Friday, November 5, 2010

Interview with Author Gary Toyn

A little over a month ago I had the pleasure of attending a huge book signing event. I shared a table with author Gary Toyn. People flocked to buy his latest book that he co-authored with Michael Winder. I asked Gary if he would like to do an interview for my blog, and I'm happy to say he said yes.


Have you always wanted to be a writer?

It’s rather ironic that I’m an author. Frankly, I didn’t enjoy reading much until after I was married. I spent much of my early life out of high school as a singer in a rock band, traveling around the world entertaining military people with the U.S.O. I traveled to nearly 50 countries, and hoped for career in music. After a helicopter crash in Honduras, my wife insisted I get a degree and get a real job. My wife has always been an avid reader, and she shared with me her passion for reading. I became a sports writer, and was a “stringer” for UPI and ABC Radio covering the Utah Jazz and the NBA. I was able to interview all the well known players of the day, like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Learning to interview became a valuable skill, and I applied it to being a video producer. I worked as a video producer, and was contracted to produce video profiles of famous people, which ultimately led to my first book.

Tell us a little bit about your new book.

“Life Lessons from Fathers of Faith” features short stories written by Latter-day Saint sons and daughters' about their famous and not-so-famous fathers from all walks of life. These stories describe the unforgettable moments and gifts father’s can give, and how it's often the little things that make the biggest difference in a child's life. It contains more than one hundred inspiring tributes, including stories from or about Thomas S. Monson, Henry B. Eyring, Dieter F. Uchdorf, The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Gordon B. Hinckley. It also features stories by or about Mitt Romney, Stephen R. Covey, Greg Olsen, Jane Clayson Johnson, LaVell Edwards, Larry H. Miller, Bronco Mendenhall, Janice Kapp Perry, and Academy Award-winning filmmakers Kieth Merrill (Mr. Krueger's Christmas), Jerry Molen (Schindler’s List), and Phil Tuckett (NFL Films). Other names include Robert Dotson, (CEO-T-Mobile USA) J. Willard Marriott, (CEO-Marriott Corp.); Alan Stock (CEO- Cinemark Theatres), Nolan Archibald, (CEO-Black & Decker) and dozens more touching true stories. However, the more I hear from people who have read the book, the more I hear that they are equally impressed with the stories about the “not-so-famous fathers.” These stories are powerfully inspiring, and some are incredibly amazing, but all seem to testify of the power of the priesthood, and of the eternal impact of good fathering.

Tell us about your other books.

I own American Legacy Media, a publishing company specializing in biographies and other non-fiction historical titles, dealing mostly with World War II. I’ve ghost written and edited several titles relating to WWII. My first book with my name on it was titled “The Quiet Hero: The Untold Medal of Honor Story of George E. Wahlen at the Battle for Iwo Jima.” I was fortunate to have Sen. Bob Dole and Sen. Orrin Hatch contribute to that work, and I received endorsements and reviews from many other notables. This book tells the story of a World War II hero who earned this country’s highest honor for valor, the “Medal of Honor,” at the Battle for Iwo Jima. He spent 60 years trying to forget about his medal and his celebrity status. Wahlen didn’t even tell his wife about the Medal of Honor, as she only learned of his fame after she opened an invitation for them to attend the inauguration of President Eisenhower, (all Medal of Honor recipients receive a complimentary invitation to every presidential inauguration). After meeting Mr. Wahlen when I was asked to produce a video documentary about his life, I was later asked to write his book about his amazing story.

What inspires you and motivates you to write the very most? 

I’m intrigued by extraordinary people. Not so much with famous people, (although some famous people are extraordinary), but I’m more interested in getting to know people who accomplish extraordinary things. I’ve met and interviewed many amazing people, and find that good people are everywhere, in most every culture, educational level and socio-economic status. Having interviewed heads of state, political dissidents, and CEOs, I’ve discovered a common thread among these extraordinary people appears is their remarkable strength of personal character, combined with a level of sincere humility that allows them to see the source of their good fortune.

Is there an established writer you admire and emulate in your writing? Do you have a writing mentor? 

