Rob Neto – Diving into Depth

Unveiling the Odyssey from Military Service to Literary Mastery

Rob Neto’s odyssey from military service to literary mastery, cave exploration, and fiction writing is a testament to resilience and passion.

Rob Neto’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of passion, resilience, and continuous pursuit of diverse interests. Born to immigrant parents in Piscataway, NJ, Rob’s early years were shaped by the vibrant blend of Portuguese heritage and American culture. From his formative years in the high school drama club and marching band to his eventual enlistment in the US Army, Rob’s path was marked by a quest for structure and purpose.

His military service, though not a lifelong career, instilled in him a sense of discipline and direction. Despite facing challenges and injuries during Operation Desert Storm, Rob emerged with an honorable discharge, setting the stage for his remarkable journey ahead.

Driven by a thirst for knowledge and diverse experiences, Rob embarked on a remarkable educational journey, earning degrees in Business Administration, Nursing, and Literature. His teaching tenure at community colleges in Arizona not only honed his academic prowess but also laid the foundation for his foray into the literary world.

Rob’s exploration of caves around the globe stands as a testament to his adventurous spirit and thirst for discovery. From the intricate passages of Cueva Quebrada in Cozumel, Mexico, to the uncharted depths of underwater cave systems, Rob’s contributions to cave mapping have been both extensive and ground breaking.

But it was his passion for scuba diving and cave exploration that ultimately fueled his transition from instructor to author. Recognizing a need for comprehensive guidance in sidemount diving, Rob channeled his expertise into writing, culminating in the acclaimed Sidemount Diving: The Almost Comprehensive Guide.

Yet, it is perhaps in the realm of fiction where Rob’s creativity truly shines. Inspired by real-life events and his own experiences, his debut novel “Beyond the Grate” seamlessly blends reality with suspenseful storytelling. Set against the backdrop of scuba diving and cave exploration, the novel captivates readers with its gripping narrative and vivid underwater scenes. As Rob continues to push the boundaries of exploration and storytelling, his journey serves as an inspiring reminder of the boundless possibilities that await those who dare to follow their passions. In this exclusive interview with Reader’s House Magazine, Rob shares insights into his remarkable experiences and the inspirations that fuel his creative pursuits.

Can you share some memorable experiences from your time serving in
the US Army, particularly during Operation Desert Storm?

I enlisted in the army on the advice of a high school teacher, Mr. Kane. I was visiting former teachers a couple of years after high school and he spotted me. He called out to me and we spent his break talking. I had difficulty deciding what direction I wanted my life to go after three attempts in two degree programs. Mr. Kane suggested I enlist so I could get some structure and discipline in my life. He had served in Vietnam as a Green Beret. I promptly enlisted and never regretted it. I enjoyed my time in the army, but I knew it wasn’t going to be a career. It inspired me to set myself straight and find a subject I liked and earn a degree. I found several. Desert Storm consisted of long hours and no days off with no time to do much of anything outside my duties. I may write a book about my experiences someday. I received an honourable medical discharge for injuries sustained during my service.

What inspired you to pursue multiple degrees in such diverse fields like Business Administration, Nursing, and Literature?

I pursued a business degree because it offered several career options beyond my military service. It was also one of very few programs available where I was stationed. When I was discharged, I worked as a firefighter/EMT. This led to working in an ER. I liked the schedule nurses had – three 12-hour shifts per week – because it allowed me to earn enough money to support myself while having extended days off to enjoy other activities.
Before enrolling in the nursing program, I had already been teaching a remedial English class. I enjoyed it so much that I pursued a Master’s in Literature so I could teach more English classes. This was the beginning of my writing career.

How did your background in teaching English Composition and Literature influence your writing, both fiction and non-fiction?

I graded many papers in the 10+ years I taught English. This experience helps me with my editing process. I grade my books. Exposure to a variety of authors and writing styles while pursuing my degree and when preparing for the classes I taught along with guiding my students along their own paths of discovery of writing and finding their own interpretations of their readings also helps me with my writing process.

Could you tell us more about your experiences exploring caves around the world, especially your significant contributions to the mapping of the Cueva Quebrada cave system in Cozumel, Mexico?

I began cave diving because of the intrigue and beauty of these amazing places. I never thought I would become an underwater cave explorer. Most of the caves were explored in the 80s and maps were already produced, Cueva Quebrada included. What I didn’t realize is after some time, the original explorers moved on. My approach to cave exploration is different. While most enter the caves and look for potential areas to explore, I study the maps that exist and that I create and look for areas that appear to have potential for more cave passages. This approach has paid off, especially in Cozumel where the caves are so complex. I’ve found more than 55,000 feet of unexplored passage in Cueva Quebrada so far, including connecting two sections of the cave to each other. I’ve also found more than 5,500 feet of unexplored passage in Cueva Aerolito, another cave in Cozumel and the location of my next book, Beyond Hope.

What motivated you to transition from teaching side-mount diving to writing a comprehensive guide on the subject?

There was a need for an instructional book for side-mount diving. There  were two sidemount diving books – one a training manual that provided very little information and another described what sidemount diving was but didn’t expand on that. So I gathered my articles and expanded them into a book full of photographs that would assist instructors, students, and divers in developing their sidemount diving skills.

Your novel Beyond the Grate seems to draw inspiration from real-life events. Can you discuss your creative process in blending reality with fiction, especially in the context of scuba diving and cave exploration?

Beyond the Grate was inspired by true events surrounding the disappearance of a diver last seen at a Florida spring. I was tasked with locating and recovering his body. We never found it. I went to the back of the cave where it’s too small to continue and checked the offshoot tunnels. I’m convinced his body wasn’t in the cave. I’m not convinced that he didn’t die there. That’s how the story was born. I tried to make the story as believable as possible because I feel thriller readers appreciate that, especially with stories inspired by true events. Scuba diving was a part of the actual event, and I was able to write the underwater scenes in the book using my own experiences in underwater caves to add reality to it. I’ve been told by divers and non-divers that they felt like they were in the water with Joey during those scenes. My readers have held their breath and even had to put the book aside to regroup before continuing. I credit my experience diving to being able to write such gripping scenes that pull the readers into the water with the characters.

Dive Deep into Sidemount Techniques: Explore the Almost Comprehensive Guide, Now in its 2nd Edition!

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