Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest, Marian Small author of When Johnny Doesn't Come Marching Home.
Norm: Good day Marian and thanks for participating in our interview.
Please tell our readers a little bit about your personal and professional background.
Marian: At almost 90 years of age, it is difficult to condense my very long personal and professional background.
In 1941, when I was 14 years old, I bought a 2nd-hand manual typewriter and taught myself to type. I became the Editor of the school paper in my Senior year and wrote editorials and poetry about the War.
I loved to write and after graduation I wanted to attend college and become a Journalist, but my parents couldn't afford the tuition, so at the age of 17, I went to work as a secretary in a defence plant.
After the war, I was employed for 10 years as the Manager of the cashiering department of General Discount, a mortgage company in Detroit, Michigan. I met and married my son's father while on a vacation in Florida in 1956 and had a few years of reprieve from the working world while bringing up my son. His father and I divorced when I was 33, so I again had to look for employment as I was now a single mother with a 4-year old son to support.
I found a job with Goodbody & Co., a stock-brokerage firm in Ft. Lauderdale and became their wire-operator before being promoted to Operations Manager. ~ In 1967 I was transferred to Beverly Hills, California and became the Operations liaison between their office and Wall Street. I was offered a permanent job in New York, but decided not to take it as I didn't want to uproot my son again.
Instead, I became the Administrative Assistant to the Vice President and Regional Office Manager in Los Angeles, a job I retained until our firm was taken over by Merrill Lynch and I was hired by the Manager of the Hollywood office to work for him. ~ I was again sent back to New York for training.
My life changed at that time. When I returned from New York, I met and soon became engaged to a Vice President of Merrill Lynch who was employed as a stockbroker in the Hollywood office. We were married in 1973.
I was 46 years old and my 10 years as a single mother and my 25 years working in the business world were finally over!
I was a mother again,
bringing up two stepchildren, a five-year old girl and a seven-year
old boy. I became involved in social activities and charitable groups
in Beverly Hills and my husband and I travelled extensively. We were
married for 34 years.
Norm: What was the time-line between the time you decided to write When Johnny Doesn't Come Marching Home and publication? What were the major events along the way?
Marian: I became a genealogist in 1978 when, after my father's death, I discovered that we were Mayflower descendants and that I was the 12th generation of the SMALL family in America
It sparked my interest in tracing our ancestry, which I did, and over the years I accumulated a wealth of information about my forebears.
I became computer-literate at the age of 61 and after many years of researching, I began writing about each generation of my family in America. I had drafted seven volumes when my writing came to a halt and was put on 'hold' for a number of years.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer. A bungled operation in the removal of my breast resulted in at least 6 major corrective surgeries over the years.
A stroke in 2007 was followed by another one in 2008 and a hole in my heart was closed by major surgery in 2010.
In 2012, I was diagnosed again with breast cancer and had another major surgery to remove the 2nd breast. I was 85 years old and, knowing that my time on earth was limited, I realized that I had to finish writing my seven volumes, which I had decided to entitle "The Founders of Our Nation"
Norm: How did you decide you were ready to write the book?
I had finished 5 Volumes of the genealogy and was beginning the 6th Volume about my father's generation. He had been wounded in the 1st World War and I had inherited his personal items when he died, - which included his War helmet, his 1918 diary, many personal letters he had written during the war, several war books, as well as other items of interest. I read the letters and the diary and when I put it all together I realized that I had a treasure-trove of memorabilia relating to the history of World War I and a soldier's participation in it.
It was at that moment that I decided to write a book about World War I and about my father, a wounded soldier in the war.
I began reading books about the war. I put all the personal letters , the diary, and the other items I had inherited together chronologically, and then I began to write.
My father's name was John, so the title came to mind easily, When Johnny Doesn't Come Marching Home. So, at age 86, I began writing my book. Osteoarthritis and carpal tunnel in my hands slowed me down a bit, but I managed to complete it and have it published at age 89 in 2016.
Norm: What were your goals and intentions in writing the book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
Marian: The Centennial of World War I will occur in April, 2017. My goal was to get the book published before then, as close to the 100 year celebration and my 90th birthday as possible.
As I progressed in the writing of Johnny I realized that it was also a human interest story about a wounded soldier and the love of his life, Mary, who became his war bride.
When I put the love story and the war story together, I felt that I had the makings of a compelling book.
Norm: Can you share some stories about people you met while researching this book and what are some of the references that you used while researching this book?
