Aviation Career
How did you start your career as a pilot?
My career as a pilot took flight thanks to an unexpected Christmas gift from my parents.

At that time, I was in my mid-twenties, managing a small guesthouse right next to my parents' larger one on Sunderland's seafront. To my surprise, they gave me two and a half hours of flying lessons and a stack of aviation textbooks.

Instead of partaking in the typical Christmas morning traditions, I spent most of the day engrossed in two of my new books: one on aerodynamics and the other on meteorology. The theory fascinated me. I was excited about the flying portion, but unfortunately, December weather in the northeast wasn't ideal for visual flying. I had to wait weeks before I could finally take to the skies. But when that moment arrived, I experienced a thrill like no other—I was truly hooked.

Within a year, I had achieved my British Private Pilot's License, which had been my ultimate plan; beyond that, I had never conceived completing more training. However, my newfound passion just kept on growing. I became an avid reader of aviation magazines, and I found myself yearning for the lifestyle of an airline pilot. Unfortunately, I was well aware that this dream came with a hefty price tag and a serious commitment. Flight training in the UK was gut-wrenchingly expensive and there were no prizes for getting 95% to completion; it was an all-or-nothing thing.

My mother and I tracked down (with the help of her hairdresser!) two locals who had gone through the Civil Aviation Authority's Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) program. Both seemed intelligent chaps, certainly more so than I, yet both had faced challenges and failures in either the Navigation or Technical series of exams. One had made three attempts before finally throwing in the towel. I know that should have deterred me, especially as I considered myself a below-average student—and it did for about a day—but my passion for aviation refused to let go of the dream.

I told myself: If I'm going to do this, I cannot fail, unless I was comfortable with bankruptcy and having nothing to show for it. After several well-disciplined years, I finally completed the training, earning the British ATPL and the USA FAA ATP licenses, then spent another two years earning my instructor ratings (multi / commercial / instrument). But it was the incredible support from my family and an inner drive to make them proud, that propelled me to succeed (pardon the pun).

What happened to the airline direction?
After two years of life as a South Texas instructor teaching the U.S. Airforce how to fly as well as Ab-initio Chinese and Mexican airline cadets, I finally secured my dream airline job in the United States. However, immediately after accepting the position, the tragic events of 9/11 occurred, resulting in a major setback for the airline industry worldwide. Regrettably, the job offer was rescinded.

Two years later, the same airline reached out again, offering the job once more. Coincidentally, on that very same day, I received an enticing offer to fly private jets for high-profile clients. Although I had dedicated years of hard work toward an airline career, the lure to fly movie stars to skiing trips, or Caribbean getaways, was far more appealing. In a split decision, my career path changed.

I've never looked back since.

What type of planes do you fly and what do you like most about flying them?

I've had the opportunity and privilage to fly a wide range of aircraft. In the piston aircraft category, I've flown models from manufacturers like Cessna, Piper, Diamond, Beechcraft, and Grumman.

I've flown (or typed in) the following turbine-powered jets:
  • Learjet 35
  • Learjet 55
  • Falcon 50 / 50EX
  • Falcon 900EX / 900EX EASy
  • Falcon 2000 LXS
  • Boeing 737NG
  • Pilatus PC-24
  • Gulfstream G650 (GVI)

While each plane has its own unique flying qualities, my absolute top pick is the Gulfstream G650. It's fly-by-wire system and unmatched power-to-weight ratio make it a joy to fly and sets it apart from any other aircraft I've flown. The PC-24 is the only single-pilot jet I have flown and while it is the slowest on the list, being single pilot gives it that unique cool factor and freedom others lack.

What has been the most rewarding part of your career as a pilot?
The people. Absolutely.

Can you share any memorable experiences or moments from your career as a pilot?
I don't typically share details about the trips I fly since privacy goes with the job. However, I can share one amusing incident—and I don't think Leonardo DiCaprio would mind.

Many years ago, I was on a trip through Europe and had just overnighted in Athens, Greece. To my surprise, Leo's plane was parked adjacent to ours on the ramp, and like us, his crew was busy preparing the aircraft before their passengers' arrival.

