What’s the name of your book?
Tell me about it.
“It’s a combination of alternate history and science fiction because there’s some time travel in it. The alternate history comes in because it’s a what-if book. What if the Japanese had attacked Southern California a few months after Pearl Harbor? — which they could have. They could have in the first few months of the war, up until the Battle of Midway; after that it wouldn’t have been possible for them. But I’ve always toyed around with the idea of what if they had? What would have happened? What would their targets have been? Obviously they would have bombed military bases and aircraft factories in Los Angeles and San Diego. So, in my book I have that happen. And then I have a time-traveling cop from the future and his fiancée travel back to 1942 to alter the outcome. That’s where “counterclockwise” comes in. We toyed with the title, my publisher and I, and almost all time-travel books have the word ‘time’ in the title. Finally, I hit on ‘counterclockwise’ — that says ‘going back,’ so that’s what we did.”
What made you write it?
“I’m a self-made historian; history was one of my minors at San Diego State. My greatest interest is modern history: Napoleon’s time on forward. And I have a special interest in the Civil War and World War II. I lost an uncle in World War II, in the Battle of the Bulge, and I just have a real interest in that. I’ve always toyed with this idea of what would have happened if the Japanese had gone ahead and attacked California after Pearl Harbor? So I wrote it. I was able to interview some people who lived through that period of time, and they were very helpful. And I very thoroughly researched it. One of my key characters is a reporter for the old William Randolph Hearst newspaper, the Los Angeles Herald-Express, which hasn’t existed for a long time, but I have the actual phone number for the Herald-Express. “
Do you have a favorite section?
“The actual attacks on San Diego, Long Beach, Burbank, Inglewood — I had a lot of fun with those. But the time travel is probably what I enjoy most. My guy goes back and he suddenly encounters Ginger Rogers and James Cagney. In fact, I had a lot of fun with James Cagney; I kind of poke some fun at him. He was such a patriotic guy — I make him kind of overly patriotic. Somebody told me, ‘James Cagney’s grandson is going to sue you,’ and I said, ‘Oh, I hope so!’”
Why should someone read this?
“If anyone is interested in time travel, or interested in what San Diego and Los Angeles were like 65, 70 years ago, they would enjoy this because I really do paint a complete picture of what life was like in those days, what the aircraft attack was like, and the fact that there wasn’t much smog. And there were a lot of orange groves and lemon groves all around, and the whole countryside wasn’t filled with homes as yet. San Diego people will find it interesting: I have scenes at the Embarcadero with the tuna-boat fishermen, one at the U.S. Grant Hotel, North Island Naval Station, a couple of restaurants that don’t exist anymore.”
What’s your day job?
“I have a PR firm.”
Tell me about your writing habits.
“I usually write in the morning; I’m kind of a morning person. Being self-employed, I can kind of schedule my time the way I like it. So, I’m often writing at 7:30, with my coffee mug in hand. I write right there at home at the computer. One author once told me that he always wrote in the morning, then in the afternoon maybe he didn’t or maybe he walked, or did research. But he always wrote, every morning, even though he might not have been feeling creative that day or wasn’t in the mood. He said, ‘writing is your job, and you have to go to your job every day, whether you’re on it that day or not.’ And that made a lot of sense to me.”
Name: Roger Conlee | Occupation: Public Relations/Author
Neighborhood: Downtown San Diego | Where interviewed: The Brickyard Coffee Shop