1) You have a very interesting professional background. Do you think
your past dealings with natural disaster response helped you look at your
story from a different perspective than the other victims of the fire?
Yes. As the fire progressed, I was able to imagine what was happening
in the emergency operations center and in the field. I was also able to
understand that the magnitude of the fire probably meant that keeping
people out of harm’s way was the most important job in the first two
days. That was a mixed blessing. It was comforting to know that many
lives were probably being saved. But it wasn’t comforting to know that
property damage and the loss of the forest couldn’t be stopped.
2) Why did you feel this was a story that needed to be told?
Because I tried to find a book that would help me understand what was
happening to my family and I me in the weeks and months after the fire.
When I couldn’t find a book that would help me sort out my feelings, I
realized that book needed to be written.
3) What steps did you take to prepare for writing this memoir?
I created an outline of the events I wanted to highlight and the people
outside of our family whose stories also needed to be told. Talking about
my experiences in therapy helped clarify what aspects of my story I felt
needed to be told.
4) What resources or tools did you find useful in writing this book?
“Writing Tools” by Roy Peter Clark was a very useful book. I also had a
few informal editorial advisors who provided very valuable feedback at
5) Recalling memories is so important for writing memoirs. Did you do
anything special to help recall the events, and their sequence?
I consulted e-mails I had sent, e-mails I received, notes I made on my
smartphone, and my post-fire calendar.
6) Had you ever considered writing before the events of this book
I had never considered writing a book. However, I do quite a bit of
writing in my professional life.
7) Did you find that recalling the details of the events painful,
therapeutic, or both?
They were both. Some of the more emotional events were difficult to re-
live through my writing. But, in general, writing the book helped me
understand and appreciate the positive things that have happened since
8) Why do you think memoirs are important to our culture?
A well-written and well-conceived memoir gives readers the opportunity
to closely identify with, and learn from, the experiences of someone from
whom they can learn or better understand their own experiences. In the
case of a memoir that deals with a difficult experience that many people
have, it is a way to give voice to those experiences and feelings, to
validate them, and give them a certain universality.
9) What was your biggest obstacle to writing this book?
The blank computer screen. It’s hard to type those initial words every
day. I find revision very enjoyable, and the best part of the process. But
the initial writing is tough, tough, tough.
10) What did you learn, about writing and publishing, from this
That writing in itself is a good thing to do, regardless of what happens
down the line.
11) Can we expect more writing from Randy Fritz in the future?
We’ll see. I’m interested in the answer to that question myself.
12) Tell us about your upcoming appearance at the Texas Book Festival
in Austin, TX next month.
I am a long-time Book Festival attendee. So it is very exciting, and a
little humbling, to be a participant this year. I can’t wait to share my
book with some of the super-passionate readers that come to the
Randy Fritz is the former chief operating officer of the Texas Department of State Health Services, the state’s public and mental health agency. He helped coordinate the state’s response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and led the team that implemented the Children’s Health Insurance Program in Texas. Fritz lives in Bastrop, Texas, with his wife, Holly, and their youngest daughter, Miranda.