Rod Vanderhoof has led a life full of exciting, varied experiences - first in his family to go to college, service in the Air Force, 20 years as a stockbroker on K Street in Washington D.C. - but has only recently become an author with the publication of his first novel, Cry of the Shidepoke. Cry of the Shidepoke is a coming-of-age novel that details the life of Maxwell Holladay, a boy who experiences the Great Depression and World War II as he grows up, culminating in his graduation from college in 1953. Writing this first novel proved to be quite a learning experience for Vanderhoof, who incorporated many experiences from his childhood into the novel.
Vanderhoof's writing career began relatively recently, as he began work on Cry of the Shidepoke in 2000. He claims that, although he was an economics major, "I took a fair amount of writing courses in college, but my life was so busy, I never found the time to write". However, after his retirement, Vanderhoof found himself with enough free time to begin the writing process that ultimately led to the publication of his novel. "I started by writing out personality sketches and situations, then I gradually expanded until I made a series of them in a logical sequence. Then I eventually formed them into a book with transitions and conflict." He believes his distinctive style relies more on intuition than in writing out a massive plot beforehand; "I tried to keep putting the characters in individual predicaments, then worked out in my mind how they would get out of each one. I found that sort of a writing process, with writing individual episodes and then tying them together into the larger narrative of a novel, was more productive than trying to create a lengthy draft of the novel's plot before I began writing."
Learning the technological skills necessary for modern writers proved to be an adventure in itself for Vanderhoof. "I learned Microsoft Word while I was writing Cry of the Shidepoke. In the old days, you'd find something in the middle of the page and literally have to cut and paste, and you could only use whiteout so many times before having to start over. I appreciate the technology-it makes it much easier to put your thoughts down, and you can move much more quickly."
As well is learning word processing, Vanderhoof also learned about literary agents. "When I sent my work out, one person I e-mailed told me she wanted to sign me to a six-month contract for $100, and I agreed and sent her the money. Nothing happened for a month and I kept e-mailing her and getting no response. Later I learned that police raided her office in San Angelo, Texas, and it was all a scam!" Vanderhoof ultimately decided to publish his novel himself through Infinity Publishing, an independent Internet [publisher].
Vanderhoof credits a number of authors and literary works for giving him inspiration during the writing process. "My favorite novel is F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. I really enjoyed the language and subtleties of the text, and I found the rags-to-riches theme very appealing". Like The Great Gatsby, Cry of the Shidepoke, is a text driven by its main character's upward economic mobility, tracing the life of its main character Maxwell Holladay from a childhood of poverty in the 1930s to his graduation from college in a prosperous postwar America.
Vanderhoof strived to incorporate as much historical detail as possible into his novel, both from his own experience and the experiences of others. "I feel that the past is often misrepresented in literature, particularly the periods of time I wrote about. When I was writing Book I, ‘The Great Depression', of Cry of the Shidepoke, I wrote from my own experiences growing up at that time. I feel it was a very different experience from what people write down in the history books, addressing the period solely in terms of comparing it to the present day. I wanted to give the reader a sense of what it was like to actually live and grow up in the period." His attention to period detail is also noticeable in Book II, "The Holladay Family's Turmoil of War". He explains that, "After college, I spent the next 20 years in the U. S. Air Force. Many of the people I worked with had incredible records, and they told me stories of their service in World War II. In writing this book, I wanted to convey the heroism of those people who endured the incredible hardships of World War II."
With Cry of the Shidepoke "basically done," Vanderhoof is beginning work on a second novel, a comedic work about a stockbroker. He claims that "the best thing I did was join the Riverside Writers Club" and that "writing fiction requires a great deal of reader input and interaction." The input of other local authors and his readers will continue to serve him well in the future.