I feel honored to participate in “The Next Big Thing,” writers helping other writers publicize their books. My book isn’t published yet, but the book is finished and ready to rock ‘n’ roll! To take part in the tour, I’m answering the following questions.
What is the working title of your next book?
My current book is In Formation: What the Air Force Taught Me about Holding On and Manning Up. I am also working on a novel, known at this point as Lark, after the main character.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
After I retired from the Air Force, I moved to Asheville NC, where I began to write. In one class, the instructor asked us to describe a place we’d been to. Perhaps because it was a cold, gray day, my mind leapt to a bitter winter in Zagreb, where I had been stationed with NATO. I described the ice-coated food stalls of a lifeless Christmas market in a city scarred with civil war. In writing about the place, the characters, the incidents, and most of all, the feelings rushed back to me. I wrote the book so I could remember.
What genre does your book fall under? Memoir.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
(I love this question!) In my early twenties I was frequently confused with Liza Minnelli (around her Cabaret days). Honest to God, strangers would stop me in the street to ask if I were her. But I think we’re both too old now for the role of Cheryl discovering herself as an Air Force officer. So, I’m going for Anne Hathaway with glasses and a bit of weight, gradually morphing into Kathy Bates. As for the man I eventually married, George Clooney of course. Oh heck, let’s just let George play all the male characters.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
During the Cold War a clueless woman joins the Air Force and discovers the importance of courage in all aspects of life, even when bullets aren’t flying or bombs exploding.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Uncertain at this point.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Seven years. Seven, long, excruciatingly slow and delightful years.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
More than any other military memoir, In Formation resembles The Unforgiving Minute by Craig M. Mullaney in voice and tone, in the self-deprecating humor and the sober truth-telling, also in the orderly military progression in which we both start with training and go from there. Of course, he has battles in his, while I just have Cold War exercises. In Formation should be compared to other types of memoir as well, especially memoirs like Skin Deep by Karol Griffin and Orange to Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. Both of these books introduce a foreign world: Griffin’s life as a tattoo artist and Kerman’s experiences in prison. Finally (I say with a modest smirk), I’ve been told In Formation is somewhat similar to the incomparable Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions. Both have moments of aha! and what was I thinking?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Teachers, readers, critique groups, other military members who wanted more. I was also inspired by the lack of information most Americans have today about the military, the people who asked me, “So what’s with all this saluting?” “You were expected to work in a gas mask?” “Couldn’t you just decide not to move?” And my personal favorite: “Of course, you got paid overtime, right?”
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
In Formation is a military memoir without battles, but it presents the life most Air Force women (and a lot of the men) knew between 1980 – 2000, a time when the world was changing. It is not about the Air Force but about a life lived within the Air Force. It is a book about relationships between ranks, coworkers, friends, lovers, family and the courage it takes to relate with others while being true to oneself.
Please also check out the websites and blogs of these wonderful writers: Ginger Graziano, www.gingergraziano.com; Karen Lauritzen, www.nothingvanishes.com; Jennifer McLean, www.smallbrownbird.net; Peggy Tabor Millin, www.clarityworksonline.com; and Karen Nilsen, www.karennilsen.com.