A beautiful bouquet of flowers arrived at our plane.

I was puzzled because I hadn't ordered any flowers. The attached note read, 'Thanks for always being there, Leo,' or something along those lines. Now, while I'm the first to admit I'm the biggest Leo DiCaprio fan out there, I was pretty sure Leo hadn't just sent me flowers to express his appreciation. Obviously, they were meant for whoever was on his plane, and so I redirected the line crew to deliver them to our famous neighbor.

Later, I found out that Leo's parents were on the trip, and the flowers were a thoughtful gesture for them. What a nice guy. I must say, I'm an even bigger fan now! Go Leo!

Telling people that Leo once sent me flowers is—kinda, sorta true! What can I say—he loves me! Anyway, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

What is a typical day like for you as a corporate/private pilot?
First and foremost, you can't really use the words 'typical day' and 'corporate/private pilot' in the same sentence!

It doesn't exist!
In the world of corporate and private aviation, routine and predictability take a back seat. While the airline business thrives on schedules and routine, our world is all about variety and spontaneity. We may be on call most of the time, but that's a small price to pay for the sheer fun-factor this job brings.

Whether we're flying high-profile executives, celebrities, or wealthy families, every trip is a unique journey. And with our office at nearly 10-miles high, (much higher than airliners can go) it affords a breath-taking view of the curvature of the Earth. A sight that never gets old.

So, what is typical day like for us? It's atypical.

What is your favorite part about being a pilot?
Initially, I would have said it's the places, the destinations, that I love the most about being a pilot. However, in hindsight, I've come to realize it's the people that truly make this career special.

No matter how incredible the destination might be, if the crewmember sitting next to you or the clients sitting in the comfy seats in the back are challenging to work with, it can dampen the experience. Conversely, when you have wonderful crew and passengers on board, no matter where you're headed, even if it is the pits of the Earth, the journey is always enjoyable. Over the years, the many places I've visited all seem to merge together, but the people I never forget.

How has the aviation industry changed since you started your career?
It is a completely different world today than it was 'back-in-the-day.' It has grown significantly, for one! A once male-dominated industry, it is now fully diversified. The aviation industry, as a whole, is now thankfully much safer too. Advancements in technology have greatly improved reliability; safety systems have become ingrained in our culture. As a result, the skies have never been safer.

What are your goals as a pilot?
To not crash and kill everyone!

What continents have you flown to?
All but Antarctica. (see bucket list!)

Is your writing influenced by being a pilot?
Not significantly, but my experiences traveling around the world and exposure to different cultures have provided me with a toolbox of ideas to draw from when I write. It's like having a treasure trove of inspiration at my fingertips.

Writing Career
What is the story behind 'sodden' and 'unorthodox'?
“The morning was unorthodox, with sodden grass sludging beneath my feet…”

At the early age of 13 my English teacher, Mr. Bainbridge (who was the spit of Jack Nicholson with glasses), would read to the class sections of his student's homework that served as good story telling examples. Unforunately, my work never made the cut.

After weeks of complaining, my mother finally bought me a Roget's thesaurus. Leather-bound with gold-leaf edged pages, it was the prettiest book I had ever seen. Now, armed with a thousand page vocabulary, I vowed my next story was going to be top of the class!

I spent hours at the dining table drafting it out with my trusted thesaurus filling every line with superfluous descriptors.

The next week, I sat in haste as Mr. Bainbridge did his slow amble through the stack of homework on his old oak desk, sorting his daily read. Finding his pick-of-the-day, his eyes scoured over his glasses searching the thirty pale faces for the story's owner. When his eyes landed on mine, my heart raced.

"Dean, come up here!" he called out, inviting me to his side.

He had never brought students front a center before! Holy bejeezus, my story must be good!

Then he turned me around to face the class. It was a proud moment. All that effort had finally paid off.

