I was invited to this blog hop by Dan Sheehan, author of After Action: The True Story of a Cobra Pilot's Journey. Dan served two tours in Iraq and writes not only of his combat experience, but his experiences upon coming home. He was in Penn State ROTC with my husband, another former Marine, although we are not allowed to call them "former," are we? (Once a Marine...) Post-traumatic stress disorder is a major theme in American Boys and it's what I appreciated about Sheehan's book. He's very honest about his experiences. I feel that we must always keep what happens at home after war part of the discussion on war. You can read more about Dan by visiting www.dansheehanauthor.com.
Now, per the blog hop, I have to answer four questions about my own work.
What are you working on? Editing, editing, and more editing. Trying to make things perfect. American Boys is in the final stages of editing and is on track for a fall 2014 release. My editor is Miranda Ottewell, a freelancer who's worked for all the major publishing houses and at least seven best-selling authors (Barbara Kingssolver, Isabel Allende, Matthew Quick, and more). Miranda is devoted to turning around the best possible book, one that helps bring about awareness and justice for the lost 74 of the USS Frank E. Evans. Other than that I am also working on raising two intelligent, respectful, and kind little boys. My children, ages 5 and 6, will be with me as I present at the USS Frank E. Evans Association reunion in Seattle this October. They have seen me working on this book for nearly four years, since both were in diapers. They've seen me come and go, off to the airport to fly somewhere to interview someone, and they've seen me with my nose in countless books all in the name of research. I want them to know why I wanted to write this book. My husband has spent the past four years jealous that I get to go to navy ship reunions and hang around a bunch of funny, old sailors--is there a better group?--so he's coming along, too.
How does your work differ from others of its genre? My book is a little bit naval history, American history, and narrative nonfiction. It's more artistic than a more straightforward book about some battle. It's one I hope will hold the attention of readers not accustomed to reading about the navy and the Vietnam War. It really is a book about people. More than anything else, it's about the people. Right now I am putting together the photos to hand over to the cover designer and the one thing I do not want to see is a picture of a navy ship on the cover.
Why do you write what you do? I am a journalist who became one so that I could tell stories such as this of the USS Frank E. Evans and her crew. I had lunch with one of the survivors and his wife today and admitted that had I not been a mother I would not have wanted to write this book. I was drawn to the story of the lost 74 because we should always care about those who fight our nation's wars. One of the quotes I came across in my research regarding the Vietnam Wall is "they were ours." More than 58,000 died in the Vietnam War. Our nation sent them there and they were ours. We should always care about that. This war and every war. The cost far surpasses what they say it is and what someone combat line dictates. The true cost of war is tragic, unfathomable, like losing three of your own children in one terrible blow, which is what happened to the Sage family. My book reveals their story in heartfelt, painful, yet enlightening (in the very end) detail. The Evans is symbolic of war's true cost. As the Evans veterans always say, lest we forget. This book is about healing--another reason the story of the Evans captured my passion for storytelling.
How does your writing process work? I am a night owl. I stay up late and write. I have to. I am a stay-at-home mom during the day. One kid in kindergarten and another in first grade, four activities between the two of them, a husband who works all the time, an addiction to cleaning my house, training our new and very smart puppy (beautiful black-and-white shih-tzu named Pablo... "my little reverse orca" is just one of the funny new pet names I have come up with), 400 loads of laundry, a running problem and much, much more. I have to say that when I really need to focus I head to a good friend's apartment in San Diego for a weekend here and there. She lets me crash in her guest room, where there is a desk, a bed, and often times a dog (boxer named Lily) to keep me company. I would have never finished this book on time had it not been for my good friend. (Thanks Kim!)
And now I get to send you elsewhere. Check out Lisa Sanchez. Lisa is the head of a local writers group and is working on her first novel, The Theater. It's a character-driven fiction about love and war--think The English Patient but in Afghanistan with a special forces soldier and an anthropologist. I always feel like I am trying to play basketball with Michael Jordan when I am working with Lisa, as she is an amazing writer and editor. Her site is worth bookmarking: www.thelisasanchez.com.