Rummanah Aasi
 As part of the promotional blog tour for War Stories, I am delighted to have author Elizabeth Doyle on the blog today to talk to you all today about her book. Ms. Doyle is Doyle is a writer and attorney living in Washington, D.C. She studied fiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College and the University at Albany, and is completing a Masters of Laws Degree at Georgetown University Law Center. Ms. Doyle’s short fiction was published in the literary journal Nadir and was awarded the University at Albany’s Lovenheim Prize for best short fiction. Her first short film, Hard Hearted One, was admitted into the Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema and the Street Films Film Festival, and was shown on Public Television and Manhattan Cable. War Stories is her first collection of short fiction.

Before we get to the interview, here is the cover and description of War Stories:

We all carry our own battle scars.

This is the premise of War Stories, a rich collection of short fiction that draws upon both the literal and figurative meaning of its title. Through a diverse array of characters, settings, and circumstances, War Stories delivers a series of powerful tales from the home front of war: the stories of parents, siblings, and spouses of those who have fought, as well as those who have returned from battle.

Set against the backdrop of contemporary conflicts, War Stories’ compelling nine narratives tell of a wounded veteran who seeks renewal through an imagined relationship with a neighborhood girl, a grieving father who finds peace and reconciliation at the site of a disastrous bus crash, a young woman who searches for identity and meaning in the wake of her husband’s injury, and an urban teenager engaged in a fateful standoff with local recruiters. Interspersed with these tales are powerful, non-traditional “war stories” – of youth, unexpected loss, and heartbreaking love.

War Stories’ thoughtful and beautifully crafted tales, which range in style from deceptively simple to rich and complex, tell of people young and old, male and female, who share two things: humanity and resilience. These diverse and deftly written stories are joined through Elisabeth Doyle’s remarkable style and ease in creating a universe full of despair, hope, and dreams. At turns tender and harsh, tragic and yearning, these stories will leave you wanting more.

Please welcome Ms. Doyle to the blog and if you're interested in War Stories, be sure to scroll down for the giveaway information!

Please tell us about your current release.

War Stories is a lean collection of short fiction – nine stories – many of which are set against the backdrop of contemporary conflicts, including the war in Vietnam and current wars.

Can you tell us about the journey that led you to write your book?

   In January 2002, I traveled for the first time to the country of Vietnam. I went there on a bit of a lark – a childhood friend of my mother’s was working there and had extended a kind of “open invitation” to visit. For some reason, I decided to go. Maybe I shouldn’t say “for some reason” – I was born during the war in Vietnam, and the conflict endured throughout my early childhood. I had vague memories of the images of war that flickered on our small television screen each evening. Usually, these images were mere background to our lives – they played out as my mother cooked dinner. No one seemed to pay great attention. I also had vague recollections of the scenery of Vietnam – some mountains and a village. I’m not sure where or when I saw those early childhood images – perhaps on a news program, or in a later documentary.
   In any event, I traveled to Vietnam in 2002, and it’s safe to say that the experience changed my life, and opened for me new doors of interest, of passion, and of compassion. I returned with a deep and abiding interest in the war in Vietnam, its history, and its effect on American soldiers and Vietnamese citizens. I read – and continue to read – anything that I can get my hands on regarding the war. I focused primarily on first-hand autobiographical accounts by soldiers.
I had a background in fiction writing, but hadn’t written a short story in years. When I relocated to Washington in late 2006, I resolved to return to writing, mostly at the urging of my mother and grandparents. Away from the distractions of family and familiarity, in a new city, I was able to find the peace in which to write. It should be noted that I did not set out to write a collection of short stories on the topic of war. In fact, I did not set out to write a collection, at all. I just wrote – one story after another. And what I found, as I wrote, was that the theme of war continued to assert itself in each of these stories, in one way or another. After years of reading and learning, war had apparently become the foremost, organizing principle in my mind; the circumstance around which all other things revolved. It emerged as a theme that linked all of the new stories that I wrote, without conscious or deliberate effort or planning on my part.
   It should be noted that these are not combat stories, nor do they attempt or purport to be historically accurate or to give voice to the actual experience of those who have fought. Only those who have had to fight, or who have lived in a war zone, can truly understand that experience. These stories are just that – stories – written with the deepest respect and empathy for those who have found themselves in such extreme circumstances, and who have faced the kind of difficult, unforgiving choices that most of us can only imagine.