But as Mr. Bainbridge began to read, I noticed he had that tone. Immediately it became clear—my writing was being used as an example of what not to do. After reading aloud the first line (above), he stopped only to laugh and to reemphasize the words 'sodden' and 'unorthodox' with head-shaking disbelief. His laughter spurred the rest of the class to join in. I was mortified.

Looking back, I cringe at how absurdly, excessively, and ridiculously overboard I went with that weighty, cumbersome thesaurus on that vividly descriptive story and the blatant misuse of countless, superfluous adjectives. (See what I did there!). Okay, yeah it was a crap story, but, dude, did you have to make a mockery out of it in front of the whole class? Even forty plus years on, the shame he subjected me to that day still bothers me. And while I always cherished that beautiful thesaurus that my mother bought for me, I never used it again. From that day on, my interest in English turned to an almost hatred for it.

My creative side, however, continued to blossom. With an imaginitive mind, I went on to study art & design at college. Even today I have trouble sleeping with the constant brainstorm of ideas infiltrating my mind. Some days, its like a tap I can't turn off. Included among those thoughts are a plethora of story ideas and plots, original characters and crazy twists. Yet, never gaining the time and conviction to put them on paper, those stories remained locked in my head.

Then came the terrible pandemic; with it, a gift of free time. It was then I decided, screw it—I'm doing it.

As I sat down to write, I was instantly transported back to that humiliating moment in my English classroom, the tormenting laughter ringing in my ears like some horror movie. Nonetheless, I wrote, and kept writing. Perhaps out of spite, I chose to not only see it through, but to also include two words, "sodden" and "unorthodox" (or orthodox), in this story and future stories I write—the same two words that had brought ridicule so many years before, instilling a fear to write!

Admittedly, those are two pretty crappy words to be stuck with on my future literary journey, but at least I get to say… "In your face, Mr. Bainbridge!"

What or who inspired you to become a writer?
This one also falls on my mother. I guess she was pretty inspirational growing up, after all.

Everyday she would say 'I should write a book'. Whether it was a punchline or a wishlist, it sunk in after years of hearing it. I started writing a non-fiction book about meteorology during my flight instructor years but never finished it. For years since then, I have started and stopped writing ideas for a novel but never fully committed—until COVID.

How do you come up with ideas for your stories?
It's not so much a matter of how I come up with them but how I manage to sort them. My head is always buzzing with ideas—not just stories, but everything. When writing, I usually have several elements that I want to squeeze into the current scene. If I don't, I feel like I am throwing away good material. Learning to let it go has been quite the challenge and is what slows the story development.

Who would have thought that too many ideas slowed the plot?

Who are your favorite authors?
Andy Weir (genius), Dan Brown (newer material), Bryone Pearce (adult thrillers), Freida McFadden.

What is your writing process like?
Well… I write. My wife quietly interupts to tell me the faucet is leaking.
I promise to fix it in just a minute.
My wife sheepishly returns—"its been hours and the faucet is still leaking."
"Yeah, okay," I tell her, "I'll fix it right after this paragraph."
Returning once more, my wife huffs and tells me the plumber finally fixed it but now the pool pump is acting up.
I promise to get to it in the morning!
The cycle repeats!
After finishing my debut novel, I suddenly realized that my house was falling apart around me, and my chore list was longer than a Texas summer day.

In all seriousness, I would say my writing process is constantly evolving.

My first major writing endeavor was actually a screenplay: The Maiden of Jorvik, written in the 'pantser' style where I literally wrote by the seat of my pants. Well, not literally, but you get what I mean. In fact, the story began with a time-travel theme but the plot took a whole other direction, seemingly on its own.

Shortly after completing the screenplay I decided to write the novel using the screenplay as an outline. Though, I learned very quickly that transposing each scene to a chapter would not be so simple. Scenes and point of views occur way to frequently in the screenplay to be viable for chapters in the novel. The net result meant a truck load of editing. Writing was hard but not near as hard as editing. I know some authors love the editing process; not me (well, maybe in the initial stages). For me, editing is like a parabola. It starts off with a steep climb of gaining interest and excitment but then after passing the summit it then becomes a spiral dive of, OMG is this ever going to end!