Marian: I wrote this book mostly in isolation as, at my age, certain disabilities prevented (and prevent) me from meeting anyone outside to research the book. My main contacts at the time were my son, who encouraged me in my writing and my first Editor, who visited me several times to review the story with me and make needed corrections.
My references were my father's diary and letters, his war mementos, and history books, many already in my possession and some acquired through the internet.
Norm: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
Marian: It had a strong effect on me emotionally as I learned about my parent's strong love for each other and how much my father suffered during the war and throughout his life afterwards from his war wounds. I cried many times while writing it as I relived his and my mother's lives during those turbulent times.
Norm: What did you enjoy most about writing this book and what was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing the book?
Marian: It was heart-warming to read the love letters my father wrote to my mother and to learn what a great love they had for each other.
The surprise: I never
realized how much pain my father suffered throughout his life from
the war wounds which had left him unable to walk and from the
memories of the horrors of that war which always remained with him.
Norm: What makes your book stand out from other books of a similar nature?
Marian: I feel that this book is unique in that it is a true story, told in the written words of a soldier who describes in detail in his letters and diary his life before the war; the horrors of the war as he was experiencing it; and the pain he experienced afterwards as a severely wounded soldier in the hospitals in France and America.
Norm: How well has the book been received and what are some of the comments you have heard from your readers?
Marian: The book was released late in July so I am only now receiving reviews. So far they all have been complimentary. A 5-Star review just received from Pacific Book Review recommends that the book "be placed in all public libraries, history classrooms, and homes of fellow readers who love historical genre."
An early reader stated, "What a wonderful book! The way you presented the war history is masterful and makes it a dual book - a love story and a war story. It should be required reading for history students in school."
A critique from another reviewer: "A welcome addition to the growing history of WWI memoirs and biographies. It is an inherently fascinating, informative and consistently compelling read from beginning to end while very strongly recommended as a critically important contribution to community, college, and university library, - American Military History collection in general, and World War I supplemental studies, reading lists in particular".
A reader and member of the Freedoms Foundation Chapter in Los Angeles, wrote:
"I would like to
nominate you for a Freedoms Foundation Medal of Freedom. It would be
in keeping with your exemplary father and exemplary you for bringing
his heroic story to life for all of America to be aware of."
Norm: How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing and do you have a specific writing style?
Marian: I learned at an early age to live with hardships. I was brought up during the Great Depression in the 1930's and during the 2nd World War in the 1940's. My family lived in Ohio in the country during my teen years and for 10 years we lived very primitively in that we had an outhouse for a bathroom; our water pumped from a well; and no heat except from a pot-bellied stove in the kitchen.
I was a quiet child, very introverted, while my 3 siblings were the extreme opposite, - very out-going. ~ I believe I escaped from the effects of my environment temporarily with my love for reading and writing. I would spend my time indoors doing one or the other while my siblings went outside to play.
I wrote things in my mind.
So, it must have been inherent within me at that early age that I would one day become an Author.
I am self-taught. I taught myself to type on a second-hand manual typewriter by typing and re-typing whatever I had written over and over again. In my teens, I read the dictionary twice, the Bible, books of poetry and proverbs, any book I could get my hands on and, in that way, with only a small, country school up-bringing, I was able to speak well. And, although I was left-handed, my handwriting was beautiful. English and history were my best subjects in school and I was always the last one to sit down in a spelling bee, (with grades of 100%). I represented my class three times in the County English Scholarships.
Since I never went to college or had any professional schooling in writing, I would venture to say that my writing style is and was my very own.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and When Johnny Doesn't Come Marching Home?
Marian: The book is for sale in Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Friesen Press and other bookstores.
Norm: What is next for Marian Small?
Marian: I am going to finish my seven volumes, "The Founders of Our Nation". They will probably be published through a Genealogical publisher.
I have accumulated a bevy of information regarding my two brothers in World War II, one a Marine who served in the South Pacific and the other an Army Air Corp Flight Engineer who flew over the Himalayas. I have the letters they wrote home during the war and have already written the history of the war as it was progressing while they were in the service, so that would probably be my next book.
I have a book of poetry that I have written which I might also have published.
Then, after that, if I ever become famous as an Author, and if I live long enough, I could write my own life story, which is also quite interesting. ~ However, that one might have to be a fiction novel!
Norm: As this interview comes to an end what question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?
Marian: "Why would you want to write a book in your late 80's?" and the answer would be:
"I've been writing all my life and I've always wanted to become an Author, and finally, at almost 90 years of age, I can say that I am an Author, - the fulfillment of a dream of a lifetime."
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors