Author James Bradley didn't sugarcoat the labor that led to his success when speaking to area high school students last week.

Author James Bradley didn't sugarcoat the labor that led to his success when speaking to area high school students last week.

"Don't tell me you gotta be somebody special to write a book," he said. "You gotta do the work."

The author spoke Nov. 18 at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts. His audience consisted of students and faculty from New Albany High School, Columbus Academy, Centennial High School, Heath High School, Johnstown-Monroe High School and Licking Heights High School.

Bradley said he made 7,000 phone calls and wrote 7,000 pages of manuscript in seven years for his first book, "Flags of Our Fathers."

He said he goes into his office at 6 a.m. and doesn't stop working until 2 p.m. every day.

"It takes a tremendous amount of work," he said.

He offered an example about writing a recent opinion piece for FOX News. He spent six days working on it, he said, and it wasn't until the fourth day that he finally was able to understand what he needed to write. Similarly, for a radio interview with media personality Don Imus, he spent six-and-a-half hours rehearsing what he wanted to say.

The idea for "Flags of Our Fathers" came after Bradley's father died. John Bradley, a Navy corpsman, helped five Marines raise the American flag on Iwo Jima in February of 1945, an iconic scene captured in a famous photograph by Joe Rosenthal. It has become the most reproduced photograph of all time, Bradley said.

Of the six men who raised the flag, three died on Iwo Jima. Bradley said the survivors may have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, which wasn't identified at the time. He said his father spent the first four years of his marriage crying himself to sleep and never talked to his wife or children about the raising the flag.

"What my mom knows about that day, she learned from reading my book," Bradley said.

Because he had never written anything before, not even a magazine article, 50 agents rejected him before he could even find one who was willing to work with him, Bradley said. He then spent two years of his life trying to sell the book to a publishing company. His family, he said, thought he was crazy and was ready to start an intervention.

Even after writing "Flags of Our Fathers," a New York Times best-selling book the second week it was out, he said he could not sell the idea for his second book "Flyboys: A True Story of Courage." Bradley said the "Flags of Our Fathers" publisher told his agent that he was a "one-hit wonder."

Bradley also encouraged the students to stop scanning headlines on the Internet and told them to read books.

"Turn off the TV and read," he said. "You'll be a lot happier when you're 60 and you're going to be 60."

Bradley answered several questions from the students after he finished speaking.

When asked how he faced so much rejection, Bradley said he learned in college when he was working in sales that each "no" gets you one step closer to a sale or to a "yes."

"I'm not sure how you hold on to your dream," he said. "You just don't listen to the negative. You gotta figure out what you want to do and do it. The only way you're going to fail is if you stop."

He was asked what the key to happiness and success is, and Bradley responded that people were meant to be productive. He said the key to finding happiness for him was finding what he wanted to do at age 44 - writing - and continuing to do that.

Another student asked if he found closure over his father's death after learning more about the battle of Iwo Jima.

"Yes," he responded. "I understand why my father couldn't talk. He was involved in a massacre."

He said the battle of Iwo Jima claimed nearly 7,000 American lives and more than one quarter of the Medals of Honor awarded to Marines in World War II were given for heroism at Iwo Jima.

Bradley was asked if he felt the need to serve in the military after spending so much time interviewing heroes and veterans and his response was "no."

When asked if he had a bad feeling about his father's situation, Bradley told the students that his father's best friend was tortured and killed, and his father found him. He said he hopes there will be fewer veterans in the future and he wishes his father wouldn't have had to go through what he did.

Bradley also was asked what he does in his spare time and what he would do if he couldn't be an author. He said he plays with his kids, surfs, swims and scuba dives. As for what he would do if he wasn't writing, he said, "I don't think about it."

Several students responded positively to Bradley's presentation.

New Albany High School senior Elizabeth Thompson said the talk "makes you want to do more than you really have thought about."

New Albany senior Samantha Levy had a similar reaction.

"It shows success doesn't fall into your lap," Levy said.

New Albany senior Sam Romanoff said he is going to start reading more and he sees rejection in a different light.

"It's interesting how most speakers tell you the key to success is to work hard," Romanoff said. "The difference between him and them is how he focused on rejection being a good thing. He sees rejection as more of a good thing in the line to success."

Approximately 700 students attended Bradley's lecture, said New Albany High School principal Ric Stranges.

Bradley's visit to the McCoy center was part of the New Albany Community Foundation's "inspiring lectures" series, which is now being shared with neighboring school districts, Stranges said. The visit also was sponsored by UBS Financial Service and American Electric Power.

"It's one of those gifts and opportunities that our students receive that's different from any other school," Stranges said. "It's nice to share our experiences and sharing our blessings with surrounding schools districts makes it even more special."