You might be wondering what a love story has to do with World War II research. The answer is simple. The story came out of the research. Only it didn’t. And then, it did.
Pick up any writing guide today and it will tell you writing is difficult and you must sit and write every day at the same time using your ritual to summon the writing Gods to do your bidding or wait for the muse (inspiration) to hit. They also tell you writing is emotional and requires you to bare your soul and stand naked for the world to see.
Every time I read this “advice,” I giggle because I do not view writing this way. Of course I am not your “average” writer because it is not the only way I make a living. I research people’s family histories, I lecture about Italians in Chicago and World War II topics, and I write books about my family who served in World War I and II.
Is writing difficult? I say no because when it does not flow and the muse is gone, I go do something else. When the muse appears screaming loudly, I drop everything and write. And I never considered my military writing to be baring my soul. I mean really, I’m writing about World War II. I was not there so how could I bring such an emotional part of me into the writing?
In August 2014, I released the second book in my Stories of the Lost series, The Tiger’s Widow. The book is a continuation of Flying Tiger Robert Brouk’s story and tells the story of his widow, Virginia (Ginny) Brouk, who joined the Women’s Army Corps (WAC.) The book, as I originally wrote it, was a biography, a little more scholarly, and not as emotional as some of the stories in my Stories of the Lost book. Virginia is still living which is one reason I wrote it this way.
In the middle of June 2014, I sat down to work through a second draft of Ginny’s story. My editor and Ginny had seen it and made comments and suggestions. Then I realized something important. Not everyone who picks up this book is going to read To Soar with the Tigers or Stories of the Lost which contain Robert Brouk’s Flying Tiger story. I had left out a section of Ginny’s story relating to him that provided context. I added those pieces and a little more about her second husband.
And then something completely unexpected happened and my world turned upside down.
I experienced the feeling I had read about, the this story is not right and has to be told a different way. I have heard about authors tearing up their first draft and starting over. I shuddered when I contemplated this decision and realized I needed to go old school and take pen to paper and write. I needed to see what came out of my soul and onto the page before I tossed out the original manuscript. Maybe it needed something small. I went to my favorite writing place, The Magical Starbucks, pulled out some ruled paper and a hot pink pen and started writing.
Then the tears fell.
I wrote several pages before deciding this could no longer be written in public and I went home to write. It was too emotional. The story emerging was not very different from what I originally wrote, but added a layer of humanness, deep emotion, and love to the story. Two hearts connected. Robert and Ginny.
As I continued to write I added two more hearts, brothers Harvey and Fred. And finally, one additional heart was added. Mine. At that point my soul ripped in two and the tears fell like a raging waterfall.
No one tells you writing a book about World War II is going to change you, teach you lessons, and emotionally drain you. Yet this book did exactly that. The end result is a better story that shows how we are all connected through love over time and space. And, I believe, how events set in motion over 72 years ago, still impact our lives today in unimaginable ways.
So you ask again, what does writing a love story have to do with World War II research? Writing the love story emerged from the research, just not in the way I expected. Writing YOUR stories may not come out the way you expect. And along the writing path, you may discover pieces of yourself and those about whom you write, which change your world.
What are you waiting for? Are you going to write your military stories?
The Tiger’s Widow
The following is an excerpt from The Tiger’s Widow.
Five Hearts Joined Together
Love knows no boundaries of time and space or life and death. It exists forever in our hearts as we remember and honor those who have gone before us. Through those memories we pass life lessons on to the next generation. We teach others there is light after darkness, hope after despair, and love is the glue that puts shattered hearts back together. This is a story of five hearts separated by time and space; hearts which would meet in the perfect moment. It is a story about never ending love that lived on even after death.
A famous pilot met a young beauty and the two fell in love, Robert and Ginny. Their love soared with the eagles. Their time together was brief but they lived so fully in love in the moment, it is as if nothing but death could have broken them apart. Then death knocked on their door and a plane fell from the sky in a fiery ball. One heart silenced on earth but lived forever in death. One heart shattered into a million pieces.
A year later on another continent, two brothers fought a war, Harvey and Fred. The boys grew up as orphans and wanted a heart to come home to. Fred flew a bombing mission over Austria and was lost, listed as missing for a year. Harvey feared the worst and waited for word which came a year after Fred went missing. A brother’s love lived on after death.
Less than a year after Fred went missing, Ginny found Harvey. A chance meeting and two hearts became one. Pieces of Ginny’s shattered heart started to glue back together, slowly at first and then more quickly. Harvey’s heart had finally found its home with Ginny. He was no longer an orphan or alone. They found each other during a time of war when the world around them collapsed in chaos. Together they created a new world filled with joy, love, and the memories of those lost before their time.
Almost 65 years later, another heart emerged. A young woman trying to start a new life after her heart was shattered. She and Ginny, now a widow for the second time, connected. Little did they know the impact that meeting would have.
Five hearts separated by time and space that met in perfect time, would change the lives of all they touched. Their love would span decades. Their life lessons would provide hope to others in the future.
Five hearts joined forever.
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