11 June 2017

Author Interview & Book Giveaway: Jeffrey K. Walker on NONE OF US THE SAME

This week, we're pleased to welcome author JEFFREY K. WALKER with his latest release, NONE OF US THE SAME (Sweet Wine of Youth, Volume 1). One lucky winner will receive a copy of the novel in Kindle format. Here's the blurb about the novel.

Fiery Deirdre Brannigan had opinions on everything. She certainly hated the very idea of war in 1914. Childhood pals Jack Oakley and Will Parsons thought it a grand adventure with their friends. But the crushing weight of her guilty conscience pushes Deirdre to leave Ireland and land directly in the fray. Meanwhile the five friends from Newfoundland blithely enlist. After all, the war couldn’t possibly last very long… 

They learn quickly how wrong they are and each is torn apart by the carnage in France.

What began with enthusiastic dreams of parades and dances with handsome young soldiers turned into long days and nights in the hospital wards desperately trying to save lives. And for the good and decent young men in fine new uniforms aching to prove themselves worthy on the field of battle, the horrors of war quickly descended.

But it is also the war which brings them together. Deirdre’s path crosses with Jack and Will when they’re brought to her field hospital the first day of the slaughter on the Somme. Their lives part, their journeys forward fraught with physical and emotional scars tossing them through unexpected and often painful twists and turns. But somehow, a sliver of hope, love and redemption emerges. And their paths cross again in St. John’s.

When the guns finally fall silent, can Deirdre overcome her secret demons through a new life with battered Jack? Can shell-shocked Will confront his despotic father’s expectations to become the man his young family deserves?

**Q&A with Jeffrey K. Walker**

So let's find out more about the story behind the novel...

Why and how did you become a writer?
I’m a latecomer to fiction, having started this first novel at age 56. However, as an attorney and consultant and professor, I’ve written for a living most of my adult life—most of what lawyers do involves complex research and writing. So I came to fiction with a full tool box for doing the mechanics. It’s the world-building and storytelling that’s new and challenging for me, so None of Us the Same taught me a lot of the craft of writing.

None of Us the Same is set during and after the First World War. How did you come to that time period for this historical novel?
Two reasons. First, I’ve always been fascinated by this period in history, much more so than the Second World War. That might seem odd for an American. I spent a lot of my legal career in public international law—treaties and law of war, that kind of thing—and the period before and after the First World War was the golden age of international law. World War II was really the final act, the denouement of the First World War—the international order was fractured by the conflict and not very effectively put back together, leaving space and oxygen for fascism, Nazism, Stalinism.

Second, I set out to write a book about the terrible damage war does to the young men and women drawn into it and how they struggle with putting their lives back together after the war. Initially, I assumed I’d set the book present day, using Afghanistan or Iraq. As I dug into the project, I couldn’t shake the feeling I was appropriating the stories of young men and women struggling real time. To a guy like me who spent 20 years in uniform, it felt a little wrong. So the First World War offered a compelling alternative setting, yet with many of the same problems that young veterans face today. I guess you can say I was a bit of a coward and that landed me in 1914 rather than 2014.

How did you approach researching the book?
I’ve been a big historical fiction fan since I was 11 or 12 and read one of my parents’ completely age-inappropriate Book of the Month Club selections. It was something by James Michener. I can’t exactly remember which one, maybe Hawaii. Ever since, perhaps because Michener was such a meticulous researcher, I don’t like books with a lot of historical groaners in them—and my wife will attest that I actually groan out loud when I read inaccuracies—so I was a little neurotic about research for None of Us the Same. Among other things, this included a research trip to Newfoundland during iceberg season and you'll see its gems in the book. (Everyone should put Newfoundland on their Bucket List. Beautiful land with genuinely friendly people.)

I’m really drawn to social and intellectual history, so spent a lot of time reading ‘Lost Generation’ poets, novels written by veterans of the War, newspapers and magazines of the period, as well as a mountain of more traditional historical sources. Memoirs and letters were very important to me so I could get period-appropriate voices in my head. I also visited some amazing museums, like the Imperial War Museum in London and the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum in St. John’s. I hope it was all worth it, but I’ll leave it to readers to check their own level of groaning.

Did you rely on actual historical persons or are your characters 100% fictional?
As 100% fictional as any character can be, I suppose. I’ve never been a big fan of “fictional biographies” in general because so few authors do them really well. I mean, there’s Hilary Mantel and then there’s the rest of us mere mortals, isn’t there? So I went to some effort to avoid using real persons. For example, my two male main characters are from Newfoundland and join that Dominion’s regiment in 1914. The First World War was a traumatic and emotional right of passage for the Newfoundlanders—they sustained huge losses for a very small place and the regiment is highly revered to this day. To not offend anyone, there is no one named in the book above the rank of captain nor above the position of platoon commander. I pulled last names for characters from the regimental roster and from old St. John’s city directories, but that’s as far as I went. My female main character, an Irish nurse you met in the excerpt, is completely fictional albeit her hospital did exist, as did her casualty clearing station on the Somme. So I wove my fictionalized characters between the seams of real people, places, and events.

That said, the second volume in my trilogy does incorporate a historical person or two because I really needed them for narrative purposes.

So None of Us the Same is the first volume of a trilogy? Was that a challenge your first time out—three books all at once?
Yeah, a little crazy wasn’t it? I wanted to approach the theme of “war changes everyone and everything” on three different levels: individual, social/cultural and political. That lended itself quite naturally to a trilogy. All three are—or will be—heavily character-driven, but the overarching themes track these three aspects of change. None of Us the Same focuses on the wide range of individual traumas and struggles. The second book—Truly Are the Free, should be out in the Fall. It looks at the enormous social upheavals and change caused by the War and is partly set in post-War Harlem and Paris. (It features a main character from the storied 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment—the “Harlem Hellfighters.”) The third book, No Hero’s Welcome, will look at the violent political upheavals in Ireland in the wake of the British Empire’s widespread exhaustion caused by the War.

The alternative to a trilogy would have been a Michener-esque doorstopper of a saga, 800 pages long. I had serious misgivings about anyone giving a new fiction writer that much benefit of the doubt.
About the Author

JEFFREY K. WALKER has worked as a stock broker, bomber navigator, criminal lawyer, international consultant, and law professor. He’s lived in ten states and three foreign countries. Although None of Us the Same is his first novel, he’s written his entire life, including undergraduate sports coverage, an opinion column in his law school newspaper, hundreds of trial motions, a losing Supreme Court amicus brief, and several scholarly chapters and articles. He dotes on his family and has never been beaten at Whack-a-Mole.
Connect with Jeff on his author page and blog at http://jeffreykwalker.com/  or:
             On Instagram at https://instagram.com/jkwalker.author 
             On Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jeffreykwalker 
             On Twitter at @jkwalkerAuthor
             Or Email him at jeff at jeffreykwalker dot com
None of Us the Same is available at the following:
 www.amzn.to/2qvJSJm  (Amazon)
 http://bit.ly/2qxoMd3  (Barnes& Noble)