Not long after “I Pray Hardest When I’m Being Shot At” was released, I had a book signing in my hometown of Kent, Ohio. One of my friends bought a copy and then walked into a store up the street from where the signing was taking place. The man working behind the counter of the store saw my friend’s copy of “Pray” and told him he thought the title was great, and a short time later he bought a copy.
I’ve lived with the title of this book for so long that sometimes I forget how unique it is.
The title is insane on many levels. For one, I never believed it would actually end up as the title of the book. It’s a direct quote from my grandfather, said after my grandmother had said grace. While I told my grandfather that I was going to make it the title of the book about his life, I figured any publishing company who actually wanted to put the book out would make me change it. I guess I figured it wasn't literary enough.
To their credit, my publisher, Hellgate Press never even mentioned it. But, you have to figure any publisher willing to take a chance on a book about an unknown person written by an unknown author probably wouldn't be put off by a title, no matter how crazy.
I've gotten a lot of comments about the title, all of them positive. I've sold copies of the book based on the title alone. It might actually be my best marketing device.
It's also emblematic of the book itself. My grandfather was a man of faith, so having "pray" in the title had meaning. This wasn't a quote from a non-believer who only prayed when he needed help. This was from someone who valued prayer. And in his lifetime he was shot at -- a lot.
I would imagine, too that, my grandfather thought of my grandmother in these moments. During World War II they were still getting to know each other through the letters they would send back and forth across the Pacific. In Korea, my grandfather had a young daughter to think about, too. And in Vietnam he also had a young son. Knowing my grandfather, he probably said just as many prayers to keep them safe as he did to make it out of the situation alive.
I had someone tell me they liked the title because, initially, it made them laugh, but then when they really thought it about it, it wasn't so funny anymore. It is a funny phrase -- my entire family laughed after my grandfather said it. But then you realize that my grandfather wasn’t exaggerating. People tried to kill him and all he could do was pray that he survived. Even crazier, he found himself in that position more than once
The title is such a genuine reflection of who Papa was that I couldn't be happier it's emblazoned across the cover of the book. I think he would have gotten a kick out of that.
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