Michele: As a former high school English teacher, I didn't like the way Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ended his epic poem, Evangeline, so I wrote a modern-day "Evangeline" story with a happy ending. Another source of inspiration was my cousin Mary Ann, who served in the Navy as a nurse during the Vietnam War (she didn't serve in 'Nam, but in Japan during that time). I've always admired her.
Anne: The research you had to have done for this book is amazing. What were your best sources?
Michele: The following books:
Home Before Morning: The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam by Linda Van Devanter (Linda served as a nurse in Vietnam and this book is her memoir.)
A Piece of My Heart: The Stories of Twenty-six American Women Who Served in Vietnam by Keith Walker
Rescue Under Fire: The Story of Dust Off in Vietnam by John L. Cook
The DVD Vietnam Nurses with Dana Delany
Missionaries who served in Vietnam (in the Central Highlands, the setting of most of Part 1)
The books helped me to get into the characters (mind, heart, soul), helped me to see things from the perspective of the characters I created, and gave me specific details other sources did not.
Anne: What is the most surprising thing you learned in your research?
Michele: While I can't even begin to list all I learned, the one thing that stands out in my mind as surprising me the most was that Vietnam has one of the best hospitals for lepers in the world.
Anne: Are you a plotter or a panster (one who plots out the whole story or one who writes by the seat of their pants)?
Michele: A pantser, definitely. I liken writing fiction to hopping onto a horse, slapping its behind, and letting it take me where it will. At a certain point, the story and the characters come alive, and I follow them. Not that it's easy.
Anne: How long did it take you to write this?
Michele: I read the books, then wrote and researched at the same time. I really don't remember how long it actually took to write. But I would guess about three to six months would be close, from research stage to revision.
Anne: Did you have anyone in your family who was in the conflict?
Michele: No, but my husband served in the Marine Corps during that time and was stationed in Hawaii, where he worked on the F4's that flew missions in Vietnam.
Anne: What's next in your writing journey?
Michele: Next is a romantic suspense called Getaway Mountain, which I hope is the first in a series involving the two main characters. This is almost finished--I have about four more chapters to write, then work on revisions. I'm also researching for a World War II novel, which will be part historical and part contemporary.
Anne: Thanks for being here today, Michele. You are an amazing writer, and I know folks are going to love the next book as much as this one. And folks, you really to read this one!