fact that I should have been happy. I had my dream job living and working in the Middle East advising senior military officials; I had a great group of friends; played rugby multiple times a week; and traveled internationally every month. Week after agonizing week, though I struggled to understand why I couldn’t find happiness. Eventually, a voice emerged from my subconscious and told me it was time to go home. 

When the Twin Towers fell on 9/11 it awakened an insatiable curiosity and passion to solve US-Middle East relations. That naivete drove me to live with Muslim fundamentalists in places like Syria and Yemen; eventually I would support special operations and the US Marine Corps in Iraq, Afghanistan, and countries throughout Central/Eastern Africa.

In 2015, when I finally found a place I could call home, I needed to write my story. I needed to experience the catharsis that comes when one transforms unexplored emotions into words that have meaning for other people. “I’ll Go” is a memoir that allows me to share my experiences in a way that inspires personal transformation.

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Q: Can you tell me a little more about the research that went into this book?

Since “I’ll Go” is a memoir, most of the research was re-experiencing difficult moments from my past. I was obsessed with telling the story of childhood abuse and combat stress in a way that is empowering. I didn’t want to just tell traumatic story after traumatic story; trauma, in my experience, is an opportunity for growth and transformation. I understand that not everyone has that perspective, but I wanted my readers to be inspired to live the best life they ever imagined.

Because of my time in combat, though, there are events that are part of my story that are also part of the public record. I spent time reading about battles in Iraq and Afghanistan; US policy statements; and congressional testimony to ensure that I presented a different perspective on well-known events. I combed through news reports, read books, and did biographical sketches on people like Generals David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal. I worked with several famous people and I wanted to make sure I presented my perspective on their personalities without merely repeating what one can find in other books.

Q: What would you like readers to take away from this story?

There is a hero within who is aching to live the wildest dreams you’ve ever imagined. Bias and prejudice are unfortunate realities of our world, but I hope my story inspires those who face seemingly impossible obstacles to achieve more than anyone thinks they can accomplish. A hero life doesn’t have to mean becoming a general, senator, or earning a Ph.D.; being an inspiring partner or parent is hero work! Rather than imitating others, I hope those who share in my life’s story define their own hero life and live it without hesitation or apology.

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Q: What kind of feedback are you receiving about I’ll Go?

I have been bowled over by the response to “I’ll Go.” From an external perspective, I was at #1 in several categories on Amazon for weeks and had sales that I never imagined. There are conversations on social media about my book and how it positively affected people’s lives. From another perspective, the response has been personally transformative. Letters have poured in from all over the world describing how friends, family, and strangers have redefined their hero life. When I wrote “I’ll Go”, I thought I was writing for me; I wondered whether the language I used would resonate with people. From the first review, I’ve been inspired to learn of how people take on the concept of the hero life and create something that pushes them to live a new kind of life.

Q: What inspires you to write?

It’s probably obvious by now, but I have a deep need to drive toward a mission. Rather than thinking about what this life is and how it moves, I spend my time obsessing about how things could be. It’s the same motivation that pushed me to spend 13 years consumed with fixing US-Middle East relations—an admittedly impossible task. Writing is an expression of the same passion: I want to inspire others to re-think life. As I wrote, I held the image of young kids who struggle and wondered how their life could ever amount to anything other than what the people around them accomplished. I fixated on the experiences of combat veterans who struggle with PTSD. I share the most difficult parts of my life because I believe that someone will read my words and create a language that defines their hero life.

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Q: What is your next writing project?

“I’ll Go” ends with me falling in love and moving to Kansas City. It is the story of me finding the “home” for which I had spent so much time searching. My next writing project will be the continuation of my life’s story and share how I learned to become the partner and parent that deserves the title “hero life.” I just published “I’ll Go,” so I imagine it will be some time before my next project hits the bookshelves.

Q: What is on your current reading list?

I have spent more time reading combat memoirs and just finished Geraint Jones’s “Brothers in Arms.” It is raw, offensive, and great! Anyone who wants to understand the camaraderie of combat should give it a read. Given the current environment, I’m reading “How to be an Antiracist” by  Ibram X. Kendi and participating in a few reading groups to discuss it. Finally, I’m reading “The Second Mountain” by David Brooks. It’s an interesting read that makes me think a lot about how I learned to find passion in my life.

Q: Where can readers connect with you (website, social media, etc)?

Feel free to email me at alexs@thisherolife.com

Website: https://www.thisherolife.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/This-hero-life-107355247655087/about/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thisherolife

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thisherolife/

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Q: Any closing remarks?

I enjoy sharing my story with others, but I love hearing how others define their hero work. I’ve been fortunate to share in book clubs, podcasts, and informal gatherings. It would be so exciting to me if your readers feel comfortable inviting me into their life’s journey. I’d love to participate in a book reading or a small gathering where we talk about the things that matter in this life. I’m obsessed with talking about how we transform our reality into the things we only imagined we could accomplish.

Thanks so much for giving me an opportunity to share my life’s mission Heidi. I really appreciate this opportunity and hope there are more to come.

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