No candy coating

At the height of the Vietnam War, I studied journalism at Texas A&M University.  The university had a strong military training program, graduating a significant number of officers.  They went off to war.  If they came home in coffins, as they frequently did, the school honored its former students with a ceremony.  It would be at night.  Campus lights went out. The flags lowered to half-mast.  The slow roll of Taps began and, even in the summer, my skin crawled.  All activity ceased.  It was eerie and humbling, but it was not first-hand.

At bases around the country, a grim faced officer had made that knock.  Kathleen, who was and is a pilot’s wife, tells us the rules of conduct when that knock happens.

Advertisements

64 comments on “No candy coating

  1. Hi Barbara,

    Thank you so much for taking time to read ALL those posts. I had a blast taking folks’ questions. Helped me think about the whole process. Just because I’ve been writing for years doesn’t mean I have it all figured out either. Long way from that for sure. 😉 My original title was simply “The Final Salute,” but my soft cover publisher added “Together We Live On.” My new publisher left it off the Kindle cover which I absolutely love. Good luck with your own writing. I see you may have a book coming out soon?

    Kathleen 🙂

  2. Kathleen,
    I read all the posts and haven’t had a chance to watch the videos. But I can see you are someone who cares about your characters. I haven’t read The Final Salute:Together We Live On, yet, but I commend you for keeping such a long title.:) I don’t know anything about being a military wife, but I know it can’t be easy! I don’t think I could cope with the pressures you must have to cope with all the time. I don’t think there has been a modern book about this by a woman. I look forward to reading it when I can.

  3. Billye Johnson says:

    Thanks, Kathleen.
    I will certainly look up that article. I still follow the military stories closely and take what the personnel and their families are going through to heart. Thanks for bringing the military family side of the stories to print.
    All the best.
    Billye

  4. Dear Marlene, Dwight, Ann, Dee, and Billye,

    I’ll be back after dinner. Need to take a break. I promise to respond to all of your comments. Love hearing from all of you.

    Back in a few – KR

  5. Hi Kathleen,
    I’m enjoying the posts from everyone. As a former military wife at a SAC base, I went though many of the experiences with other officers wives. You are so right about how we all came together to support each other during the hard times. Since my husband was not a pilot, I had a limited frame of reference so I was more the support group. I also saw so much burnout among the military wives who couldn’t cope with the stress of their husbands’ careers. Now that more women are the career military, I wonder what support and coping mechanisms are in place for the spouses of both genders.

    • Billye, I have talked with a lot of current wives–even some milspouses of the male variety. There is still the camaraderie with the military, but so many of the spouses work and/or live away from base housing (at least in Southern California) that the wives don’t connect as strongly. They don’t have the time.

      • Mary R. says:

        I noticed the longer we were in the military, the less the wives connected (overseas was better — fewer distractions like tv, jobs for wives) due to the fact that our lives have changed and most of the wives have to work or just want to.

    • Hi Billye,

      So nice to hear from you. I think I saw your name on Susannah’s thread last month. If my memory serves me right, you are also a writer working on a book? Keep me posted on that.

      You state that you were an officer’s wife but your husband wasn’t a pilot. I cover that very subject in The Final Salute. My novel explores all aspects of military service, not just the pilots and their wives. But for elevator pitch purposes, that’s the quickest way to describe my book. Although the Air Force serves as a backdrop, my novel is about people and universal themes.

      As for today’s spouses, I can only tell you what I read and hear from following the chatter I pick up on FB and by talking to folks everyday. Yes, so many spouses work now days just to make ends meet. A great website to follow is Her War Her Voice. They also have a great presence on FB. Lots of Army wives and I love reading about them and following their blogs. BTW – I will be guest blogging for them in a few weeks.

      I’ve gone from being a military wife to a military mom. My youngest son is a 2nd Lt. in the US Army and I’m trying to process all this and remian supportive. I am so proud of him.

