I wrote in my last post about all the factors the led to me writing my book. But the truth is, those factors would not a good story make. They were the reasons to start…not the reasons to finish. If all I had was desire and ideas, it wouldn’t have been enough. Flesh and blood has to cover those bones. Here are the things that influence the actual story itself, making it into something much more meaningful (if only to me) than anything I would have intended on my own:
1. When I was 17, I had already decided to join the Marine Corps. My parents are wonderfully supportive, but I do think that my Mom was ever-so-slightly nervous about my plan. She suggested I go do some other work for a handful of months and make sure that I was sure about joining the Marines. A Israeli friend of ours, who grew up on a Moshav (collective town), was passing through the city around that time and the suggestion was born: I would go volunteer at her Moshav for six months, work hard, gain some experience, and then come back and join the Marine Corps.
Consequently, for six months, I worked in the kitchen, cleaned ever-so-many things, hiked all around the country, walked hither and yon near Abu Ghosh and in Jerusalem, visited old family friends, lived sparsely, made friends from all over the world, and learned a good bit of Hebrew while I was at it. Israeli and Jewish history had always been on my radar, but now I enjoyed and appreciated it even more.
2. Nevertheless, when I came home, I still joined the Marine Corps. That’s how I knew it was the right thing to do. No matter the circumstance, the notion wouldn’t die, and I think God meant it that way. I trained, prepared, and shipped off to boot camp. Boot camp is its own post, not this one, although it’s influence on me cannot be denied. Military life influenced me. Deployment influenced me. Camaraderie and barracks life influenced me. Rank, hierarchy, and the unique military and Marine Corps culture fascinated me, even while I was a part of it.
3. My job in the Marine Corps was as an Arabic translator. I learned so much about the Middle East, about Arab culture, Iraqi Culture specifically, and tribes, and history, and I lived and breathed it…because it was my job and I cared about my job. It seeped into everything I did…including my writing, naturally.
4. My degree, which I acquired after my service, is in International Affairs. I studied politics, cultural conflict, war, languages, histories, etc. I love studying these things, I love being immersed in these things, and I love working on and with these things.
4. My family: I have a big family. We are loud (think “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” although we are not Greek) and close and wild. This is my culture.
5. More than any of the above: God. My faith. Now my book is not written for religious audiences. It is not “Religious” or “Christian” fiction by any stretch, especially since those categories seem to have very particular requirements and I sometimes wonder if C.S. Lewis’ fiction would have been rejected by Christian publishing houses for not being religious enough. But I am a Christian. And I was raised steeped in Jewish and Israeli history, culture, and traditions (long story, that). And I do think that diversity in literature should also include diversity of opinion, belief, thought, and faith. To keep my faith from influencing my writing would be to keep my breaths from influencing my lungs. Not gonna happen.
To put it a little fancy, these are the winds and rains and temperatures–the native climate–that shaped the geography of my writing and give it is character and soul.
That’s not to say there isn’t a lot more shaping yet to be done, because I’m quite sure there is.