While I sway more toward the pantser style of writing, I do enjoy having structure from an outline, which affords me more time to write than plot development. Moving forward, I think I will write using both styles; have a general outline, but allow my creativity to wander.

What stories are currently in the works?
Several. I dunno. I'm undecided. (I used to be indecisive but now I am not so sure!).

It'll either be a sequel to The Jorvik Prophecy or an entirely new storyline. The sequel makes obvious sense, but I am itching to get into new material. My research notebook is brimming with time travel ideas based on current scientific theories. Further research will reveal whether that leads anywhere.

Do you follow a daily word quota in your writing routine? If so, what is your target word count?
No, I've tried to, but it just doesn't work for me. What I typically do is start by writing first. On good days, the words flow naturally. On less productive days, I make an effort to write, and if it doesn't come easily, I switch to editing yesterday's work. I've found that revising what I've just written often opens up my mind to new ideas, and then the writing starts to flow again. Hopefully!

Are any of your characters based on real people?
I think I am speaking for all authors here, but all my characters are based on real people, or versions of them, at least.

We write from experience and from someone who has traveled extensively I can say with ease, human diversities offer a wide spectrum of description. It's almost akin to each person's character being a fingerprint—unique and unparalleled. While there exist common traits and classifiable characteristics, it's the intricate amalgamation of these traits that bestows upon us our individuality and complexity. Usually, when interacting with people, I find myself tapping into their personas, remembering their idiosyncrasies for my next character.

Naming characters is a varied experience. Sometimes the name just emerges as I write and it just fits. Others involve research requiring spreadsheets of names and their meanings ensuring each name resonates with the character.

What is your favorite thing about your fans?
I think Bill is great!

General Q&A
What are your hobbies?
Wow, I have so many inerests, it's hard to begin!

Art— As an artist myself, I have always enjoyed art in its many forms. It takes too much time and energy for me to draw or paint, so I haven't produced any artwork in years, though the subject still interests me.

Check out some of my work — Art by Dean

Science— I have to admit, I am a big science nerd. While all science is fascinating to me, I find Quantum Mechanics the most alluring. I've read Brian Cox, Brian Greene, Michio Haku, and one of my favorites from the Harvard Press, The Quantum World by Kenneth W. Ford. And one would not be a science nerd if Stephen Hawkings wasn't also on that reading list. We all love magic shows, they amaze and dazzle us. But we know it's not real. They're just illusions designed to trick us. But in the quantum world, magic exists for real. How is that not cool!

I also like to go to the movies.

Can you share a particularly funny or interesting anecdote from your life?
So many to choose from! Can we defer this question to its own section entitled, 'Crazy, embarrasing experiences I have encountered in life'?

Let's see. Here's one.

At the tender age of 21, fueled by an excess of testosterone and a looming trip to sunny Florida, I found myself facing a dire dilemma: a bout of back acne. Determined to clear it up in record time for my hols, I dashed off to my doctor, who prescribed a magical cream that was supposed to work wonders.

Days before my flight, I swaggered into the pharmacy to collect my miracle cure, only to be met with bad news – they were fresh out of it. Instead, the pharmacist offered me an alternative, a cream so notorious it was on the verge of being discontinued. Naturally, I asked about its side effects, thinking I could handle anything he threw at me. 'An allergic burning reaction,' he said with a pinch of mild concern.

Now, let me clarify that I'm not allergic to anything—or at least that's what I told the pharmacist. It was either my misguided macho bravado talking or a delusion brought on by my vast knowledge of chemistry and allergies. I'm leaning toward the former!

Back at home, I decided to take a leisurely bath before applying the cream. Ignoring the instructions to test on a small area first (my next brilliant move), I generously slathered the stuff all over my back. What started as a gentle warming sensation quickly turned into a 'holy-f**k-I'm-on-fire' moment! It was getting worse by the second. By the way, running around the backyard naked while frantically fanning your back does absolutely nothing. Cold showers are equally useless.