      If you have a moment and are interested in reading more about The Final Salute, hope you’ll click on the link to a story Military Times ran about my journey to write the book. Here’s the link:

      http://www.militarytimes.com/entertainment/books/offduty_book_final_salute_021810w/

      Don’t hesitate to shoot me an e-mail at: kathleen@kathleenMrodgers.com

      Take care and hope to hear from you,

      Kathleen

  6. Robin and Kathleen,

    Thanks for a great series of blogposts and fascinating insights into Air Force life and writing.

  7. annhite says:

    Loved the interview, Kathleen.You are so right when you speak of military families being a family. I was an Air Force brat and spent my grammar school years in Germany. This was during the cold war. I just ordered your book. Thanks. Ann

    • Hello Ann!!

      First, thank YOU for taking a few minutes from your very busy schedule to stop by and leave a comment about your formative years as an Air Force brat in Germany. I’m tickled that you ordered The Final Salute. I hope you enjoy the read.

      Listen up everybody. Ann Hite is the author of “Ghost On Black Mountain,” her debut novel forthcoming from Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Sept. 13, 2011. Ann is the featured author for Sept. on Debut Authors. I had the privilege of reading an ARC of Ann’s novel and I fell in love with all of her characters. I left my review on Good Reads and I’m waiting to post on Amazon. You will fall in love with Ann’s novel, especially Nellie Pritchard. But keep your eye out for Hobbs!!! 😉

      Okay, Ann, get rested up because your life is about to change. You will be busy this fall telling many folks about Nellie and all the wonderful women of Ghost On Black Mountain. I haven’t quite left there…. 🙂

      Kathleen

  8. Dwight Zimmerman says:

    Kathleen,

    Well, I’ve had some distractions today, but was finally able to get to this. Great interview! You voiced some insider’s facts that I had suspected, and obviously was glad to hear confirmed. Congratulations on this! Looking forward to seeing you at Pittsburgh!

    • Hey Dwight!!!

      I hope you are safe. Praying for all concerned in NYC. You’ve had a busy day, between the interview on Veteran’s Radio and preparing for Irene!!!! Again, so proud of you for your book “Uncommon Valor,” released last year by St. Martin’s Press!! You and your coauthor honored all Medal of Honor recipients and their families.

      See you in Pittsburgh for the 2011 MWSA conference!!

      Be safe,

      Kathy

  9. Kathleen,
    I’m so glad to see a fictionalized account of service life. It’s something most of us know nothing about, beyond Hollywood’s exaggerated accounts. My stepson and his wife are both career soldiers, raising two children as they move from post to post. We’re back-up parents to our grandchildren in case both soldiers are called to dangerous duty at the same time. That’s an aspect of military life most people never think of.

    Congratulations on your book. Do you have another in the works to follow it up?

    • Hi Marlene,

      I am so honored that you took the time to visit and leave a comment. First, as the mother of an active duty soldier – my youngest son is a 2nd Lt. in the US Army – I am so humbled by your stepson’s and daughter-in-law’s service. Please give them my best! They are the 1% of Americans that have chosen the Armed Forces as a career. They both have my deepest respect!! I salute them!

      God love you for helping raise your grandchildren when their parents are both deployed or TDY. 🙂

      Yes, I am working on a new novel called Johnnie Come Lately. It’s about a woman named Johnnie Kitchen. Please feel free to shoot me an e-mail @
      Kathleen@kathleenMrodgers.com.

      I’m in process of “remodeling” my website but please stop by if you’d like. Would love for you to read The Final Salute and give me your feedback.

      http://www.kathleenMrodgers.com

      God Bless you and your family,

      Kathleen

  10. debutauthors says:

    I keep a notebook in which I paste pictures, write down expressions I think the character will commonly use, and lists of ‘hard’ words as the industry calls them. Sometimes I use writing prompts, too.

    Do you share this, Kathleen?

