Monday, September 26, 2016

Guest Post by Joyce Hostetter: On Writing a War Series

Congratulations to Michelle Leonard for winning Radioactive! on last week's blog.
If you read my blog regularly, than you are no stranger to my friend Joyce Hostetter who I have featured on my blog many times. It is my privilege to host her today as she shares her reflections on some behind the scenes thoughts on writing a war series. Take it away, Joyce!

When I wrote BLUE I thought I was writing a book about polio. I had no idea that it would grow into a series that would make a statement about war and its effects on family.   However my hometown’s polio epidemic took place in 1944 so it was a natural for my protagonist’s father to be drafted.

Ann Fay is exceptionally attached to her wise, affectionate Daddy when he leaves home, asking her to be “the man of the house” in his stead.  While Leroy is away at war, she faces multiple challenges while longing for the day he returns. She hopes against hope that he will come out alive and unscathed.
But is it possible to survive the battlefield, emotionally unscarred?  
After publishing BLUE, I did not intend to write a sequel.  However, Ann Fay’s voice kept echoing in my head.  And other things echoed there too—memories of childhood friendships with children whose fathers had served in WWII and The Korean Conflict.  War Trauma and PTSD were not yet identified in the 1960s.  I don’t know all the factors that contributed to these men’s personalities, their alcoholism, and abuse of spouses and children but I knew they all had combat memories in common.  
I suspect they each had war going on inside their heads.  
Later, much later, one of those friends told me what a gentle man her father was before going to war.  “He never wanted to kill people,” she said.  I thought about that man with the soul of a poet who played guitar and composed original music.  I considered the times I’d been in his presence and how gentle he still appeared to be. And I remembered that when his family was growing up he was unable to hold down a job.  My friend told me that, while she was still a child, one morning, in an attempt to motivate him to go to work, she actually took his bed apart with him in it.   
So having published BLUE, I decided to listen to the echoes.  I began to ask myself how Ann Fay’s relationship with her father would be changed by his war experiences. The result was the publication of COMFORT, a story about a girl and her father each on their own post-trauma journeys and how they begin to heal.

Ann Fay is much like the friend I mentioned above.  The one who tried to prod her father into going to work.  You would think such an action would have provoked abuse.  But I don’t know that my friend’s father was abusive to her.  Apparently he saved that for one of her brothers. And I see the devastation in that grown son’s life today. 
I see the pain of war moving down the family lines of my other friends.
When my publisher asked me to write a prequel to BLUE and COMFORT I knew immediately who the story would be about—Junior Bledsoe, Ann Fay’s neighbor.  I would explore his emotional journey after his father’s death. And as I began to listen again to those echoes I discovered the story of four generations of men traumatized by war. That story, AIM, will be released on October 4.

I’m not a sociologist but my reflections on life, my research on wars, and war trauma lead to me believe that war begats war. Trauma gives rise to more trauma and the cycle is in great danger of repeating itself.
How do we stop that cycle?  
I believe stories, historical fiction, in particular, help us to listen to history.  As a historical novelist, my task is to find the universal truth or emotion that will hold a reader and focus attention on history that might otherwise be overlooked. 

Although I don’t set out to write anti-war novels, I hope that my stories encourage readers to reflect on the effects of war and to consider alternatives.  I trust that even in their personal lives they will observe that anger and arguments give rise to more of the same. After all, change begins at home and the ripples spread.  Better that they be ripples of peace than those that lead to war.
Next week I am reviewing AIM using material from a workshop I took with Jillian Sullivan at Highlights Summer Camp. PLUS I'll be giving away two ARCS.  Stay tuned!


Sandra Warren said...

Thank you Carol,for posting Joyce's journey. And Joyce, thank you for sharing your fascinating journey from one book to another to another.

The wonderful thing about being a writer is exactly never know where each story will take you.


Carol Baldwin said...

so true, Sandra, so true!

Vijaya said...

Joyce, the writing life is such a gift. You have shared such a huge part of yourself, how you think. It is through writing that I've been able to clarify and come to my beliefs too. God bless you!

Linda A. said...

Spotlight Joyce Hostetter as much as you like, Carol. Always a treat to read what she shares!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Linda and Vijaya. I truly felt honored to have Joyce post this on my blog! Glad you enjoyed it too.

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

Carol, thanks for featuring Joyce and her great new book which I can't wait to read! Congratulations, Joyce!

sheri levy said...

After reading Comfort, I saw how your characters called to you. I enjoyed Blue and was thrilled to read Comfort, follow your characters growth and to see how you developed your series. I look forward to reading the rest of your series. I'm hooked!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Sheri. Come back next week and try to win my Arc!

Rosi said...

It's always interesting to me to read about the writer's journey. Fascinating post. Thanks, Joyce and Carol, for a great post.

Clara Gillow Clark said...

I really loved reading Joyce's insights on how her Homeland War series developed. I'm already a lucky owner of a personalized copy of AIM, which is a thoughtfully written and thought provoking novel about life at home during WWII. Congratulations to Joyce! Thank you, Carol, for sharing.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Rosi and Clara. Knew you both would appreciate Joyce's insights.

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Thanks to each of you for dropping by and for all the encouragement. And thanks so much, Carol for letting me share my thoughts and process here.

Carol Baldwin said...

My pleasure and privilege, Joyce!

TeresaFannin said...

Well done, Joyce. I would hope that any historical novelist, fiction or nonfiction, does not start out to write a theme but sees where the story takes them and, like your novels, provides the truth of the time which is so important.

Carol Baldwin said...

That is well said, Teresa. I have learned so much from Joyce and historical context is one of the things she's hammered home into my head!

Kathleen said...

I love the winding journey you've had with your series. I'm looking forward to reading AIM! I so agree with the need for more ripples of peace.

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

I rediscovered this post today with all your comments! Thanks so much to each of you for reading and responding! I value your support even if it did take me a long time to acknowledge it! Ah, but life is so full! And I am so behind!

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