Generally, I write stories driven by a question: “What if?” In my thriller, NanoStrike, I asked what if a terrorist organization got hold of nanotechnology and turned it into a deadly weapon small enough to hide in a hint of perfume. In my romantic suspense novel, Love Poison, I asked what if a chemical could trick a man’s brain so that he fell head-over-heels in love with the first woman he met. When A Warrior Comes Home had a different genesis. I believe it warrants a short explanation.
In 2012, I read an article about autonomous military robots. Not the R2D2 type, but tiny devices the size of a butterfly that operated as a swarm directed by a shared (networked) “brain.” What if they went rogue? Or what if their communication system was compromised and they turned traitor on their inventors. That sounded like an interesting topic for a thriller.
To gather background, I read books on military robots, watched documentaries, and searched the web. But at every turn, I bumped into reports about the psychological effects of warfare, robotic (drone operators) and traditional (ground troops), on the soldiers who were operating at the sharp end of our military stick. Information from memoirs and articles I read and snippets from blog posts written by those tasked with caring for the injured soldiers started to color my characters. And eventually, just as they do in military families struggling with the symptoms of these illnesses, war-related PTSD and TBI hijacked the lives of my fictional characters.
So that was how this novel came about—an organic creation driven by the human collateral of warfare. I still have a nod to robotics in the tale but only as a linking mechanism–a thread to connect the military and civilian worlds—because comprehending military life is very difficult for civilians. And without understanding the unique pressures bearing down on psychologically damaged soldiers who live in fear of being discarded as “bad gear” or dismissed as “slackers,” the story might seem too far-fetched.
I did my best to stay true to the characters in my story, to their experiences of PTSD and of TBI and of the military command structure’s attitude to these problems. But I’m a civilian, and my characters were drawn from research not from personal experience. To say I was nervous about releasing the novel would be a significant understatement. Although When A Warrior Comes Home is pure fiction, it deals with events that are very real in the lives of many military families. The last thing I wished was for the story to appear unfair or offensive to those families or to the US Army.
The novel has been available on Amazon since mid-March, 2015. I’m particularly grateful to those readers associated with the military who have reached out and assured me that my treatment of this difficult subject was fair. Sadly, I’ve also received a number of emails from people who confessed that they can’t read the story because the problems with which it deals are too personally painful for them.
When A Warrior Comes Home does deal with a “What If.” What if two soldiers returned from active duty one suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and one with a Traumatic Brain Injury, but unlike my other stories, the consequences are not purely a figment of my imagination, they are an amalgam of real events that have taken place and continue to take place today. I placed this quote at the beginning of the novel. I think it sums up the story.
Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth—Albert Camus.