    • Robin – Yes, in the early days of birthing characters, I cut out pictures of people from magazines and newspapers. Not just the pretty ones. I’ve even been known to haunt the obits looking for names and what these people did for a loving.

      Reading the life stories of real inspires me.

      I love to drive through neighborhoods and imagine who lives in the houses, apartments, trailer homes. There’s a street I drive down every time I drive to The Writers’ Garrett. I see Johnnie Kitchen in several of those bungalows. She’s looking out the kitchen window, waiting for her husband Dale to come home….

      Kathleen

      • debutauthors says:

        Driving neighborhoods and such…that’s what works for me. I visited China with the person I’m using as the main character and met others who are in there too. You should see the scribbles in my notebooks. I also took pictures that a tourist would never make. Constantly amused my traveling companions. Even made them howl at the moon. They have not let me live that one down.

  11. debutauthors says:

    Oh, geez, ‘your technique’. (How I hate autocorrect. See, website link on this page for some funny stories.)

  12. debutauthors says:

    “Kathy, my question is — how do you make a composite character? I know writers do it all the time to make one larger-than-life character that grips a reader. How do you do this.”

    Kathleen, I lifted this from an earlier comment. Great question, don’t you think. I know I’m always writing character profiles and analyzing how they would do certain things. Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and State of Wonder, told me she cleans the kitchen and while doing that tries to imagine how the character would perform simple tasks. Betting her kitchen has undergone some whacky things! What’s you technique?

    • I’m not Kathleen, but if I may respond to the method of creating a compelling character, I’d like to mention a writing exercise I was presented with recently. Take the character in question, and write a brief account of that character doing some mundane task- making a sandwich, driving to work, taking a shower- you get the idea. It’s amazing how this makes you truly think about your character. It helped me look at my characters in a different light!

    • Mary R. says:

      That is a wonderful idea — going around your kitchen and imagining how someone else would do it!!!

    • Hi Robin,

      Love Ann Patchett’s advice. The bottom line here is you have to GET INTO THEIR HEADS. Even if you’re telling the story third person, you have to know what’s inside each character. What makes them tick? Did they get bullied on the playground. Did they have pimples as a kid. Did they lose a parent, a sibling, were they the teacher’s pet? Do they believe in God. Do they have B.O. Do they floss. Even if some of this doesn’t show up on the page. What are they thinking, not just doing?

      Here’s my long answer to Mary from earlier. How to make a composite character:

      The best way I know is to give you an example of a character from TFS. Let’s take Wheaties, our gung-ho young fighter pilot who plays the trumpet at the chapel. Wheaties is a redheaded, fun-loving guy from Kansas. Without giving too much away, let’s just say I knew a pilot who played the trumpet and another pilot whose daddy flew crop dusters. I also knew a crazy, big-hearted fighter pilot who loved to call everyone “Driver.” So, I put these three guys together in a pot, stirred them up a bit, let them simmer in my mind and heart. And one day Wheaties just started talking to me. He told me where he came from, what his passions were, why he loved his young wife so much. His soul sang out to me when I closed my eyes and listened to him play his horn. At other times, I heard him cracking his knuckles when he got nervous.

      Each character took time to fully form in my head and heart. They didn’t get birthed overnight. I’m proud that readers tell me my characters feel like real people. They feel like real people to me, too, because they didn’t let me get away with leaving them sitting around, looking like cardboard cutouts. I gave them hearts and souls and people and things they care about.

      Hope this helps???

      Kathleen 🙂

  13. Mary R. says:

    Leila, I once read a book written by the daughter of concentration camp victims, and she told of how the trauma of the parents affected even the children (the parents tended to be over-protective). It was a good book, but I can’t remember the name of it.

    I am presently writing a memoir of my childhood years and like you said, the trauma incapacitates the ability to imagine. I cannot imagine writing it as fiction — and, the truth is stranger than fiction.

    I would still like to write a fiction book like Kathleen’s, perhaps about military life — this is great that we can pick her brain!

