Tougias is the author of several "survival'' stories, and just a few months ago his book The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard's Most Daring Sea Rescue hit the big screen as a Disney motion picture, The Finest Hours, starring Casey Affleck and Chris Pine. Now, Tougias, 61, is busy promoting So Close to Home, a nonfiction narrative based on the story of Sonny Downs and his family. In 1942, the Downs family was on a ship heading from Colombia to New Orleans when they were thrown into the Gulf of Mexico by torpedoes from a German submarine. Tougias weaved the narrative together after conversations with Downs, now in his 80s. Information obtained from the National Archives and Records, including a war diary written by the commander of the German submarine, was also pivotal in Tougias' writing. "I thought it would be a story of good versus evil, but what happens is when you read the diary, you see that person's view, and (the German) was a fellow human being just trying to do his job. He was not a Nazi but someone trying to serve his country,'' Tougias said. "The chapters alternate with the family and with the commander."
What's on your nightstand?
I read two books at a time. I try to have one fiction and one nonfiction. Right now, the fiction is John Sandford's Gathering Prey, and the nonfiction is A Higher Call by Adam Makos. Like Close to Home, it follows a German soldier, a pilot who actually spares the lives of the Americans he shot down.
How much does reading other authors help guide you, now that you're a seasoned writer?
It's funny. I always have read for pleasure. Reading has always been a habit, especially before bed. I recently found book review cards I kept when I was a boy, and I thought about how I really was reading books that were stories that are like those I write now.
Contact Piper Castillo at email@example.com. Follow @Florida_PBJC.