I am inwardly quite jealous of fiction writers. I’m not capable of writing a good fiction story, so I am relegated to having to regurgitate the just facts and only the facts. As non-fiction writers go, David McCullough is probably the most skilled story-teller we have today. I also enjoy reading James Bradley, and the late Stephen Ambrose.

Location and life experience can sprinkle their influence in your writing. Tell us about where you grew up and a little about where you live now - city? Suburb? Country? Farm? If you could live anywhere you want to live, where would that be? 

I grew up in Huntsville, Utah. A rural community known for being the boyhood home of President David O. McKay. I learned to hate milking cows and feeding chickens, so much so that I vowed never to do it after I moved away. However, I was most fortunate to have grown up in a rural setting. I was able to learn from good, honest, hard-working people who had a profound impact on my upbringing. I learned from great youth leaders who sacrificed greatly to teach me many important life lessons, people like Ray Tidwell, Norm Montgomery and Lew Burhley,who are people you probably don’t know. But I also was fortunate to have been influenced by Elder Marlin K. Jensen, who was a my Priest Quorum Advisor, Bishop and Stake President.

Bring us into your home and set the scene for us when you are writing. What does it look like? On the couch, laptop, desk? Music? Lighting, handwriting? 

I do my best writing at 4 a.m. I normally don’t sleep well, so rather than lay in bed and lament that I’m not asleep, I get up and write for an hour or two, when all is quiet and I have no distractions. I’ve always been a “MAC” guy, ever since the days of the early Macintosh computers when the screens were black and white and 6 inches wide. I now use an I-Mac with a 27 inch screen... I call it “Moni-TOR” and it helps me with my aging eyesight. My office is lined with books. In addition to my section of signed and unsigned books I’ve published and sell online at, I have my church history section that contains all the writings of the prophets, the history of the church, and other related titles. I also have my World War II section, consisting of all the historical titles I’ve collected over the years and have used for research purposes.

Do you watch television or movies? If so, what are your favorites? Do they inspire your writing? 

I watch very little TV. I find it boring and mostly a waste of time. When I do watch TV, I tend to watch the Food Network because I’m a hopeless foody. I love to cook and experiment with various recipes. My wife and I enjoy discovering new restaurants, especially ethnic, and out-of-the way places. I’m also not very interested in watching movies, but one movie actually inspired me to write my first book. I remember taking my son to watch “Saving Private Ryan.” After the movie I sat and bawled unabashedly because it moved me at such a visceral level. As my father was a World War II veteran, I had developed a growing interest in learning more about combat experiences. I then began to read books about that war, and in particular, memoirs from WWII veterans. Not long thereafter, I was approached to publish my first book called “God Isn’t Here: A Young Man’s Entry in WWII and his Participation in the Battle for Iwo Jima.” It is now in its third printing, and was recently translated and published in Japan.

How has being published changed your life? 

I don’t think being a published author has changed my life much at all. I still cook dinner every night, mow the lawn, take out the garbage, and do everything else I’ve done before my book was released. I once thought that being on TV or radio would have some type of impact my life, and also on books sales. The fact of the matter is, very few people have actually seen me on TV, and even fewer ever comment about it. Although books sales are going well, selling books remains hard work, and requires patience and diligence. Gladly, I’m still a nobody, and every talent and success that I have ever enjoyed is a gift from a loving Heavenly Father, and He deserves all the credit.

Do you have any book signings, tours or special events planned to promote your book that readers might be interested in attending? If so, when and where? Also tell about your blog and website.

My publisher, Covenant Communications, has me quite busy for the next few months during the Christmas season. Consequently, I have numerous book signings, along with my co-author Mike Winder. To see the latest, go to our website We’re also on Twitter at


  1. Fabulous interview. My oldest boy is fascinated with war stories, so I'll be checking out his books for sure!

  2. Tracy,
    I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. Gary's story is very inspiring. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Great interview, Kathi! I enjoyed learning about Gary's writing process. At 4 a.m. I'm dead to the world, but it's nice to imagine a writer hard at work during the stillness of the early morning hours. Happy writing!

  4. Stacy,
    I know what you mean. 4:00 in the morning is too early for me, too. Thanks for stopping by.



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