Nurses Endure WWII Captivity in Solomon’s Debut Novel-2015
An exclusive Authorlink interview with Flora J. Solomon,
By Diane Slocum
As the US entry into World War II approaches, young army nurse Margie is sent to the Philippines. At first, she and her friends enjoy the tropical paradise. Margie even falls in love. Then comes Pearl Harbor followed quickly by attacks on the Philippines. As the battles rage, the medical teams are forced to work under more and more difficult circumstances and finally endure captivity.
|“Originally I was going to write a post-World War II mother/daughter story. . .” |
AUTHORLINK: How did you decide to write about a nurse in World War II? What were the first aspects of the story that came to you?
SOLOMON: Originally I was going to write a post-World War II mother/daughter story, because that is the era in which I grew up. I envisioned the mother as having a dramatic past that would somehow affect the relationship. What would Mother have been during the war—a journalist, a spy, a cryptologist? Searching for ideas, I ran across We Band of Angels by Dr. Elizabeth Norman, and All This Hell by Evelyn M. Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee, both wonderfully researched non-fiction accounts of the nurses who served in the Philippines during World War II. My own mother and grandmother were nurses, and I have a quasi-medical background myself, first as a student nurse (I did not finish the three year program), and later as a biochemical research assistant, and then as a healthcare analyst. I felt comfortable writing in a medical milieu.
|“I tore the book apart and deleted what wasn’t working and expanded on what was.”|
AUTHORLINK: How did you develop your story from there?
SOLOMON: In the first version, there were two tracks told in alternate chapters—a World War II track, and a mother/daughter track. I found an agent to represent this version, but she could not interest a publisher. Thankfully, editors from the publishing houses send critiques with their rejections. Almost every critique stated that the World War II chapters were strong, but the mother/daughter chapters were weak in comparison, and the book felt unbalanced. Over the following year, I tore the book apart and deleted what wasn’t working and expanded on what was. At that point, the story of the nurses became the focus.
AUTHORLINK: How did you learn about the era and the historical events?
SOLOMON: Besides the two books mentioned above, I found memoirs, newspaper clippings, journal articles, and other historical accounts of the nurses’ experiences in the Philippines. Additionally, I found books, documentaries, videos, and US Government websites with information about everything from what guns and airplanes were available to the military early in the war to the effects and treatment of battle fatigue on the returning soldiers. One reference often led to another. I’ve listed several of my most helpful references on my webpage www.apledgeofsilence.com.
|“All I had to do was drop my fictional characters into the already well-documented and intense setting and let them react . . .”|
AUTHORLINK: How did you balance your fictional characters and storyline with the historical events? Did you need to make adjustments or fill in unknown areas?
SOLOMON: World War II is recent history and the information about it is ubiquitous. All I had to do was drop my fictional characters into the already well-documented and intense setting and let them react to it. I introduced my protagonist, Margie, as a young girl who would have been happy marrying her high school sweetheart, but she got swept up in the war and her life took a dramatic turn. Her story is one of physical and mental struggle, transformation, and good over evil.
AUTHORLINK: This is your debut novel. What else have you written?
SOLOMON: If you’re counting years of diary entries, endless letter to pen pals and favorite aunts and cousins, eight years of college papers, twenty years of business reports, and a handful of journal articles, then the answer is I’ve written all my life. If you are counting what has been published, then the answer is nothing. I had to learn how to write fiction, and my first attempts were pitiful. I studied How To books and other authors’ styles. I joined the North Carolina Writers’ Network and took advantage of their conferences, workshops, and editorial services. I wrote every day and most of what I wrote those first years ended up in the trash, but eventually, my own voice began to emerge and A Pledge of Silence began to take shape.
|“When I finished the revision, I debated which way to go, and decided the agent/publisher route was too slow . . .”|
AUTHORLINK: You self-published your novel before it won the General Fiction category of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Why did you go that route?
SOLOMON: As I mentioned, I did find an agent for an earlier version of my book. It was a good experience, and I learned a lot, but in the end, after a year with the agent, I was back to square one. When I finished the revision, I debated which way to go, and decided the agent/publisher route was too slow, and there were no guarantees, so I published with Kindle Direct Publishing and Create Space. It was the right thing for me to do. A Pledge of Silence has been successful on both platforms. When I saw information about the ABNA, I thought – what do I have to lose?
AUTHORLINK: How did you feel about being one of the winners?
SOLOMON: Are there words to describe the feelings, the validation, and the pure joy? My goal was to advance to the quarter finals to win a Publisher’s Weekly Review. My book whizzed through the quarter finals and kept going. The call came at 6 pm on July 3rd. My husband is a volunteer fireman, and he was on duty, so I was alone in the house. The phone rang and the caller ID read, “AMAZON.” I couldn’t have been more excited if it had read, “The president of the United States!” I immediately called our three children, and then had to hurriedly call them back to tell them the news was confidential until it was officially announced.
|“Melody, the developmental editor assigned to me by Amazon, was an immense help.”|
AUTHORLINK: Are there changes in the edition being published by Amazon?
SOLOMON: Yes. I knew the first few chapters of the story dragged a bit, but I didn’t know how to change them. Melody, the developmental editor assigned to me by Amazon, was an immense help. She identified scenes that didn’t move the story forward, and I swallowed hard and deleted them. Together, we shortened the front chapters and expanded the end ones, which made a better beginning and a more satisfying ending. Hardly one iota changed in between.
AUTHORLINK: What is your next project?
SOLOMON: While I was researching A Pledge of Silence, I came across information about American women who were trapped in the Philippines when the Japanese invaded, but didn’t go into the prison camps like the nurses were forced to do. Instead, they fled to the mountains and became spies for the underground. My new project was inspired by the bravery of these women. It is a story of danger, intrigue, and love lost then found. Watch for it in a year or two.
|About Flora J. Solomon:|
Solomon grew up in the post-World War II years, surrounded by reminders of the war and the bomb-shelter mentality of the cold war days. She started writing her novel the morning after she retired from her medical career.
About Regular Contributor:
Diane Slocum has been a newspaper reporter and editor and authored an historical book. As a freelance writer, she contributes regularly to magazines and newspapers. She writes features on authors and a column for writers and readers in Lifestyle magazine. She is assigned to write interviews of first-time novelists and bestselling authors for Authorlink.
Categorised in: Interviews
This post was written by Diane Slocum