Eventually, my parents discovered me face-down howling in carpet-clawing agony. My back now scarlet red, they briefly considered calling an ambulance. But, deciding that would take too long, my dear parents—bless their hearts—helped me into a dressing gown (mind you, I'm still naked) and shoved me in the back of the car.

Let me tell you, Terry Towel dressing gowns feel like sandpaper on skin having an allergic meltdown. The entire journey to the emergency room was spent with me on my knees in the back seat, unable to bear any pressure on my back.

I vaguely remember my frantic parents shouting, and a cute nurse (trust me, I wasn't blind, despite the pain) wheeling a chair over to me. She was doing her best to coax me into it. It took a while, but I eventually managed to slide out of the car and into the wheelchair. She then wheeled me through a packed waiting room, the problem being that I was sitting on my open gown, putting my unfortunate state on full display to the world. To add to the hilarity, the nurse had forgotten to lower the footrests, which I desperately needed to prop myself up and salvage what little dignity remained.

So there I was, a strapping 21-year-old, with my parents looking on, a cute nurse, and half of Sunderland's emergency room patients treated to an unexpected show.

Moral of the story? Always read the label, folks!
On a side note, it worked! The acne was obliterated along with about five layers of skin.

If you had a time machine where would you go?
Definitely the future. A place where 'science fiction' simply becomes 'science'. Even visiting one hundred years from now, I think we would witness significant evolution in science and medicine. That would be so cool.

What is your dream vacation?
A cruise anywhere with my mafia-sized family.

If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be and why?
Elon Musk—so he can pick up the tab. (Oh, and discuss how he will change the world, you know, that sort of thing.)
Albert Einstein—Why? Because it's Albert Einstein.
Liam Neeson—Because if I get lost en route to the restaurant, he will find me.

What's a valuable life lesson you've learned that you'd like to pass on to your readers?
When at one of life's forks, choose from the heart, not the head. (I didn't mean that to come out like a Hallmark card, but, hey, maybe I'll call them!)

What's your favorite type of cuisine or dish?
Indian food. With one caveat—It's from England!

While I have had authentic Indian cuisine from India before, it did a huge number on my gut. Needless to say, when I flew the jet the next day, the other crew members were donning their oxygen masks. My westernized stomach is more in tune with the English version.

Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that inspires you in life?
Hmm, two spring to mind—one I have always loved and a more recent one.

'He who dares wins'. (SAS)

'Everyone has a plan until they are punched in the face!'— I am sure Mike Tyson meant that literally when he quoted it, but for me it rings a more metaphoric vibe. Most of us have a plan, and when life throws obstacles in our path, derailing our journies, it can feel like a punch to the face, or a sucker-punch to the gut. Life does not play fair; a concept at the heart of my book, The Jorvik Prophecy.

Who are some of your personal heroes or role models, and why?
Hero is a bit strong, and role model—not so sure—but Elon Musk is up there for people I admire.
There aren't that many people (ever) that have accomplished what he has and let's face it, he is only getting started. Plus, he's a nerd and doesn't try to hide the fact. Extra cudos for that.

If you could improve something about yourself, what would it be?
Nothing. I'm perfect! At least that's what the mirror I stole from Snow White tells me every time I look in it.
(My wife, on the other hand, is yelling multiple suggestions in the background.)

But seriously, I suppose there are many things I would try to improve. Narrowing that down to one, I would say—having lower expectations, though I'm not really sure that classes as an improvement. My parents encouraged me to reach for the stars but I kinda took that literally. Knowing I will never set foot, or any other limb, in space means living under a blanket of failure. Be satisfied with what I have accomplished and allow dreams to remain as dreams.

Do you have any unfulfilled bucket list items you want to share?
My bucket list tends to grow faster than I check them off.
A few that spring to mind are, visiting Antarctica (my last unvisited continent), and taking my family to new destinations every year, perhaps Pompeii. Orbit the Earth in space, too! (Okay, that's more a wish list than a bucket list, but if William Shatner can do it at 90, there's hope for me yet!)

What is the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Be true to your word, otherwise everything else won't matter (shortened and paraphrased)
My Mom


Art by Dean