    • Mary,
      Kudos to you for stating the following: “I am presently writing a memoir of my childhood years and like you said, the trauma incapacitates the ability to imagine. I cannot imagine writing it as fiction.”

      You know the truth and it’s setting you free, regardless of how you tell the story.
      I am so proud of you.

      K

  14. Even though I am the daughter of a WWII veteran, my father was in the army and never spoke about his experiences. So I have no firsthand knowledge about life in any branch of the military. But after reading The Final Salute, I feel as though I am now able to empathize with military families, as Kathleen does such a superb job of conveying the experience of an Air Force family. I felt the pride and anxiety and courage of the pilot’s wife.

    Kathleen, I am fascinated by an author’s choice between fiction and nonfiction. You and I both write from our personal experiences, but after writing two manuscripts where I fictionalized mine, I decided I needed to write a nonfiction portrait of how combat trauma ripples through a family. I have often said that my trauma incapacitated my ability to imagine. Was there a moment when you consciously chose fiction or did fiction choose you? Might you ever be interested in writing nonfiction, or does that feel as foreign to you as fiction does to me?

    Leila Levinson
    author of Gated Grief: The Daughter of a GI Concentration Camp LIberator Discovers a Legacy of Trauma

    • Hi Leila,

      Thank you so much for taking time away from your schedule to visit Robin’s blog. First, let me just say how much I loved reading your book “Gated Grief.” So well-written and thought out. There were so many times I had to stop and take some of it in, because of the subject matter, but I was compelled to keep turning the pages. And didn’t we all have fun seeing you “LIVE ON CNN” back in Jan.

      Okay, why I chose fiction over nonfiction to tell the story I told in TFS. To be honest, The Final Salute actually grew out of many articles and essays I’d written and sold to such publications as Family Circle, Air Force, Army & Navy Times, and Family Magazine: The Magazine For Military Families. All of these stories, with the exception of one, were nonfiction. But no matter how many times I tried to write about certain themes, I felt like I couldn’t take the stories to the level they needed to go by writing about real life. By turning certain things into fiction, I was actually able to GET AT THE TRUTH about certain things that happened during our time in the military. We lost so many friends in plane crashes and I couldn’t keep writing essays every time a plane went down. But what I could do was take all the pilots we’d known who “bought the farm,” and I could GIVE THEM A VOICE through the characters that people my novel.

      In the novel I’m working on now, I’m delving deep into the subject of bulimia. As you know from our many talks, I know the subject firsthand and have written about my struggle and recovery for Family Circle. But I could only take the subject so far before the editors “sanitized” it and glossed over the subject. (I’m not complaining as I’m still thrilled they gave my work a home for ten years.) But by giving some of this to Johnnie Kitchen, I am able to explore on a deeper level what really happens to a person who “gets” an eating disorder and how hard it is to climb out of the darkness. And of course I’m exploring many other subjects in Johnnie, military service being one of them.

      I hope this all makes sense. With the exception of The Final Salute and a short story I had published in Family Magazine in the late eighties, most of my body of work has been nonfiction. Oh, and I do have a few poems published in a couple of anthologies by major houses. But it’s hard to call myself a poet.

      Okay, hope this has helped. Can’t wait to see you in Pittsburgh! BTW – I think you have another book in you! 🙂

      Kathy

      • debutauthors says:

        Kathleen, I began as non-fiction too, but soon realized the freedom of fiction where you can explore themes that a real person may not recognize exist for them or that they don’t want to delve into and that may be shallow because of their reluctance.

  15. Mary R. says:

    I’m a #1 Fan of Kathy’s! Her book was a fun book (I saw an advertisement for it in the Air Force Times), but it had its serious side — it showed how military people put their lives on the line. I miss military life. My husband is now retired. We have settled into civilian life and have been successful, but will always miss the military. I miss having so much in common with so many people as you do in the military, and we trust each other with our lives. We become friends fast, because we don’t have 15 years to get to know somebody. Friendships are close and sometimes last forever. I also miss going to church with military people — the fellowship was fantastic — we’d spend our holidays with each other, because we had no family with us overseas — and I miss that.

