Lana Swearingen and Christa Hedrick

 Authors and writers 

Lana Swearingen And Christa Hedrick

Lana was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. I was raised in Clear Lake Shores, a small town on the Texas Gulf Coast. When we met in 1975 we had little in common other than our status as military dependents living in a foreign country. With no conscious effort we were seamlessly melded into a friendship with two other women that not only became our greatest source of comfort at that time and place, but has continued to connect us throughout the years.

We both went on, after returning to the States, making our lives; she, raising her children, both of us creating our careers and finding our ways to the great loves of our lives and then losing them to cancer. We both have been writing for our own pleasure all our lives but not until recently have we felt we had the time to devote to serious writing.

Our book is the story of this friendship, these relationships, these women who have grown and changed and become so drastically different from the young women they were. 

Lana is working on another book, a mystery, inspired by an abandoned house she happened on one day last year. A child’s shoe lying on the stairs sparked her imagination.

I, too, am working on another book, one that I had started several years ago and put aside when life got in the way. It has as a protagonist a strong woman in the wrong relationship and a haunted house.


The Interview

We-Were-Army-Wives-Bookcover

 

 Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?

LS: As a young girl, I often escaped into my imagination to create a fantasy life that did not resemble my reality in the least. In school, I discovered I could translate my imaginings into words and knew that writing would always be a major passion in my life.

CH: I have always been a storyteller, good at making up games and scenarios. Writing seemed like the logical next step. It was always what I intended to do. 

Do you write full-time? How much of your life is set aside for writing? 

LS: I have the luxury of writing full-time, as I am retired from a career with the Federal Government. I am not tied to a specific schedule. I write when I feel the words gathering in my head and know that they must spill out.

CH: I write a weekly feel-good column in my local weekly newspaper and now I try very hard to spend at least three hours a day writing my novel. I, too, am retired, but it is really too easy for me to be distracted. 

Could you tell us a little about your novel? 

LS: My co-author, Christa Hedrick, and I decided to write our story, a memoir of sorts. It is about our lives as Army wives in the 70s, and about our friendship with two other Army wives with whom we’ve been friends for almost forty years. It is not only about Army life in the 70s but also about the enduring relationships that women forge throughout their lives and how those friendships sustain them regardless of the diverse paths they follow.

CH: As Lana said, our friendship is the core of the book. We were all young women when we went with our husbands to Germany, all from different parts of the country, with different backgrounds and different needs. And we were drawn together like magnets to a metal rod, inseparable from the beginning. But the real strength was born when we came back to the States, to different lives in different places and began to become the different women we are now. Sometimes one or two of us would be lost, but somehow we would reconnect. And now we are like a large open weave afghan, spread far, as always, but always connected.

Would you take us on a brief tour of your novel and the world you’ve created?

LS: It’s the 70s in a Germany that is still under the dark cloud of the cold war. Four women meet when their husbands are stationed with the 330th Army Security Agency in Kaiserslautern. Their personalities are as diverse as their backgrounds, yet they find in each other a common bond of strength, laughter and loyalty. From Germany, they went their separate ways, but they blossomed from the young women they were into women of independence and success and maintained their friendship all these years.

CH: I think every military spouse will find something of herself or himself in this book, but not only military wives will identify. Every woman who has ever been a wife will find herself here too. And anyone who has or has ever known the kind of friendship that crosses all barriers and survives the ravages of time will find something to love about it.

Where does the inspiration for your main character and story come from?

LS: There are four main characters in our book and they are real. The inspiration comes from all of our triumphs and successes, faults and foibles. We are the characters in our book.

What is the message behind the story? Was it something you specifically wrote a story around or did it develop as your characters came to life?

LS: Our message is that we are every woman. We rose above the challenges and created lives of substance. We are ordinary women with extraordinary stories. I don’t know a woman alive who can’t relate to that.

Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow? If you use an outline, how detailed is it?

LS: I cannot work from an outline. It stifles me. When the words flow, I let them. Time enough after the writing to edit and revise. But when the creative juices are flowing, I know better than to interrupt them by trying to organize.

