Married to a Marine who fought in Vietnam, for years and years my writing stayed away from post-traumatic stress, war trauma. Or so I thought.
Honestly I didn’t even notice I’d included a combat vet in each of my novels until my publisher, Duke Pennell, pointed it out to me a few days ago. I was so shocked by the idea that I’d actually been skirting around the issue of war trauma for all these years, through all these books, that my first instinct was denial.
Duke stared at me, raised an eyebrow, gave me time to work my way through my earlier writing.
It took a while. Duke was patient. I finally got there.
Holy denial, Batman. Every novel but my very first, has one character touched by war.
Dad and David, in Bigfoot Blues, are Korean War Marines. The Perfect Victim (written a few years ago and due to be released late in 2014) has Julio, a Gulf War Marine. Bigfoot Mamas (due out early in 2015) has Jonesy, a Vietnam Marine.
“Oh.” I said to my publisher. “I guess you’re right.”
Talk about a lack of self-understanding.
I’m now about a third of the way into the writing of the sequel to Ridgeline. This one’s called The Rainmaker. The series is set in post-civil war America. One of the main characters in this series is Jeremiah, a soldier with Arkansas’s Third Infantry Division. Jeremiah has raging post-traumatic stress. Since the war’s end, he’s been supporting himself as a saddle-preacher. He’s charismatic, good with the ladies, and a man who understands the need for killing. He’s is one of my favorite characters.
Right now, I’m struggling with Jeremiah’s internal conflict. He craves intimacy, yearns for a life that others call normal–a wife, children, days of honest labor and quiet nights by the fire. He attracts, creates, searches out killing. Jeremiah understands enough about human nature to know that mercy rarely rewards the giver with a long life. Still, he craves the love of a good woman even as he’s drawn to danger.
There’s a woman in this post-civil war series too, of course. Adeline.
A friend asked me the other day whether, in the end, this young, mostly-innocent young girl will end up with Jeremiah. I asked her how on earth I’d know the answer to that question. Said I’d have to see where the story took us.
After all, until a few days ago, I didn’t even know I always included a Marine, a combat vet, in every one of my books.
I’m just the author. My job is to get out of the way and follow the characters.
So, my question to you today is:
If you’re an author, are there themes that weave themselves throughout your writing?
If you’re a reader, what do you think? Should the innocent Adeline end up with Jeremiah?