Author Interview

Interview with author of The Honor Was Mine, Elizabeth Heaney.

Heany_The Honor Was Mine_21807_CV_FTRelease: September 6, 2016

Publisher: Grand Harbor Press

ISBN: 978-1-50393-574-7

Price: $14.95

Kindle Price:  $3.99

Pages: 283

Distribution: Amazon/Ingram

eBook Distribution: Kindle, Nook

Publicity Contact: MindBuck Media

Website: www.elizabethheaney.com

Blurb: A therapist’s journey to heal the invisible wounds of America’s warriors…

When therapist Elizabeth Heaney left her private practice to counsel military service members and their spouses, she came face-to-face with unheard-of struggles and fears. The Honor Was Mine reveals the emotions running deeply—and often silently—in the hearts of combat veterans and their loved ones.

Presenting the soldiers’ stories—told in their own words—as well as her own story of change, Heaney offers readers an intimate perspective, not of war itself but of its emotional aftermath. Some of these stories scrape the bone; others are hopeful, even comical. Every one reveals the sacrifices of those on the front lines and the courage, grace, and honor with which they serve and struggle to truly come home.

For those unfamiliar with the military, this is an eye-opening portrait of the complex, nuanced lives of service personnel, who return from battle only to grapple with the fallout of war while readjusting to civilian life. For veterans and their families, the stories validate the sacrifices and honor of military service. For those who support veterans (doctors, social workers, caregivers and support staff), the book stands as a powerful resource.

 

About the Author

Elizabeth Heaney, MA, had been a therapist for nearly 30 years before she began counseling military personnel. During her years on military bases, she spoke with thousands of soldiers and spouses; she talked with privates and commanders, infantrymen and engineers, soldiers fresh out of boot camp and weary warriors who’d been deployed numerous times. Her stories are infused with a remarkable freshness, an outsider’s ongoing discovery of the military world’s values and honor, rules and norms, reticence and heart.

Interview: Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!

I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma in a big family (six siblings), went to high school and college in Texas, then lived most of my adult life in Tucson AZ. I’ve always loved my middle-of-the-country upbringing. Growing up in that land-bound part of the country felt grounding and anchoring for me. The Southwest with its big skies and vast landscapes offered me that same kind of beautiful anchoring.

I have always felt that being a therapist might be the greatest job in the world. Folks think I listen to people’s problems all day, but I feel like I watch miracles. I watch people emerge into being more themselves, shedding whatever has held them back or wounded their heart. It’s a remarkable job, and it’s always felt like pure grace that I get to do it.

When I began to write, it felt like a second vocation. (Well, a third, really – because teaching and training grad counseling students is also a great love of mine, and that work actually showed up second!)

 

Tell us about your book? How did it get started?

The Honor Was Mine is the story of my years counseling combat veterans on military bases. I worked with troops getting ready to deploy into combat or those just returning from combat – I spoke with privates and commanders, infantrymen and engineers, soldiers fresh out of boot camp, weary warriors who’d been deployed numerous times, and service members from every branch of the military. Sitting with them and listening to their stories awakened me to the incredible burdens combat veterans can carry home.

Because of the counseling I was doing on bases, I had a view into military life that felt rare – and important. Combat veterans (and their spouses) were talking to me about their most crucial concerns, their most vulnerable struggles. I felt those exact same concerns were the ones that civilians often didn’t know about or didn’t understand. The general public hears a lot about veteran homelessness or PTSD or suicide, but they don’t often get to hear the personal stories, and I believe those have much greater impact than hearing about ‘issues.’ I imagined the warriors’ stories could help bridge the divide between military and civilians, could ‘translate’ some of their experiences – and sharing my own process of change might help others come to understand this part of our American culture.

Because they are drilled so thoroughly on the necessity of being tough, I had to learn listen differently, to ask different kinds of questions, to be patient while they fought against that natural reticence. It was like trying to find a signal on an old-fashioned radio dial, tuning in more and more to who they were. As I learned more of who they were, the work both broke my heart and inspired me beyond measure.

Every day, I felt like I was catching hearts falling through the air.

To answer the second question, I’m going to offer an excerpt:

“I wrote my first story like this: Sitting in my hotel room at the end of a very long day, I pulled out my laptop and opened it to a stark blank page. My heart felt tattered with everything I’d seen and heard, so I sat in the soft glow of the desk lamp, writing about a battalion’s grief as they learned one of their soldiers had been killed in combat. There were no hardened warriors that day, just men and women who felt their loss with a raw, stunned vulnerability. I wrote to make room for the next day, which promised to hold more grief-stricken conversations.

I crafted these stories because I wanted others to see soldiers in the way that I had come to see them: as men and women who had a kind of integrity I felt was rare these days. The world I entered into was a world of honor and commitment, separation and grief, integrity and sometimes stoic loneliness. No naive Pollyanna notions here—I saw their bitterness and disillusionment and frustrations, too.

Writing about our poignant conversations helped me support them in a much more profound way.”

What inspires and what got your started in writing?

The process of sitting quietly and struggling to express something very specific, powerful and engaging fascinates me and fills me with inspiration. As a therapist, I articulate complex, nuanced processes and observations all day, every day – but writing opened up whole new worlds of communication for me. With this non-fiction book, I dedicated myself whole-heartedly to representing my experiences and my conversations with pristine accuracy and emotional integrity.

I’ve been a voracious reader all my life. I have fond memories of my dad taking me and a ‘herd’ of siblings to the library every week where we were allowed to check out five books. I thought it was the most magical thing in the world, getting to walk out of there week after week with my stack of books. I think it was a natural progression from loving reading to loving writing. I began with keeping journals, then moved on to writing groups, then some writing conferences and workshops. I don’t think my writing will ever be “complete” – I’m enjoying the endless process of learning, striving and growing into a better and better writer.

 

Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)

I’ve learned to move around a little when I’m writing. I’ll write at my desk for an hour or more, looking out into the woods and watching the sun play on the leaves. Then I’ll move my laptop over into a high window seat and I’ll write standing-up for a while. Sometimes, I’ll even put the computer on an over-turned box, and sit on the floor to write. And I easily stop to wash dishes or sweep the floor or take a long walk in the hills – I find it helpful to “shift gears” for a while so my mind can muse about the places where I’m stuck. If I get tired of being at home, I’ll go to a nearby university library.

The one thing I really love to have in order to write is . . . earplugs! I have no idea how I got started with that, but the near-complete absence of noise/stimulation has done wonders for my level of concentration! It’s so peaceful!!

 

How do you get your ideas for writing?

For this book, the idea was purely heart-driven. I wanted others to know the stories I was listening to and the effect they had on me, to give others a view into the veterans’ experiences, and their ongoing struggles. As an early editor said, “If you want this book to change people’s hearts, you’ll have to tell them how it changed yours.” I couldn’t imagine a better touchstone for writing about this topic.

What do you like to read?

I go through phases – sometimes it’s non-fiction or biographies. Then I’ll drift into literary novels for a while. I’ll have a run of mysteries or thrillers. Right now, I’m reading some old-fashioned westerns and enjoying the deft descriptions of life in the wild west. I find myself drawn to writing more than genre – good writing will draw me in, no matter what kind of book it is.

What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?

Never imagine your writing is “finished” – enjoy the process of growing and learning about writing. Keep polishing, honing, cutting, changing what you write. It’s a great journey!

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Denise Alicea
the authorDenise Alicea
This blog was created by Denise in September 2008 to blog about writing, book reviews, and technology. Slowly, but surely this blog expanded to what it has become now, a central for book reviews of all kinds interviews, contests, and of course promotional venue for authors, etc

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