    Kathy, my question is — how do you make a composite character? I know writers do it all the time to make one larger-than-life character that grips a reader. How do you do this.

    I also admire your perseverance and drive and belief in yourself. The book was great. I’m looking forward to reading your next book, and also the books of other military writers.

    • Hello #1 Fan!! aka, Mary,

      You have been so supportive of me since the day you contacted me via my website. By the way, my NEW website is up and running. It’s still under construction but hope you like the changes. Has a whole new look. My goal is to have more of an “author” site as opposed to pushing one book. 😉

      Here’s the link to half-baked new site: http://www.kathleenMrodgers.com

      Love what you said about military life: “We become friends fast, because we don’t have 15 years to get to know somebody. Friendships are close and sometimes last forever. I also miss going to church with military people — the fellowship was fantastic.” Yes on all of the above! I too miss going to church with military people. As a matter-of-fact, guess that’s why two key scenes from TFS take place in the chapel at Beauregard. Another thing we do quickly is set up house, even if we’re only going to be there 6 months to a year. Doesn’t matter if that “house” is an apt., a trailer, a set of quarters on base…when we move in, we make it a “home.”

      Now, to answer your question about how to make a “composite character.” The best way I know is to give you an example of a character from TFS. Let’s take Wheaties, our gung-ho young fighter who plays the trumpet at the chapel. In real Wheaties is a redheaded, fun-loving guy from Kansas. Without giving too much away, let’s just say I knew a pilot who played the trumpet and another pilot whose daddy flew crop dusters. I also knew a crazy, big-hearted fighter pilot who loved to call everyone “Driver.” So, I put these three guys together in a pot, stirred them up a bit, let them simmer in my mind and heart. And one day Wheaties just started talking to me. He told me where he came from, what his passions were, why he loved his young wife so much. His soul sang out to me when I closed my eyes and listened to him play his horn. At other times, I heard him cracking his knuckles when he got nervous.

      Okay, I’ll stop there. Each character took time to fully form in my head and heart. They didn’t get birthed overnight. I’m proud that readers tell me my characters feel like real people. They feel like real people to me, too, because they didn’t let me get away with leaving them sitting around, looking like cardboard cutouts. I gave them hearts and souls and people and things they care about.

      Hope this helps. The bottom line, you have to spend time with your characters, even when you’re not actually sitting down in front of the keyboard or scribbling on a legal pad. Let them tell you what they want and need. Not just what they are wear and how many times they scratch their nose. 🙂

      Kathy

  16. Sadly, I have not yet read “Final Salute” but plan to! I am a huge fan of Johnnie, and your writing inspires me. It is so nice to have met you through The Writer’s Garret, and I look forward to each new installment of Johnnie’s adventures.

    • Hi Patti,

      Glad you are on board. I hated missing critique today at The Writer’s Garrett. I promise to get back. I owe it to Johnnie. She is getting impatient with me because I’ve put her world on hold for about a month. Got sidetrack on volunteer work for another writing organization I’m affiliated with. I am thrilled that you love Johnnie Kitchen and are eager to find out what happens next. Your support means so much to me. I hope your own writing is going well.

      BTW – YOU inspire me!! 🙂

      Kathleen

  17. debutauthors says:

    Hey all, the blog host has been ornery. Some of the posts come through as automatically approved (which is how I set this up) and some I need to handle manually. Sorry for any delays. Keep those questions coming.

  18. Mike Towner says:

    Hi Kathy! As we’ve discussed, us dependents dreaded ‘That Knock’ as much as the moms did….We were fortunate, but a few of my friends families were not.

    ~Mike

    • Hey Mike,

      Welcome to Robin’s blog. So nice to see you here! You know how I feel about you “military brats,” considering I raised two of them! LOL

      Seriously, your comments gave me goosebumps. As the son of Vietnam tested fighter pilot, you know all too well about growing up with a dad who flew fighters. And you also know how “the knock” could come in peacetime just as easily as it could during a time of war.

