Dr. Fisher: When you attended Notre Dame, you earned a degree in engineering. When and why did you decide to pursuer literary career?
Jack: After graduating from Notre Dame, I worked as an engineer for a few years before deciding to broaden my horizons into additional fields. I was given the opportunity to become a television producer and director, which was a great learning experience. From there, I eventually went on to film production and writing.
In 2003, I was offered a publishing deal with HarperCollins to write the story of my father’s experiences during World War II. At the time, I had no idea how many people would be impacted by the story. The book, Where the Birds Never Sing, became a bestseller and my literary career was born.
Dr. Fisher: Please share with our readers the impact on you of your father’s service in World War II.
Jack: When I was a boy, my father would tell me stories about his time in World War II, and he would show me the medals and decorations he had received along the way. I always found his adventures to be fascinating.
When I was twelve, he told me that he wanted to show me some photographs he and his buddies had taken when they liberated the Dachau concentration camp. Unlike the war stories he had told me before, the liberation of Dachau was a somber and emotional event for my father and the American soldiers.
As he showed me the horrendous photographs and recounted the profound story to me, tears welled up in his eyes. He said to me, “At some point in your life, someone may try to tell you that the Holocaust didn’t really happen. But it did happen. I was there and I saw it.”
I came to realize that the Holocaust ended the minute the American soldiers - my father included - entered the camp. I wrote the book because I want every American to know and appreciate what the Greatest Generation accomplished.
Dr. Fisher: When was Where the Birds Never Sing and Above the Treetops published and how did your feel when it was nominated for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize?
Jack: When the Birds Never Sing was published in 2003. Above the Treetops (based on the life of William Faulkner) was published in 2012.
In the time since Where the Birds Never Sing was first published, it has risen to become a bestseller and was #1 on Amazon. The book won the Alabama Library Association’s Author of the Year Award and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. As great as the awards and recognition are, my most cherished reward was seeing my father and his Army buddies get the recognition they so richly deserved.
My father traveled with me on several book tours. Watching people around the country applaud him and thank him for his service was something I will never forget.
Dr. Fisher: What interested Senator Bob Dole to write the Introduction to your book?
Jack: HarperCollins Publishers sent Senator Dole a copy of my manuscript before it was published and he agreed to write the Foreword. I was honored to have such an outstanding member of the Greatest Generation contribute to the book.
Dr. Fisher: You have received hundreds of comments about your book. My favorite is by Jan Antinozzi who wrote “ I have never before written to an author, but I just this morning finished your wonderful book, “Where the Birds Never Sing,” and I must tell you, I wept. As I closed the cover, I wept and wept for all of the young men who served – those who died and those who came home forever changed. I wept for the heartaches of their loved ones and I wept out of pride for the character and courage of our soldiers. I have cried at sad movies before, but I have never wept from the depths of my soul before. I feel like I have been forever changed for having read it. Thank you.” How do you respond to such praise?
I am honored that people like the book and respond is such positive ways. Women seem to be particularly moved by the story and the emotions it conveys. I think they can recognize that deep down, the book is not about the war, it’s about the journey of a young man and the emotions and heartaches he feels along the way. For this, I am grateful.
Dr. Fisher: Any thoughts about Holocaust deniers?
Jack: As my father predicted, I’ve had people try to tell me that the Holocaust never happened. Some have evn threatened me. However, my father and his buddies (all of whom I personally interviewed) were there. They saw what they saw, and they took photographs.
These men had landed at Omaha Beach and had fought through the Battle of the Bulge, but when they would describe the day of Dachau’s liberation - even sixty years later - their eyes would well up with tears. I would have challenged anyone to look into those eyes and doubt them.
Dr. Fisher: What other books have your written?
Jack: In addition to Where the Birds Never Sing and Above the Treetops, I recently completed work on a novel titled The Resurrection Sequence that incorporates the science of the Shroud of Turin into an international thriller.
Dr. Fisher: What interested you in The Shroud of Turin?
Jack: As an engineer, I had the opportunity to study the science of the Shroud of Turin and even spend time with it in Turin, Italy. It’s an interesting subject that conjures up all types of emotions (some logical, some illogical) in people. What I found most interesting was the fact that most of the actual science has been ignored through the years in favor of preconceived notions.
Dr. Fisher: In closing, here is my favorite podcast about you.