A Moment With Willie Tee
I first met Willie Tee and his wife Ruth last year at the Sixth Annual Black Writers Conference & Southern Film Festival in Memphis, TN. I found Tee to be soft spoken, polite and reserved. Tee was promoting his book, “The Winds of Destiny.” Had I known then, what I know now, this interview would have been published months ago. I had access to Willie Tee last year and blew it! I didn’t realize the quiet wisdom that was sitting across from me. Better late than never.
Willie Tee is a retired Army NCO, who served tours in three foreign countries and spent most of his army career at Fort Bragg, N.C. Tee loved to read as a small child and the knowledge that he found in books fascinated him. Tee wanted to be a writer when he was in junior high school. “I was a staff writer for the school’s newspaper. I wrote small articles for the newspaper. I received lots of positive feedback from other students about my articles. I then decided that I would write a book someday.”
Tee gave copies of the essay to fellow students for review and later copyrighted the essay. About three years later, a publishing company found his copyright material and suggested that he write a book based on the essay. The essay was originally titled, “The Death of a Trucker."
Tee’s book is a spin off from an essay that he wrote in college, which involved the death of his youngest uncle, Leon, in a trucking accident during 1997. Already in its 2nd edition, book sales are steadily increasing and more chain bookstores are adding the book to their inventories. Tee says that a campaign is being launched to introduce the book to thousands of independent bookstores that might not be aware of the book’s existence.
One of the reasons that the book is selling is because of Tee’s willingness to live out of a suitcase and eat bad food while traveling and marketing the book. Another reason that the book is selling is because it's getting great reviews. Tee is pleased and thankful for the inspiration that others and the God gave him to complete this novel. “I feel better now mentally and physically, because a dark chapter of my life has been documented accurately. Writing this book lifted the burdens that I inherited from the tragedy.” Tee wants people to read the book without judging the actions of the characters. According to Tee, “We are in a position to judge only ourselves and not others.”
One of the more attractive aspects of this book is Tee’s writing style. Tee equates his writing style to that of artists who paint pictures to capture the true essence of life or things on canvas. He’s a very descriptive writer who works hard to present an accurate portrayal of his characters. “I bring the characters and the scenery surrounding them to life. I transport the readers, by stimulating their imaginations and thoughts, to the times and places depicted in the book. They rub elbows with the characters in a literary sense. I give readers hints of dramatic scenes or incidents that will occur in the book in the chapters to follow. I use cliffhanger methods in my writing also. This keeps readers interested.”
With this being such a personal story, I asked Tee if this has had an affect on his family. “My book depicts a tragedy that occurred during 1957 at my grandparent’s small farm in North Carolina and was kept as a secret from the toddlers of the family until they became teenagers. Despite it being kept a secret, it did little to soften the repercussions that my family suffered mentally and physically from 1957 to the present time. After the tragedy of 1957, a tide of violent death, injury, and despair menaced my family. The tragedy of 1957 was a gun-related incident and the circumstances surrounding the tragedy are mind-boggling and mysterious. My book portrays all of the elements that caused the tragedy and the aftermath.”
I told my Uncle Leon prior to his fatal trucking accident that I was writing excerpts for a book. Uncle Leon told me to make the book interesting. Ironically, it was his tragic death that inspired me to write the essay, which would be the basis for “The Winds of Destiny”. This book is in many ways a tribute to Uncle Leon and other members of my family who have entered into eternity. Ultimately, I received inspiration from our Heavenly Father, who guided my hand during the completion of this book. Great things happen when he is included in your pursuits.
So what does Willie Tee want readers to take away from his book? Tee explained that he hopes that readers will learn from the mistakes that several of his relatives committed during their lives. “The book addresses bringing guns into family disputes regardless of intent, because tragedies sometime occur with guns that were considered unloaded. Importantly, I want people to consider forgiveness despite what might happen during their life times, because forgiveness is necessary for the lifting our burdens. People bring about their own destruction if they cannot practice forgiveness.”
On the personal side, Tee says he likes to read both fiction and nonfiction stories that send messages about life, especially the stories about triumphing over the adversities of life. I want to continue writing novels or books that capture the interest of the readers. I feel that “The Winds of Destiny” is a strong base to launch sequels from.
When it’s all said and done, Willie Tee wants his writing to remain enjoyable. At this stage of his life, Tee wants to go on speaking tours and talk about gun violence, spouse abuse, inner family violence, the problems with inner family secrets, healing one’s self after tragedies and the importance of religion in lifting burdens and showing forgiveness.
Tee believes that people of all cultures are reading “The Winds of Destiny” because it opens doors to problems that we as a culture had during the past, but kept them as secrets. According to Tee, those secrets destroyed some of us mentally and physically. “We need to practice openness and open the doors to problems within our culture that are miring us down. We were schooled on how to tolerate violence within our communities. However, the goals of our people are greater than those of a few (ill-mannered people). Let’s make it known that they are representing their own misguided goals and not those of a people.”
Willie Tee epitomizes much of what this web site is about -- an ordinary man doing extraordinary things with his life. Through his book, Willie Tee is inspiring and teaching valuable life lessons. If you ever have the opportunity to meet Willie Tee or attend one of his book signings, seize that opportunity.
Each one, teach one. Thanks Willie!
Click here to read The RAWSISTAZ Book Club review of "The Winds Of Destiny."