      Take care my friend. And long live the spirit of our old home, England Air Force Base!! And let us not forget your childhood buddy, Skip. May he rest in peace.

      God Bless,

      Kathy

  19. Drema Hall Berkheimer says:

    Kathleen,

    Of course, you know I am a fan, but in case there’s any doubt, let me repeat it.
    I am a fan!!!

    I’m trying to complete a memoir I’ve been playing around with for two or three years now, and find myself wondering, meaning in wonder of, your perseverance in getting The Final Salute in print. How did you find it within yourself – a wife and mother of two boys – to keep on keeping on?

    Drema

    • Hello Drema,

      Thank you for taking time away from your own writing to visit Robin’s blog. By the way, for those who don’t know Drema, she won First Place Nonfiction and First Honorable Mention Nonfiction in the 2010 WV Writers Competition. She is working on a memoir about growing up in West Virginia during the depression.

      Now, to answer your question about how I kept at the novel during all those
      L – O – N – G years of revisions and rejections. To be honest, there were days when I wanted to give up. But if I quit, what kind of lesson or message would that teach my children? I didn’t want them thinking their mama was a quitter. And I was out to prove to myself that I could write a novel and find a publisher. During the early days of the various drafts, I was also trying to make my mark as a successful freelance writer. Each time I sold an article, I reminded myself that an editor believed in my work. And if an editor at a magazine or newspaper believed in my work, then maybe, just maybe, I could snag the attention of a publisher when The Final Salute was ready. Thank God I had no idea it would take 16 years from start to publication. LOL

      Since the novel was written on speculation, I had to impose my own deadlines, and I had to keep telling the ugly voices in my head to SHUT UP! One voice kept asking, “Who are you to tell a story about fighter pilots? You’re a woman. You’re not even a pilot.” I learned to trust my storytelling abilities and my life experiences, and that combination gave me the authority I needed to complete the novel and put it through numerous revisions.

      Plus, all those “ghosts” I write about needed a voice. I hope this helps. You know the drill. You’re living it everyday and you’ve inspired others to tell their stories.

      Kathleen 🙂

  20. Great interview with a great author. I loved the relationship between Gina and Tuck in The Final Salute, their mutual support for each other, and how they got through everyday life, not just the times of crises. Kathy succeeded in bringing Air Force life into all our living rooms. Thanks for doing that, Kathy.

    • Hello Erin!!!

      Aw, so much fun to see you here! For those that don’t know, Erin Rainwater is the award-winning author of the novel “True Colors,” about a Civil War nurse named Cassie Golden. Erin won the Gold Medal for historical fiction from Military Writers Society of America in 2009. (The Final Salute took the Silver.)

      Erin, thank you so much for stopping by and leaving your comments. I value your opinion for so many reasons, and one of them is that you are an amazing writer and an extremely gifted storyteller. And you now how much I loved your latest novel, “Refining Fires.”

      Take care and give my love to “Peter” and “Clare” and, of course, “Leopold.”

      Kathy 🙂

  21. I hope my comments have made it to you all. The spam filter is lit up for my first two:)

  22. I loved this heartfelt conversation with Kathy Rodgers….not only is she wise in the ways of military spouses, she offers excellent thoughts on the responsibility of being a writer—-Readers “invest time and emotion” in books. Writers have an obligation to live up to–and to engage the reader quickly. Thank you for sharing this interview.

    • wingwife says:

      The investing of time and emotion rang true for me, also. The responsibilities of being a military spouse and the responsibilities of being a writer have a connection. Being a military spouse requires time and dedication and so does writing.

      • To Marica ~ author of “Wing Wife.”

        Loved your reply back to Bonnie Bartel Latino: “The responsibilities of being a military spouse and the responsibilities of being a writer have a connection. Being a military spouse requires time and dedication and so does writing.”