CH: Due to the nature of this book, I did not work from an outline. We pretty much wrote down the stories and then fit them together. But I normally begin with a rough outline, more just a list of who, what, when, where, why and how. Then I begin to write and let the story grow on its own with periodic tune-ups if I start getting too much off course.

I do a lot on the characters, character sketches, back story and the lot.

What is the time span in your novel? Weeks, months, years? How much research went into it?

LS: Our book moves through the years of our lives from the 70s until the present. The only research we were concerned about was capturing the stories of our two friends who decided to let us do the writing.

CH: I actually found myself doing a lot of research. I had to get dates straight. I wanted to check on different specifics of an episode. I wanted to look at a picture of our housing complex. As I left most of my pictures when I left my soldier husband, I relied on Jane and Anne for personal pictures, but then I started looking for information on the 330th ASA and realized just how unique the company was back then. I am still finding out things about the unit our husbands were assigned to.

Could you tell us how you go about your research, how you catalogue information to make it all work?

LS: Since our first book was taken from our own lives, there really wasn’t research. We did catalogue the stories to finally blend them into a time sequence that spanned many years.

CH: My research for this project was prowling through my personal papers and the few scrapbooks and pictures I have with me. Of course I did some talking to the other ladies. Then I went to the internet. I am an internet junkie of sorts. On other projects I use the internet and a host of books I have collected on a number of subjects. Before the internet it was to the library and the phone a lot. File cabinets and the computer are where I keep it. I haven’t exactly mastered the cataloging yet. I end up changing things around a lot.

How does this book differ from what you have written in the past?

LS: My past writing endeavors have included technical writing for the government, published articles in newspapers, magazines and anthologies and some poetry. This is the first book I have published.

CH: Most of what I write is fiction. I don’t have to be all that accurate with the details and I can let my imagination soar. When I wrote for the paper as a reporter, everything had to be backed up by fact and I had to be a lot more economical with my words.

How have the changes in present day publishing impacted your schedule as a writer?

LS: I have found that self-publishing a book allows me to be true to myself. Aside from basic editing, the changes I make are mine alone. I don’t think I would be happy with an editor telling me how to revise my writing, which ultimately would change my voice. On the other hand, since there are so many writers self-publishing now, it is difficult to develop a strategy to stand out and be noticed.

CH: Except for the weekly column for the paper I have not dealt with publishing. 

How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time?

LS: Christa and I are broadening our marketing strategy that initially included Christa’s development of a website, e-books and availability on Amazon. In addition, we hold book signings and presentations. We are working on a book tour that will include military installations throughout the country.

CH: It is one day at a time. We do have a plan but it changes frequently. We are learning as we go, maybe not the best decision for complete novices, but we were Army wives so we are used to figuring things out. I take all suggestions.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

LS: Write, write, write. Don’t be afraid to let the words flow, even when you know you will change that sentence you just wrote. After you have a good jump-start on your project, start marketing by writing a blog, announcing your project on social media sites and joining groups that will help you promote yourself. You can be the best writer in the world, but if readers can’t find you, they won’t discover the joy of reading your book.

CH: If writing is your passion or if you have a story you need to tell, write it. Whether you self- publish or not, you may want to get some help with marketing, and there are lots of companies out there to help. If you are going to market yourself, expect to put a lot of time and effort into it. The important thing is your writing. If you have a story you feel you need to tell, there is someone who needs to hear it.

Could you tell us what you’re working on now? 

LS: After visiting an old abandoned house in a colourful town in Arizona, I was inspired to write a crime novel. It is in the first stages of development and research. But I already love the characters, even the ones that make me cringe. 

CH: I have two very different novels that I have worked on off and on for several years. I have picked up one and fallen back in love with it. The main character is a woman in transition and it involves a very haunted house. 

Book link: www.wewerearmywives.com

Debbie BrownGuest Blogger:

Interview by Debbie Brown for Simone’s Blog—"Depicting The Writer In You." Debbie is a writer who has published two books and is currently working on her third. 

Want to know more about Debbie? Visit her blog:

http://amethysteyesauthor.blogspot.ca/p/about-me.html

 

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