Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Love at War

I started writing after a long draught. It was 2005, the year Katrina devastated the region. My first book, BURIED TRUTHS (Sapphire Blue Publishing), grew from my despair and grief, but it also showed the resilience and hope of the area's people. Like my characters, many of them rebuilt their lives and even found love.

My second book, LOVE AT WAR (Red Rose Publishing), also sprang from grief, but I pray it also shows the triumph of the human soul. My beloved mother died in 2008. She was my touchstone and my best friend. When I went through her things, I found letters from her brother Russell written while he was in Germany. Re-reading those letters reminded me of the lore that had circulated throughout our family. That summer, my cousin Sandy invited me and other relatives to her house. We read her parents' letters to each other, weeping and laughing together. Sandy's father, my mother's brother, never returned from Germany. He died in an attack on the Bremen enclave after WWII officially ended. The passion he and his young wife shared made us all cry, smile, and even blush as we read.

My mother had died only a few months before I read those letters. I was grieving, doing nothing except watch television, cry, and starve myself. Writing again saved me. I began researching the war that claimed one of my uncles and sent the others home changed. These young people had left the States as kids and returned as hardened men. I researched the war, devouring books and articles that added to my own family lore. None of the main characters are based on my family, but they, like my family members, lived through those tumultuous times.

The world was never the same after WWII. The strides made in civil rights and women's rights would never have occurred without that war. That war changed the world order, but it was fought by innocent kids who stormed the beaches of Normandy. One day, they were goofing around on a beach, jumping on amusement park rides and flirting. Then, they were on Omaha Beach, a very different one than they had known in New Orleans. I was obsessive about getting it right. I owed it to my mother and her siblings. Portraying the role of women in the war also was important to me. WWII was the first time women had full military rights. They often worked as nurses, but they also were undercover and frequently worked as translators. My protagonist, Nuala, works for the OSS, the precursor to the CIA. She is covert and military.
I also wanted to show the brutality of war and what becomes of the young people caught within its web. I opened the novel on Pontchartrain Beach. The young people are queuing for rides. The action takes these kids to Pearl, to Bataan, to Omaha Beach, and beyond. I wrote like someone possessed. Sometimes, I think my mother's spirit guided me. I hope so.


  1. Viola,
    What a wonderful post. I think there is a little of ourselves and our background in everything we write. Thank you for sharing your background. Like the letters you found, one of my books deals with a grieving daughter finding something mysterious in her mother's jewelry box after the funeral. Again, I enjoyed your post very much.

  2. In the end of my book, Ginger, a grieving daughter finds something at the end of the tale. I love reading old letters. They contain history, personal memories, and poignancy.

  3. My dad was one of those "kids" who fought in WWII. I'm going to check your book out right now. It sounds like a wonderful story.