Military narrative non-fiction, stories that could be fiction, but they aren’t. I began with Northwest of Eden, my own memoir of my experience as the second-in-command of an Army Emergency Room during my year-long deployment to Iraq. I had dabbled with writing short stories and op/ed before, but this was deeper, because it was true. One of my author friends asked me (in a nice way) “Why did you write a memoir? You’re nobody.” That is exactly the point. I am one of millions of people who have experienced a concept as nebulous and awful as war, and done so uniquely. I am currently in the process of writing stories about other soldiers and medics, stories that can’t be written after those men and women are gone.
The answer to that question is not as straightforward. Veterans will say that “Civilians can never understand,” and in some ways that is true. I began writing because I wanted our families to have something, so they could understand the fires that their veteran had walked through. I was almost six years into writing Northwest of Eden when I realized it wasn’t about getting others to understand. It was about understanding myself, and a way for me to process the events that are contained within those pages. It is in that way less a biography than it is a redemption. Of all the reviews, one reader mentions her daughter was deployed to Afghanistan, and my story helped that mother connect with her when she returned home. If the New York Times ever reviews the book, they will not be able to top that.
I have my cave in the garage, as it turns out we have so much stuff that we can’t get one car in there. It’s challenging during some times of the year, but it’s a quiet space for me to type. When I am brainstorming or outlining, I put notes together with pen and paper. It uses a different part of my brain, I think. Once I have a concept, I draft very quickly, but spend 90% of my time rewriting and editing. I get in a writing zone, and I keep going without allowing myself to get blocked. If I do get stuck on a scene, I make a few notes to myself about what is supposed to go there and I keep typing. Words are simply that, and a computer will someday be able to assemble them in coherent form. I write passion, emotion, things that make me angry, sad, or amused. I also despise books in which the author explains too much in a narrative. Some of it is necessary, but I prefer to take the reader there as events unfold, and let them figure it out along the way.
Yancy Caruthers is an Iraq war veteran, registered nurse, retired Army Reserve officer, and former U.S. diplomat. He has lived in Peru and The Bahamas, but now resides with his family in Missouri, where he grew up. In addition to an appearance in Soldier of Fortune magazine, he’s also written for Yahoo! News and is the recipient of a Yahoo! Spotlight Award. Other works appear in Warrior Heart Magazine, Microhorror, Ascent Aspirations, and Every Day Fiction, and somewhere out there are some medical brochures he ghost-wrote, describing diseases you never want to get.
Facebook: Northwest of Eden
Website: Yancy Caruthers