When real-life heroes turn into authors, the readers get some of the most inspiring stories to read. Author Jeffrey Veatch who lost his son to a drug overdose turned his journey into a highly motivating book ‘The Dyer Island Boys’ based on the true events of his life.
With his book, Jeffrey Veatch aims to help teenage kids to re-engineer their lives forever. While promoting ‘The Dyer Island Boys’, Jeffrey had an honest conversation with us where he shared about his books, his writing journey, his life, and much more. Before we begin with his interesting answers, let us first know a little more about the author.
About the Author: Jeffrey Veatch
Jeffrey Veatch is a published author, an award-winning news writer, and a producer at ABC News Radio. He lives in Yorktown Heights, New York with his lovely wife Marina, and his two cats Cali and Grey. His life took a drastic turn when his 17-year-old son Justin died of an accidental drug overdose.
After that, he started ‘A Message from Justin’, a media talk show to create awareness in teenagers regarding the dangers of drugs.
In 2022, he also released his debut book ‘The Dyer Island Boys’ which is a biographical fiction story of a 15-year-old boy. Apart from writing author Jeffrey also loves cooking and riding cycles.
Jeffrey was born in Waukegan, Illinois, and moved to Kentucky when he was in kindergarten. He grew up in Kentucky, attending the University of Kentucky before moving to New York which he now calls his home.
Tell us about your parents, kids, and family.
I lost my father when he was 53 years old in 1969. He was a Navy veteran always employed but never paid enough. My mother died when she was 97. She had created a child-care business after my father died to make ends meet.
I have my son, Stefan, who is in his 50s from my first marriage. My current wife Marina and I have a son and a daughter. Elena is now 29 and thriving. She was a great student and now is my greatest teacher.
We lost our 17-year-old son Justin to an accidental drug overdose in 2008. That turned our lives upside down and sidelined my personal writing projects even though I continued as a network newswriter. During that time I created the multimedia talk A Message from Justin which warns teens about the perils of substance abuse.
We also created a non-profit company that awards music scholarships to graduating high school seniors. As of this writing, we have awarded 61 scholarships and I proudly acknowledge that my son’s story has changed the lives of thousands of young people.
What were you like at school? Any childhood memory you would like to share.
I was a good student in high school after a difficult start in middle school. Teenage years were troubling to me. As a young student, music played a great role in my life. I played the baritone horn and later was a drummer in bands that played gigs all over Kentucky.
What are your educational/professional qualifications?
In college, I majored in broadcasting and journalism with a grant-in-aid which paid for my tuition. I developed the credentials that led to my work as a disc jockey and later news reporter, then news director in Lexington, Kentucky. That all led to my work as a newswriter, editor, and producer in New York City.
What is your biggest achievement till today?
My greatest achievements are my multimedia talk about my late son which has been presented to thousands of students in the northeast and my podcast, The Drug Crisis: Faces Behind the Struggle.
We were also featured in the documentary film Whispering Spirits (www.whispering-spirits.com) which tells our family’s story. All of this contributed to my obsession to write The Dyer Island Boys.
Which writers inspire you?
There are lots of great writers, from Hemingway to Stephen King who have provided inspiration.
Writing is stressful at times. How do you relax your mind?
Writing is difficult for me even though I have been at it for many years mostly in the pursuit of journalism. To relax, I like a good movie and an IPA or a glass of red wine.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
My favorite motivation comes from the Nike slogan “Just do it.” You’ll never get anything done until you just start at it.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
My best advice to myself is not to get too comfortable in professional life and to learn to get out of your comfort zone more often. I didn’t do enough of that.
What books do you like to read personally? What are you reading currently?
I love biographies and mostly non-fiction. In my view, the human condition is so interesting it’s not necessary to make things up. I generally read several books at the same time. I was inspired to know myself better after reading Quiet and learned a thing or two about eating out with Kitchen Confidential. Current favorites include The Tender Bar and Where the Crawdads Sing.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
Quiet, because it tells my story.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start writing?
My jobs required me to write about news and current events. There were hourly and daily deadlines to be met. When I started to write for myself I had no such deadlines and much more satisfaction about the results. That brought motivation to a personal level.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
When I write depends on the project. I’m big into research so starts are long in development. While I like to get a lot done in a quiet room during the morning, I’m also a night person so I’m often writing here and there, this and that, well into the night.