        Dang, that’s GOOD!!!!!!

        K 😉

    • Hi Bonnie!!

      I ADORE you for taking time to watch the interview and especially for picking up on my comment about how readers “invest time and emotion” into a book. Thank you!

      For those stopping by here, Bonnie Bartel Latino is an award-winning writer and a former correspondent for Stars & Stripes. She also reviews books for Mobile Press-Register. Her review of my novel ran in the Dec. 6, 2009 Sunday edition of MP-R. Hope you have a moment to read her review. Here’s the link:

      http://blog.al.com/entertainment-press-register/2009/12/book_review_final_salute_honor.html

      Thanks again, Bonnie. I am so grateful for your support!

      Kathy 🙂

  23. Ed Rasimus says:

    So many things here to agree with! First, your comments on writing to immerse all of the reader’s senses. The sounds, smells, tastes, sights and feelings of life, if conveyed in words on paper will make a successful book.

    Then your comments on the “family” of military society, the “obligations” that aren’t obligations like OWC coffees, the unwritten rules that somehow we all learn.

    And, hard to not comment in agreement about traditional publishing in preference to self-publishing, publish-on-demand or vanity press. It says a lot about your work when a publisher says it is good enough for them to front the investment on the product.

    Last, but hardly least, the sensation of returning to those long-ago AFBs. I went through pilot training a million years ago at Williams AFB. Now I live down the road from the former Perrin AFB. The first time I made the turn down the two-lane through the main gate I felt like I had gone through a time warp back to the mid-’60s. The road pattern, the jet on a pedestal, the checker-board tower and the old two-story wooden barracks buildings were stamped from the same mold that had built my first AFB experiences.

    • Hello Ed!!!!

      Wow, seeing your name and reading your comments just made my day! Thank you for stopping by. What an honor. For those who may not know, Ed Rasimus is a retired Air Force fighter pilot and the author of several best-selling books, including his latest, “Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds,” which he coauthored with General Olds’ daughter.

      You and I are practically neighbors. I live about ten minutes west of DFW. Think you’re a little north of me. So glad you mentioned Williams Air Force Base in your comments. My novel opens with a brief scene from Willie. (You can read the opening pages if you click on the Kindle version of The Final Salute on Amazon.) Just found that out myself this morning. 😉 Speaking of Willie, my husband went through there a few years after you did. We took our grown sons back there March of 2008 because Tom wanted the boys and I to see where he went to pilot school. We stood on the track where all you guys had to run to pass and get your wings! Not sure if you’ve been back since pilot school, but the base is now a satellite campus for ASU. And I think small airplanes still use the runway. Little did I know that day in March of ’08, that two months later, I would finally find a publisher for The Final Salute. Leatherneck was small, but they invested in me, and I will always be grateful.

      Visiting a former air base is both haunting and moving. I was deeply moved by your comments about seeing Perrin AFB as it is today. Here’s what your wrote in case anyone missed the earlier thread: “The first time I made the turn down the two-lane through the main gate I felt like I had gone through a time warp back to the mid-’60s. The road pattern, the jet on a pedestal, the checker-board tower and the old two-story wooden barracks buildings were stamped from the same mold that had built my first AFB experiences.”

      Again, Ed, I am deeply touched that you took the time to visit Robin’s blog, watch the interview, and leave a comment. Thank you so much. 🙂

      Kathleen

  24. wingwife says:

    I also read The Final Salute and found it touched my heart and made me laugh. I’m a Marine fighter pilot’s wife and what Kathy says is true for all of us. Loss and grief and the unwritten rules for behavior are the same no matter what uniform our spouses wore.

    My question: What other books do you have in the works?

    • Hello Marcia!!!

