Meet author J.D. Wynne of 'Soldier On'
The story behind Soldier On…
I was dusting my shelves, I had lots to do and errands to run, but there it was, my most precious book. It had been several years since I had last cracked it open. I didn’t have the time, but I pulled it from the shelf anyway. I opened the first page, and instantly I was transported back to Afghanistan.
I read through all my messages and well wishes for my return back into civilian life. I laughed, I cried, and I kept on turning the pages of my journal; the journal I made everyone sign before leaving Afghanistan. Most of my comrades made fun of my sentiment but left a heartfelt message anyway.
It had been ten years since deploying with them, but I could see each person so clearly. These people also stepped on a plane not knowing when or if they would return. They stepped on that plane for country, for family, but most importantly, they just simply stepped on that plane. I have met all types of people in the world, but the people I respect the most are soldiers.
As I flipped through each page, reading every message, I felt like something grabbed a hold of me. At the very last page I sat on the floor with the book open, lost in my thoughts. When I looked down to close it, there it was, on a black cover sheet, a message. I just barely missed the glimmer of black ink on black paper. I turned the book, so the shine could reveal what the message said. It was from a soldier, a soldier I will never see again, but who will forever be intertwined with my memories. It was then that I realized I had to write a book.
Soldier On was written for them; my unit, my friends, and for any other person that misses someone.
Q & A
Your story is very inspiring and ‘Soldier On’ is loosely based on your deployment to Afghanistan. Is writing about that time something you thought about doing for a long time or did it just come to mind after such a long time?
I began writing after my grandmother, whom I was very close to, passed away. At that time, the writing had no clear direction and no military leanings. The story of Soldier On came about after I re-read a book I kept while deployed. The day my unit was to leave Afghanistan, I asked all my comrades to leave a little message. When I re-read through the messages almost ten years later, it sparked the idea to write about the deployment.
I take it that the characters in the novel reflect some of the people you were deployed with. Was it difficult for you to write about some of the bad things that happened? If so, what was the most difficult moment or character for you to write about?
Some of the characters are a mix of many different people I served with. I worked with so many phenomenal, interesting people, it was hard to really pinpoint who I wanted to personify in the book.
The hardest character to write was Specialist Shaw, he was difficult because I really liked him, but that was what I was trying to express; sometimes an abuser can be a trusted friend. His character is a representation of the many different stories I have heard when discussing sexual assault. Statistics show that victims of sexual abuse know their abuser or are well acquainted with them.
The scene where Molly and her friends act on revenge and hide all the undergarments from the dryers was hilarious. Was this a true moment?
That prank was not true, but we did play pranks on each other often. Some of the biggest critics of the book stated that it sounded like summer camp with the pranks. This shouldn’t be surprising since many soldiers are deployed straight out of high school. When they live in a war zone, they are confronted with their own mortality. So, yes, pranks were a good form of entertainment and provided laughs. There is no greater relief from stress than laughing, or sex, but as my readers know, there was plenty of that too.
Are you still in touch with some of the other soldiers you were deployed with back then and do they know you wrote a book based on your experiences?
I am close to many people I served with, they were completely supportive of the book. I think all soldiers can agree that your comrades become family. When you are placed in an unfamiliar situation and place, you rely heavily on each other. I can honestly say I liked all the people I served with, apart from one or two.
You mentioned in your bio, that there is a soldier that you will never see again. Was this what inspired you to write this book?
Yes, very much, the idea to write about the deployment was brewing when reading the other messages, but when I found his message, it cinched it for me. I had to write the book.
Is there anything you edited out of the book?
A lot! I had so many passages on politics and opinions from different characters about the war in general. I decided to edit it out because I wanted the focus to be mostly on the soldiers. The war is the backstory, my book is about the people who go to war.
Are you a reader? If so, what is your favorite genre or your favorite author?
I love to read, and my favorite genre is fantasy. I like to be taken out of this world! My favorite author is J.K. Rowling.
Are you thinking of writing another novel?
I have been working on another idea, hoping one day that I can call it a book.
In which ways has your deployment and writing 'Soldier On' influenced your life? Is there anything else you like to tell readers about this book or yourself?
The deployment profoundly influenced my life, I was literally transported to another world. I tried my best to recreate that world through the eyes of a nineteen-year old girl. That is the thing about war, it will never leave you untouched, and every soldier you meet will have a story.
Thank you J.D. Wynne for allowing me to interview here today.
I wish you all the best in your next endeavor!
* If you are interested in my review of 'Soldier On', click here: *