Saturday, September 13, 2014

Creating an Authentic Story


Claire Ashby

When I wrote WHEN YOU MAKE IT HOME, one of my biggest concerns was telling Theo’s story authentically. I don’t know what it’s like to join the army. I don’t know what it’s like to fight in combat and come home changed. I don’t know what it’s like to live as an amputee. But I wanted to tell this story, and I wanted it to be authentic.

Luckily we live in a time where people are candid and willing to share their lives. This openness especially applies to today’s veterans. I spent many months following army blogs. I read books by soldiers about their time serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. I viewed documentaries, and yes, I watched Hollywood movies and lost myself in military romance novels, too.

Sometimes the smallest detail can make a story ring true; likewise, if you miss the mark you can destroy all credibility as a storyteller. I hit a point where I had questions I couldn’t answer with research alone.

One of the scariest things for me was to actually talk to veterans. I worried about coming across as nosy or that nobody would want to talk. As it turned out I had nothing to be afraid of. The more I engaged in conversations, the more I realized that the people I talked to wanted to share their experience. They wanted to share what it’s like to serve in the military and what their frustrations were, what surprised them, what they missed and how it changed their lives.

I’d watched this HBO documentary called “Alive Day Memories, Home From Iraq.” Wounded soldiers were recounting memories from their “Alive Day,” the day they narrowly escaped death. The stories stayed with me, especially Bryan Anderson’s. He survived of an IED attack that left him a triple amputee. I discovered he wrote a book called NO TURNING BACK, about how he was able to move on with his life. He was so candid about everything, so I decided to contact him. Again, I worried that he’d think I was rude or intrusive, but he was eminently approachable.

Just like anyone else, veterans want their stories told right. I’m indebted to all the people who opened up to me, not just because of their service and sacrifice, but also because they shared their experience, their personal pains, challenges, and concerns—I hope that my novel did right by them.

When You Make It Home

Meg Michaels, a bookstore owner, has already walked away from two cheating exes. She’s learned her lesson and has her mind set on success—until she gets knocked up. Embarrassed and unwilling to discuss her situation with friends and family, she wears layers to hide the pregnancy.

When Meg gets sick at a party, she’s mortified. Even worse, Theo Taylor, the guest of honor, discovers her secret. Theo, an Army medic wounded in the war, agrees not to reveal her condition, and the two forge a bond of friendship that blossoms into love.

Theo is soon filling all of Meg’s late-night cravings—and not just the pregnancy-induced ones. But can their love overcome all the obstacles that stand between them and creating a happy family?



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