Air Date: May 25, 2014
Homer Hickam has written nineteen books including the acclaimed #1 New York Times memoir Rocket Boys which was made into the film October Sky. Rocket Boys is studied in hundreds of schools and is popular around the world. It is also being developed as a Broadway musical with Mr. Hickam as co-writer. When asked what it takes to write a successful memoir, Mr. Hickam replies, “It helps to have an interesting life.”
Mr. Hickam was raised in Coalwood, West Virginia, the second son of the mine superintendent, Homer Hickam, Sr., and his wife Elsie. His father loved Coalwood and its mine, his mother hated both. “Sonny,” as he was known then, was caught in the middle. Then he began to build rockets and live the story he would so famously tell.
After graduating from Virginia Tech, Mr. Hickam served in the 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam. Afterwards, he was an engineer for the Army Missile Command in Huntsville. He also became a scuba instructor and was awarded Alabama’s highest award for heroism for his underwater rescue work. With NASA in Huntsville, he trained astronauts and designed spacecraft. He wrote about that in a memoir titled Paco: The Cat Who Meowed in Space. He is also an amateur paleontologist who discovered two Tyrannosaurus rexes. He wrote about that, fictionally, in a novel titled The Dinosaur Hunter.
Mr. Hickam’s first book was Torpedo Junction, the true story of the battle against the U-boats along America’s coasts during World War II. Then came Rocket Boys , a National Book Critics Circle Award nominee among many other honors. Other books followed including the memoir sequels The Coalwood Way and Sky of Stone plus his popular Josh Thurlow novels—The Keeper’s Son, The Ambassador’s Son, and The Far Reaches— and his latest, the Helium-3 series titled Crater, Crescent, and, most recently, Crater Trueblood and the Lunar Rescue Company. More than anything, Mr. Hickam says he loves to write and hopes that is how he will be remembered—a writer who knew how to tell a good story.