Can you tell us about the story behind your book cover?

   Sure. Well, suffice it to say that the book cover underwent a lot of changes, much to the annoyance of the cover designer, who (nonetheless) was a wonderfully good sport about it. It was important to me to create a cover that was NOT obviously rooted in or reflective of the topic of war. This was so because, first, the title “War Stories” is used both literally and figuratively. That is, while the majority of stories in the collection are set against the backdrop of war, other stories are not. These additional tales reflect “war stories” of another kind – the kind that we might all experience. So I wanted the cover to encompass all the themes in the book.
  I chose to use a triptych of photos - a series of photos that could each be traced, if a reader so desired, to one or more of the stories in the collection. The characters in the photos are loosely representative of several of the characters in the book.

What book on the market does yours compare to? How is your book different?

I don’t really think that I can make comparisons – each book, each author, are entirely unique.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I tend to write in a “spare” style, and make a deliberate, conscious effort to avoid sentimentality or over-statement of any kind. That’s just me. I don’t know that I succeed, but I try to convey the characters’ circumstances and states of mind without excess or manipulation of the reader. I also deliberately write without any “message” or agenda in mind. None of these stories, even those that are set against the backdrop of war, are intended to convey any kind of political message, and none of them were written with any kind of agenda or judgment. I wouldn’t even begin to know how to write a story with an agenda or message in mind. In general, I write short stories as a series of vignettes – as moments in time, things that happened - from which the reader can draw his or her own conclusions, messages, etc. I prefer to leave the interpretation of the “meaning” of my stories in the hands of the reader.

Do you plan any subsequent books?

I hope so. I’ve begun a growing list of new short story ideas, and I hope to begin working on them in the very near future. I’m looking forward to that. I also hope to segue back into filmmaking at some point, to work on one or more of the documentary projects that I’d like to explore.

Tell us what you’re reading at the moment and what you think of it.

I’m a bit of a history buff, and (in particular) have a longstanding interest in the civil war and the civil rights movement. I’m currently (slowly) reading through the Taylor Branch trilogy about the civil rights movement – I’m working on Part 1 of the series, which is called “Parting the Waters.” I’m so deeply moved by the courage of those individuals – known and unknown – who put their lives and safety on the line for the higher purpose of justice and freedom. I can only hope to develop some small fragment of that kind of courage. I also just purchased several new books – “The Fiery Trial – Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery” by Eric Foner, and a history of the civil war by Shelby Foote. I think the civil war and the civil rights movement are pinnacles in the evolution of our nation, and moments in which we can observe what is highest, best, and most divine in humanity.

 Thanks to the generosity of Ms. Doyle and Tribute Books, I have one (1) paperback copy of War Stories to giveaway to one (1) lucky winner! To enter, simply leave a comment with your name and email address so I can contact if you win the giveaway. The giveaway will run until SATURDAY, November 10th. The winner will be randomly picked by and announced on my blog on SUNDAY, November 11th. Good to luck!
8 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    I've been enjoying more and more short story collections lately, it's been really satisfying to read about the separate lives and problems of a variety of characters all in one place:) Loved the question/answer about the cover design, it's so much fun to get little behind the scenes tidbits like that!

  2. me Says:

    I'm always looking for a new book to read. Thanks for the giveaway.
    Jes Brey

  3. This sounds really good. I think it is nice that it explores the lives of those who serve. Hopefully it will make an I impact and make us more aware of all the difficulties they endure on our behalf. I can only imagine how visiting Vietnam inspired Elizabeth to write this. I was born in 73 so I don't have any memories but I know it was horrific. Thanks for sharing this today!

  4. Rummanah, thanks for offering your blog followers the chance to win Elisabeth's book. Good luck to all who enter!

  5. Cassandra Says:

    Thanks for the awesome giveaway!

  6. I don't know if it's international or not, but it sounds really good. I loved 'The things they carried' and I am deeply interested in war stories

    aliasgirl at libero dot it

  7. bn100 Says:

    Sounds like an interesting book.


  8. Thank you for hosting a giveaway.
    Ellen Levickis

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