Write in Many Forms — I have written business documents, technical writing, creative writing (screenplays) and historical writing. Writing in many forms stretches one’s skill set and provides the ability to mix and match the different forms. For example, I have had success injecting creativity into my business writing to make the topic more interesting to the reader.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul R. Bruno.
Paul R. Bruno has spent twenty years researching, writing and studying early Jeep history. He has spent countless hours and treasure to tell this story to the world, first for the big screen and now twice in book form. After visiting key sites in the story, and years of research, including at the United States National Archives, he combined his knowledge of project management and history into the 2014 book, Project Management in History: The First Jeep. After additional research he completed The Original Jeeps in 2020 which further tells the story of early Jeep history and continues his journey into the depths of this important inspirational work of human ingenuity.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
My journey with early Jeep history began in 1999 when I heard the incredible story of how a small bankrupt car company called American Bantam in Butler, PA, built the first Jeep in 1940 in the impossible time frame of forty-nine days. After confirming this actually happened, I began to dig deeper into the story. The further I delved into it the more I realized how amazing the events that led to the creation of the first Jeep actually were. That foundation has led me on my twenty-year journey to study and write about early Jeep history.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
On my journey with early Jeep history the most interesting story arose on my mission in 2013 to dig into the National Archives. There I discovered the golden egg of Jeep history — “FTC versus Willys-Overland Motors, Inc.” — the landmark Federal Trade Commission case that took place between 1943 and 1948. I had heard about the case and requested to review it while visiting the Archives in College Park, MD. As I began to look through the exhibits it dawned on me that it contained an immense time-capsule, a treasure trove of early Jeep history documentation. This included the first sketch of a Jeep type vehicle and American Bantam’s historic successful bid proposal, plus a huge amount of other historically significant documents.
As I began to read the trial transcript, I realized the FTC had deposed all the major individuals in early Jeep history and that I had, from their own statements, exactly what happened vis-à-vis the creation of the first Jeeps. With this realization I knew I could write a comprehensive book on early Jeep history as told by the individuals who were there, including all the documentation to support their testimony.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?
The most difficult aspect to becoming an author revolved around finding enough historical documentation to tell the story of the first Jeeps in a comprehensive manner. I overcame this by sheer determination, continuing to research at the National Archives until I came across the FTC case. It was augmented by more research and reading all the books I could find on early Jeep history. It also involved innumerable Internet searches and reaching out to individuals in Butler, PA, to enlist their support. The key lesson to learn from my journey revolves around having a burning desire to tell the story along with the persistence to continue to move forward, even when one appears to have reached a dead end.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
While not necessarily funny, the biggest mistake I made was trying to tell the story of the Jeep in movie form. I didn’t realize the extreme difficulty of having a movie made. After ten years of fruitless effort to bring the story to the big screen, I decided to tell the story in book form, and within three years my first book on early Jeep history came out. Choosing the right vehicle to tell your story encapsulates the lesson learned from that experience.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am beginning the preliminary work on what will become the third and final book in my early Jeep history trilogy. It will focus on the events from May 1941 — November 1941, taking the story right up to America’s entry into World War II.
Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
The most interesting story from the book occurred on July 21, 1940. The American Bantam officials met late that night to review their forms and drawings. The bid meeting with United States Army officials loomed the next morning at 10 a.m. They had calculated that their design called for a vehicle weight of over 1,800 pounds, although the Army requested a weight of no more than 1,300 pounds.
Over twenty years later, one of the participants recounted that he warned his colleagues that exceeding the weight limit would result in immediate rejection. In scenes resembling a caper movie, at 3:30 a.m. the Bantam officials somehow located and awoke a stenographer, overcame her suspicions about being surrounded by a bunch of men, sat her down in their hotel room, and had the forms retyped. They completed the work just before having to leave for the meeting. The final entry? To meet the 1,300 pound limit, they put in an arbitrary “1,273 pounds” for the weight. Seventy-three years later I held that document in my hands and saw that the weight box on the form reads “1,273 pounds”!
What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?
The value of having a burning desire to tell the story coupled with the dogged persistence to finish the work.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.
1) Love Your Story — I fell in love with early Jeep history from the first time I heard about Bantam’s story, and that love affair continues to this day.
2) Love of writing — I have loved writing since I penned my first play in 3rd grade, based upon Astronauts landing on the moon. If one doesn’t love to write, then it is unlikely one will become a great author.
3) Persistence / Dedication — as related above I needed persistence to find the documentation to tell the early Jeep history story and then the dedication to go through the challenges of writing the book and having it published.
4) All writing is rewriting — someone once said the first draft of anything is bad. Be prepared to write and then rewrite your work.
5) Write in Many Forms — I have written business documents, technical writing, creative writing (screenplays) and historical writing. Writing in many forms stretches one’s skill set and provides the ability to mix and match the different forms. For example, I have had success injecting creativity into my business writing to make the topic more interesting to the reader.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?
As mentioned, perseverance. Archival research takes extraordinary perseverance to sift through all the dead ends to find the gold nugget documentation. Then it takes persistence to turn that research in to a well-crafted story.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
The one piece of literature I draw the greatest inspiration from is the Bible. It is a remarkable book filled with every essence of human nature and experience. I read the Bible daily and never cease to find new and amazing insights from the thousands of stories in that book.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would create the “It’s not about you” movement focusing on the first line of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. This movement would work to teach individuals of all ages that a truly well lived life does not revolve around oneself, but about what one can do for others, no matter how small. Teaching people to focus less on themselves and more on others I believe would bring a great deal of good to a large amount of people.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Original Jeeps Facebook Page: (3) The Original Jeeps | Facebook
LinkedIn: Paul Bruno, PgMP, PMP | LinkedIn
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!