Edward Hochsmann’s Journey from Service to Storytelling

Edward Hochsmann, a retired Coast Guard veteran, discusses how his service experiences and colleagues inspire his maritime adventure novels, balancing action with ethical dilemmas, and ensuring technical authenticity.

Edward Hochsmann is a name that resonates with the spirit of adventure and the call of the sea. A retired U.S. Coast Guard search and rescue and law enforcement professional, Hochsmann has seamlessly transitioned from a life of high-stakes missions to the world of literature. With a career spanning twenty-five years, he has channeled his vast reservoir of experiences into crafting gripping narratives that transport readers into the heart of maritime action. His contemporary sea adventure series, featuring the crew of a small Coast Guard cutter, and his science fiction series, C6S: Patrol Force, have both garnered acclaim for their authenticity and thrilling plots.

In this exclusive interview with Reader’s House Magazine, Hochsmann delves into the profound impact of his Coast Guard service on his writing. He shares how real-life experiences and the remarkable individuals he served with have shaped the characters and stories in his novels. Hochsmann also discusses the challenges of keeping his action-packed narratives fresh and engaging, the delicate balance between action and ethical dilemmas, and the meticulous attention to detail that ensures the authenticity of the nautical elements in his books.

Join us as we explore the mind of Edward Hochsmann, a veteran mariner turned novelist, whose tales of courage, conflict, and camaraderie continue to captivate readers around the world.

Your background in the U.S. Coast Guard search and rescue and law enforcement must have provided you with a wealth of experiences. How have these real-life experiences influenced your writing, particularly in the Cutter Kauai Sea Adventures series?

There are a few vignettes in the novels I took directly from my own experiences in the service, but the principal influences are the people with whom I served. Several of the main characters in the Kauai series are based on one or more of my friends and acquaintances from the Coast Guard. Frequently, I have imagined how a character’s real-life counterpart would have reacted when crafting their reaction to a situation in the story.

The Cutter Kauai Sea Adventures series delves into themes of international conflict, espionage, and high-stakes missions. What inspired you to explore these themes in your novels?

One of the biggest challenges in writing within the action/adventure genre is keeping things “fresh” for the readers who have invested in your series. Life in the Coast Guard is professionally satisfying and occasionally quite exciting. However, even in search and rescue, many of the details of individual cases are so similar that the readers may perceive them as a repeating story. Conceiving the series as one featuring a high-performing crew selected and equipped to deal with unusual missions not only avoids this trap but also opens up possibilities for unique challenges in new locations. 

The First Step and False Flag tackle complex political and moral dilemmas faced by military personnel. How do you approach balancing the action-packed nature of your books with the deeper ethical questions they raise?

In a sense, the action and possibility of disaster make the deeper ethical and moral dilemmas possible. At the very least, they raise the stakes for the protagonists to the degree that they face enormously consequential decisions. While negotiating a difficult operational challenge or taking a personal risk in combat is interesting, the story becomes far more compelling when the risks extend beyond the characters themselves. In The First Step, the Constellation’s captain must decide between leaving hundreds of sentient beings to a horrible death in a wrecked ship or crossing into hostile territory for the rescue, risking not only his crew but starting a war that could kill millions on both sides.

In Dagger Quest and Caribbean Counterstrike, your protagonists navigate perilous situations to prevent catastrophic events. How do you develop tension and suspense in your storytelling to keep readers engaged?

Like the search and rescue and law enforcement missions in the real world, the missions the fictional crew of Kauai face include an underlying level of danger plus a varying degree of uncertainty. My style is to bring the reader into the story, where they experience the lifecycle of the mission with the characters. The reader experiences the introductory briefing, then follows with the characters as they research and plan to maximize the chances of success while mitigating the risks. On the mission itself, they progress knowing that there is residual danger from both the planned elements and the unknown hazards lurking in the background. 

Your series often features Coast Guard personnel as protagonists. What draws you to explore the experiences and challenges faced by these individuals in your writing?

I joined when I was seventeen and came of age in the Coast Guard, which left me with a deep understanding of the technical and emotional aspects of life in the Service. Since the original story, I have invested many of the qualities of my Service friends and colleagues in the characters on Kauai. In a sense, they are my friends and I want to share that friendship with the readers. I had a comment from a reader of Dagger Quest, who said when the story ended she felt like she was leaving the crew and felt sad about that fact. It was the most satisfying feedback I have ever had.

As a retired mariner yourself, how do you ensure the nautical elements and technical details in your books are authentic and accurate while still keeping the narrative accessible to readers who may not have maritime experience?

Of course, I have twenty-five years of experience on active duty. Also, for several years after I retired, I worked for the Coast Guard as a civilian employee, developing operational simulation models. No experience provides more thorough technical knowledge of a system than building a computer model of it. On the other hand, there is a danger to making things too true to life: the technical terms and jargon that servicemembers use in everyday life would be very difficult for someone outside the service to follow. Readers could easily lose track of the story while trying to decipher what the characters are saying. The capabilities of the ships and aircraft and the nature of the operations are as technically correct as I can make them. However, I allow the characters and narration to speak using much more “plain language” than you would find on a Coast Guard cutter. I also put a short list of nautical terms at the beginning of each book to help uninitiated readers with any terms or jargon I had to leave in.

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