THE IDEA

“An Angel From Hell” almost never was had it not been for some interesting events and people in Conklin’s life. Originally, he never had any intention or ambition to write a book and planned on leaving his Iraq chapter of his life behind him.


A copy of an original email Conklin sent to his family from Iraq, dated December 31, 2005. His emails became the journal in which he based his book off of.
While deployed, Conklin’s main form of communication was through email, and those were mostly generated to his parents, roughly twice a week. In these, he summarized his week with his new experiences, day-to-day life, watered down accounts of events, and requests for needed materials. Conklin spared many details when it came down to graphic events or IED accounts because he didn’t feel his parents needed to know everything.

When Conklin returned from Iraq in September 2006, he remained at Fort Campbell, Kentucky just long enough to out-process and separate from the Army. He quickly returned to his family and home town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Very early into his return, his parents presented him with a stack of papers that they had printed over the course of his year deployed. They were all of his email correspondence to them. His mother made a statement tickling the idea to write about his experiences and use his own emails as if it was his own journal.

At first, Conklin loved the idea but took the stack of emails and placed them on his dresser. There, they collected dust. Conklin’s interests were more focused on making up for lost time than to dwell on events he was trying to put past him. For a recently returned veteran who turned twenty-one while deployed, there were plenty of things Conklin got involved in that kept him far away from the stack of emails.

After the ecstasy of being home faded with the passing of a few months, Conklin started to feel a void and battled obstacles in adjusting. Driving was never the same. Garbage on the side of the road always sped up his heart rate. The relationships with friends back home didn’t have that sense of connection to the likes of what he had with the buddies he served with. For a small town like Gettysburg, Conklin never met anyone else that was a veteran of Iraq or Afghanistan.



THE WRITING

After being home roughly six months, that stack of emails near his bedside finally came into view. Conklin plucked through them and began to read them. He found it funny to reminisce but he felt they weren’t detailed enough. After some brainstorming and rationalization that preserving what he did could help his future children in understanding the war if there was ever a circumstance that prevented him from sharing his stories, he knew what he needed to do. He began to write, using his emails as his source.


Most adults in their early twenties didn't spend their free time like Ryan A. Conklin did. Bent over a computer, writing.
The memories were still very fresh. A year had not even passed after returning home and Conklin was finally writing his experiences down in precise detail. The emails made it easy to gage accurate dates on events, and his emails were usually pretty lengthy. Mixed with that and the memories still fresh, it became very easy to write about what transpired.

During the course of his writing, something else happened that Conklin did not see coming after taking on this project. It became therapeutic. It seemed that the more he wrote, the less he was bothered with buried emotion.

“Get it out of your head, out of your heart, and put it on paper. Then, you have something tangible that you can physically push away. Also, this then acts as preserving your story for someone else in the future to benefit and learn from what you did. It’s a failsafe system and I encourage veterans of all ages to do the same.”



THE PUBLISHING

In between classes, at work, and at home, Conklin was writing here and there, slowly working his way through the stack of emails. After over a year of writing in his spare time, Conklin finally had a finished story from start to finish, saved on his hard drive. That’s as far as he thought he would get.

With the circumstances of Conklin’s unexpected journeys in life, he eventually found himself living in New York City filming a television show. With a bigger city so too comes bigger opportunities. He began getting involved with veteran organizations and events catering to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Over time, Conklin met with several veterans who returned and wrote about their experiences and succeeded with publishing their work. Conklin learned from them and pushed by a few believers and an amazing agent. Before long, his manuscript turned into a book.

Conklin’s celebration of his book was cut short when he was hit by the news of the Army ordering him back to service, and back to Iraq. Luckily, his agent and publishing company rolled with the punches and worked out all the details, conversations, and paperwork through email correspondence. Conklin returned to the job of an infantryman in Iraq throughout 2009, but between patrols he went through three different revisions of the book until it was officially completed.

It’s a funny twist of events on how the book was written about Iraq, and literally finished in Iraq.



BEHIND THE AUDIO VERSION


Months before the release date of the book, there was to be a book on tape made. Initially, it was to be recorded by a professional reader that was not the author. Through a few short emails between Conklin and the recording company, he was able to be named and granted permission to record his words with his voice.

This was very important to Conklin to be able to read his words in his own voice. “I just couldn’t imagine listening to my story, my words, read by an unfamiliar voice. It would be likewise hard for those who know me to hear my perspective read by someone else. I just had to do it.”

In March of 2010, Conklin spent a week in Connecticut at the Tantor Media office, shacked up in an audio booth, sifting through his words of his book.

“It was a very unique experience and I went in not knowing what to expect,” Conklin went on to explain. “You learn a lot about your own writing skill and oratory skills when you sit down and read each word, slowly and articulately. Each sentence had to have the perfect inflection.”

“After the first day, my throat was on fire and I had no idea how I was going to survive the week with a voice. But each day I came with a fresh voice and gradually through the week my endurance built up. I also learned that my voice is a little lower after I first wake up, so I learned to wake up and sing in my car on my drive to the studio.”

“Overall, I’m extremely pleased with how it all went. I’m stoked that the audio version is now my words read by my voice. My emotion and personality really comes with it. Give it a listen.”