Interview with Al and Sunny Lockwood: Cruising Panama's Canal

February is a month for Valentines -- and sometimes a book is a valentine, too. Our interview today is with a married couple who have written an entertaining book about cruising through the Panama Canal: Cruising Panama's Canal.  (It is available in both paperback and as a Kindle book.)  Sunny’s also written a charming book of romantic short stories, Shades of Love, available on Amazon.

First, a little background on Sunny and Al: 
Between the two of us, we’ve made 137 trips around the sun. That qualifies us as a “senior” couple even though we see ourselves as slightly post-middle-age, full of curiosity and enthusiasm. 

Al is a retired Silicon Valley engineer (electrical/mechanical). He has traveled through many spiritual traditions, including ordination as a Methodist minister, and has settled as a Roman Catholic. His greatest love, however, is film photography. Sunny has been a newspaper and magazine editor, newspaper reporter, university news director, owner of a PR/marketing business, and most recently, a newspaper columnist.

SARETT:  How did you prepare for writing the book?

SUNNY LOCKWOOD: A research trick I learned long ago: if you want to find out about anything quickly, get a children’s book on the topic. Preferably one by a traditional publishing house that’s using copy editors to check and double-check facts.  So that’s what we did.

SARETT: What was the genesis for writing this book?  It’s your first travel book, right?

SUNNY LOCKWOOD: We knew before the cruise, that we were going to try and write about it. We thought there would be lots of people who might want to see the Panama Canal, especially if they could see it comfortably. So, if our experience was interesting enough, we’d have an audience. And our experience was interesting. The cruise itself is fascinating – then there were the people we met, from Australia, all over the U.S. and from Canada and the UK. It was fun to get acquainted and share opinions on the cruise, life, politics, etc.  Add Al’s enthusiastic, exaggerated descriptions of our many and varied desserts …you get the picture.

SARETT:  Vacations can be stressful for couples, or romantic?  Al, how would you rate this trip for the two of you?
AL LOCKWOOD: In one word, “fun.” In two, “no problem.”  
It’s hard to get stressed on a cruise ship.  Cruising is inherently romantic. We are lovers, and best friends, going down the path of years together.  What’s not to like? There’s so much to do, so many places to go, so many desserts to eat…oops…so much healthy food to consume in moderation.     

SARETT; You've written fiction and non-fiction. How do you select the tone and incidents for the book?
SUNNY:  People can get guidebooks, but this is the story of one older couple's experience on the cruise of their lifetime-- a personal story.  I have more than 20 years experience as a reporter...I know that readers want the who, what, when, where,  why  and the how.  There was a natural structure -- the 17 days we were on the cruise -- so we didn't labor over that.  When you keep your reader in mind, you know which incidents  to include.  
Our tone is light and easy, a natural tone for a wonderful cruise. We tried to keep our target reader (baby boomer, retiree who loves to travel) in mind. I wanted the book to flow like a conversation, as if we were talking with a friend-- fun and entertaining.

SARETT:   I’m always looking for recommendations.  Can you recommend some travel writers for our blog readers?
-“Travels with Charlie,” by John Steinbeck. We both love John Steinbeck’s work.
-“Charles Kuralt’s America” by Charles Kuralt.
-“Under the Tuscan Sun,” by Frances Mayes.

SARETT:  Was the decision to self-publish automatic?
2014 is 100th anniversary of the official opening of the Panama Canal-- and there’s no way we could get our book published in 2014 with a traditional publisher.  We are going to do our best to promote the book all this year, and hope that people will read it and tell others.  Whether you are published traditionally or go the indie route, a writer needs readers to spread the word about their book.

Where you find the book: Amazon and there's a Facebook Page, Cruising Panama's Canal

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