      Thank you so much for stopping by. I remember the day we met via my website. You were preparing to release your wonderful book “Wing Wife” when you found me over the internet! I will never forget our first phone conversation. We hit it off like sisters! Many of the themes in my novel are the same as what you wrote about and what you lived. For those of you who don’t know, Marcia’s husband, Andy, is a retired Marine fighter pilot. Sadly, Marcia also knows firsthand the knock at the door via her dear brother, a Marine fighter pilot who was killed in a midair.

      Looking forward to seeing you in Pittsburgh for your first ever MWSA conference.

      Kathy 🙂

      • Kathy, I know you can pull it off:) Johnny’s story is an important one.

        I am so blessed to have gotten to know you through your book. I tried to download it as an e-book (having converted completely to Kindle. No DTB (Dead Tree Books) for me. Then I tracked you down and bought the DTB signed and also paid you again so you sent me the manuscript by email and I loaded it on my Kindle.

        We have so many connections from our common experiences. Looking forward to meeting all these people I know through MWSA at the conference!

    • Marcia – I’m currently working on a novel about a woman named Johnnie Kitchen. The story is set at a small town in Texas in 2007 and it’s called “Johnnie Come Lately.” In this novel, I’m exploring the following themes: eating disorders, infidelity, military service, family secrets, and loss. Now let’s see if I can pull it off!! LOL 😉

      Kathy

  25. Joyce says:

    Hey Kathleen,
    I loved your book, and you know that. I also appreciate how much I have learned from you and the fact of how seriously you take your writing. I love the fact that you go to critique groups, and even though it isn’t always easy to hear suggestions, you let them simmer and it has made you a better writer over the course of time. I also like the fact that you appreciate copy editors!!!
    Joyce (Editing TLC)

    • Hi Joyce G.!!!

      Wow, your comments made me smile and gave me goosebumps. Writers and editors can learn from each other. I love to work with editors because they serve as guides and my work in stronger because of their suggestions.Thank you for reading The Final Salute and writing such a fantastic review on Amazon. And thank you for reading some early drafts of the opening pages of Johnnie!!! I promise to get back to her soon.

      See you in Pittsburgh in a few weeks for MWSA conference. Good luck with TLC.

      Kathy 🙂

  26. Melissa says:

    May we leave questions for Kathleen here? Although “The Final Salute” is fiction, I wonder just how much of Kathleen and her husband Tom are in the book’s characters.

    • Good morning, Melissa, a fellow writer and friend!

      Yes and no to your question. Even in the early drafts of the novel, I always knew that Tuck and Gina Westerfield lived outside of me, although they came from me. Does that makes sense? It’s sort of like having children. Although they came from me, I have little control over their actions! Haha. Okay, seriously, I tell folks that all my characters are composites of people I’ve known. I guess all novelist draw from real life, regardless of genre.

      Just last month, my husband and I visited the former England Air Force Base, the setting for The Final Salute, although I changed the name to Beauregard AFB for the story. The base closed in 1992 and we hadn’t been back since. As we drove around, I kept pointing out things to Tom and saying things like, “Hey, remember when…..” Several times, Tom turned to me and said, “Babe, you’re getting your fiction confused with reality.” In other words, I worked so long on The Final Salute, that sometimes I forget what was real and what I made up to fit the needs of the story.

      The Associated Press ran a story about my journey to write the novel. Here’s the link if any one is interested. This edition ran in the Colorado Gazette:

      http://www.gazette.com/articles/force-93603-air-novel.html

      Anyway, thanks for your question. BTW – Thank you for helping me improve my novel-in-progress. You always have such good suggestions in critique. 🙂 Johnnie says to tell you thanks. 😉

      Kathleen

  27. Hi Mary ~ Thanks for starting the conversation! I’m so glad you read about the book in Air Force Times, decided to order it, then contact me. You’ve gone from reader to friend! 🙂

  28. Mary says:

    Oh, I really enjoyed Kathleen M. Rodgers’ novel, The Final Salute: Together We Live On. It really showed Air Force life for what it is (my husband is retired from the Air Force).

Comments are closed.