What is the reason you write for; is it for the readers or your own or some other thing?
I write for myself hoping many others live on the same frequency.
About your Book: The Dyer Island Boys
The Dyer Island Boys is a non-fiction book based on a true story published in the year 2022. The book follows Harry and a 15-year-old boy named Jimmy whose father is killed in the war and her mother is not only bearing the economic burden but also bearing the long-gone secrets of his husband. It is an inspirational story that reignites the passion inside you.
What genre is your book? What draws you to this genre?
My book is biographical fiction, a story based on real events. Again, life can be so interesting if you look hard enough, you don’t have to make anything up.
What was the inspiration behind writing this story?
The idea for The Dyer Island Boys came out of a visit I paid to a real teen boys’ camp on Dyer Island in the late 1980s. The boys ran the island without anyone telling them what to do. I thought of it as a real-life Lord of the Flies experiment.
Later I discovered there was a profound coming-of-age element involved. When I had the opportunity to work on a documentary about the camp I did dozens of interviews and learned about its rather astounding origin.
The documentary was never produced but the seed was planted for the screenplay, The Island Boys which is in its fifth draft. I decided to write the novel The Dyer Island Boys before undertaking a sixth draft.
What makes ‘The Dyer Island Boys’ stand out in this genre?
The Dyer Island Boys should stand out because it is a genuine examination of life spanning 50 years and an uplifting story of struggle, accomplishment, and redemption.
What should a reader expect from ‘The Dyer Island Boys’?
The Dyer Island Boys is a hopeful, wholesome, and heartwarming journey through the difficulties of adolescent life and the importance of direction found through hard work and resilience. But the story is not really written for teens but rather for their parents.
The story is based on true events which makes it even more inspiring. What was the hardest & the easiest thing to write this book?
It was easy to “fill in the blanks” once I had the framework for the story, but getting there involved learning about events that go back to 1946 from real people who lived it. Surprisingly, the hardest writing came in describing the construction of cabins, larger buildings, and the piers that made up the island’s infrastructure. Some of that was passed down to me by men who are now in their 80s.
Any special experience about ‘The Dyer Island Boys’ that you would like to share.
When we visited the camp the story is based on as guests, we spent nights in the infirmary building which was managed by my wife’s mother and had lots of beds spread out over a large room.
It wasn’t really roughing it, but we learned first-hand what it was like when you can’t always rely on hot water, or any water for that matter, as well as electricity that was unpredictable.
A highlight was the real joy we experienced when we went off by ourselves to cross through the woods to the other side of the island and find wild blueberries at the height of their abundance. Those tiny Maine berries growing close to the ground were the sweetest ones we ever tasted.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Writing for me at this point in life is no longer a career. It’s more about the love of telling stories that need to be told. I hope to tell those stories.
Are you working on your new project? What will be your next book about?
I’m still working on narrating the audiobook for The Dyer Island Boys. As an author who has often been a narrator, I think it is a good fit. I am also considering doing a book about my podcast The Drug Crisis: Faces Behind the Struggle. Perhaps I might also tell the story of my late son Justin who died from an accidental drug overdose. So far, it’s been emotionally too close but it’s important because some 100,000 Americans are needlessly dying this way every year.
What does success mean to you as an Author?
To me, success is not about numbers, but telling stories important to people and perhaps shaping their lives going forward.
What are your views on self-publishing versus the traditional publishing route?
Self-publishing is necessary for many authors who are not well known. I’m not a known author but my book is published by Volossal Publishing, a connection I was very lucky to have made. There’s a lot that needs to be done in properly publishing a book and I could not have done that without Volossal.
One learning that you’d like to pass on to young debut authors
Young debut authors should not be discouraged about not being able to find a literary agent right away. They should go ahead and tell their stories. If their stories are good they will find a home. Young writers should also consider topics that can be developed into a series of books. There is no better way to develop a following.
Your opinion about Vowelor.
Book promoters like Vowelor are important to authors, especially ones that are emerging. It’s impossible to develop a following without getting the word out.