I did not want to write about the Vietnam War.
At first I thought it was because of my impatience about the book making process and how adding in another layer meant a mountain of research on a new topic. I'd done whole mountain ranges of research on several topics for this book already and was not eager to take on another.
I wanted to get on with it. My attitude was "just give me a contract already. Let's get this book published!"
But my editor, in her superior wisdom, knew my story wasn't contract worthy. Indeed one of my viewpoint characters was missing a soul. Or at least, I had yet to find her soul. Which meant I had to dig deeper. Which I did. Which led me to Vietnam.
Which is breaking my heart. Which should have been broken a long time ago over this very topic. I lived through the 60's and 70's. I remember.
I have family and friends who were up-close-and-personal with the Vietnam War. One friend died there. Another is still affected by post war trauma. Several peacemaking family members chose to live in Vietnam during the war and to offer moral support without taking sides. In addition, thousands of war refugees (and their descendants) live in my community today.
I've been close enough to the topic to care but I haven't had the courage. But ya' know what? Writing forces me to look things in the eye that were too horrifying to acknowledge before.
Eventually I accept my calling. Which is what I'm doing now. It's why I go to sleep watching documentaries of the war and wake up and play them all over again. It's why I'm reading refugee and prisoner-of-war stories and why I'll call my friend who suffers with PTSD and ask to hear his story.
I will research this war and find the best way to share my character's soul. I'll allow myself to feel a smidgen of the pain that others have endured. I have no idea where this will lead me but I suspect it is more than just to writing.
Whether my work-in-progress lands a contract or not, perhaps it will at least make me into a more compassionate human being.
"If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and one backward glance when you are leaving, for the places they can no longer go.
Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not always have. Take what they have left and what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own.
And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind." (Major Michael Davis O'Donnell - South Vietnam)