Why Did Catherine West Write about the Vietnam War?
Catherine West tells us about her reasoning in writing her novel Yesterday’s Tomorrow. Welcome, Catherine!
I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to post on Sandra’s blog today!
Since the March release of my debut novel, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, I’ve been asked a lot of questions, but probably the most popular one is, “Why Vietnam?” I’d like to answer that here today, with a post I’ve shared a couple of times over the last few months. It’s my deepest desire that those who read my book gain a better understanding of The Vietnam War and the effect it had on those fighting and at home, and also that readers will come to see that God’s love, and only God’s love, can bring healing, forgiveness and redemption.
What I Learned In Vietnam
Many years ago, an idea for a story came to me. Why it did, I’m not sure. But it took hold and hasn’t let go yet.
I heard a story about combat journalists, many were young women, who left home, some left their jobs, to fly
halfway across the world into a war zone. They risked it all, risked their lives, to cover The Vietnam War. And I wondered why. I wondered what that would be like, what those women were like, what made them tick, and what a story like that would look like. And I knew I had to write it.
A few years later, I completed a manuscript called Yesterday’s Tomorrow. It takes place over a span of a few years, 1967-1975, predominantly in Vietnam, during the war, and the female protagonist is a young woman who strikes out on her own as a combat journalist.
For a long while, I didn’t fully understand why I wrote this story, why the pull was so strong, why it meant so
very much to me. Thanks to OakTara and their willingness to take on what is sometimes still seen as a controversial setting and subject, now that Yesterday’s Tomorrow has been published, I’m starting to find out.
I was too young to remember the Vietnam War being fought. Living in Bermuda, I’m sure my parents didn’t get as much news as they would today. Although I don’t remember it, there is something undeniable about that time in history that draws me.
I have never been to Vietnam. But as I wrote this story, I lived there. As I read the stories of those brave men and women who were in the thick of it and survived, I went there with them.
Writing this book took months of research. I didn’t set out to write a war story, so it was never my intention
to bog down the story with military information, but I knew it had to be authentic. So I launched my attack on every book I could find, every website and every photograph that covered the era I would write about.
Writing Yesterday’s Tomorrow changed me. Up to that point, I had no idea what war was all about. War was a faraway concept. Something I learned about in school. Something I read about in the newspaper, watched reports about on television. Something I would certainly never have to face or deal with firsthand.
While that is still true and I pray it stays so, I have a greater understanding of what it means to go into
battle. And I know that is a good thing.
I remember getting to a point in my story and having to stop and take a break and pull away. I even questioned whether I should continue writing it. Somehow I felt as though I was stepping on holy ground. I was. But, with a lot of encouragement, I pressed on.
They say Vietnam gets into your soul. It does. Those who were there and came back will never be the same. War does that to a person.
Although the war ended thirty-six years ago, it lives on in the hearts and minds of those who came home. It lives
on through the memories we have of those who didn’t. It lives on in the legacy that the courageous men and women who lost their lives in Vietnam left behind.
I learned that even after thirty-six years, there are things you just don’t talk about. After thirty-six years, the pain
doesn’t end. Maybe it lessens a bit, but it never really goes away. I am not sure a writer can ever capture that kind of truth in the way it needs to be told.
I don’t know that one can ever accurately portray the fear of being in a helicopter heading for a hot zone or
wading through a dark, dank and putrid swamp with no idea who might be hiding in the depths of that jungle. How can you describe with any authenticity what it must be like to watch a friend die in your arms?
But we try. And I believe we should try. Because all these things—the horrors of war, the deep bond created between those who served there, and the ultimate sacrifice so many made—should never be forgotten.
Although my book is a work of fiction, I have heard from more than a few people that it has helped them see
Veterans in a different light. It has given them a new perspective on war and its many facets. In some small way, it has helped them understand. And to that, I say, thank-you, God.
I came away from this project with this question: Do we write merely to entertain? Or do we write to
enlighten, educate and encourage our readers to examine their hearts on matters they may have previously ignored?
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
That’s what I learned in Vietnam.
Blurb for Yesterday’s Tomorrow: Vietnam, 1967.
Independent, career-driven journalist Kristin Taylor wants two things: to honor her father’s memory by becoming an award-winning overseas correspondent and to keep tabs on her only brother, Teddy, who signed up for the war against their mother’s wishes. Brilliant photographer Luke Maddox, silent and brooding, exudes mystery. Kristin is convinced he’s hiding something.
Willing to risk it all for what they believe in, Kristin and Luke engage in their own tumultuous battle until, in an unexpected twist, they’re forced to work together. Ambushed by love, they must decide whether or not to set aside their own private agendas for the hope of tomorrow that has captured their hearts.
Educated in Bermuda, England and Canada, Catherine holds a degree in English from the University of Toronto. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or tending to her roses and orchids. Catherine and her husband live on the beautiful island of Bermuda, with their two college-aged children. Catherine is a member of Romance Writers of America,
and American Christian Fiction Writers, and is a founding member of International Christian Fiction Writers. Catherine’s debut novel Yesterday’s Tomorrow, released in March 2011 through OakTara Publishers. Catherine’s next novel, Hidden in the Heart, will be available in the near future, also through OakTara. Catherine loves hearing from her readers and invites you to connect with her!
OakTara Website: http://www.oaktara.com
So much of what we know about the Vietnam War came to us through the journalists who were there. Do you remember the war? If it was before your time, what do you know of it? Have you formed opinions based on what you’ve heard? Do you think Catherine’s book might help you understand that time?
I have received no compensation for this post and have no material connection with any product(s) mentioned. Embedded links are strictly for the convenience of my readers.
I’m going to have to get a copy of this book. We were in Vietnam in 1995 to adopt our son and were at the reopening of the American Embassy in Hanoi. We fell in love with the country and the people. You’re right – it gets into your soul and changes you. I can’t wait to go back.
Hi, Liz. Thanks for visiting. I loved Catherine’s statement that her book has helped some people change the way they think of veterans. As a young teen, I saw the protests and heard the reports of the way our military men were treated when they came back. I hope our soldiers never go through that again.
That’s great, Liz! I would love to visit someday, but I am not sure today’s Vietnam will be much like the country I researched and have images of in my brain…but maybe someday! I hope you enjoy the book!
Thanks for posting Catherine’s article. I read the book and her article definitely helped to clarify some things.
From what I hear, it’s changed some since I was there in 95. I saw the “old’ Vietnam w/o Western influences. No McDonald’s in Hanoi then. Guess more and more Western businesses are opening, the people are beginning to wear jeans & such, and of course there is the technology that wasn’t there then. I’m sure, thought, it’s still a wonderful place that retains much of it’s charm.