Debut Author Interview: Eva Seyler

Meet Eva Seyler
Eva Seyler was born in Jacksonville, Florida. She left that humidity pit at the age of three and spent the next twenty-one years in California, Idaho, Kentucky, and Washington before ending up in Oregon, where she now lives on a homestead in the western foothills with her husband and five children, two of whom are human.

Eva is the author of The War in Our Hearts, out today!

The War in Our Hearts opens in France, 1916. Estelle Graham faces a nightmare. Expecting to meet her beloved husband and bring their newly adopted daughter home to Scotland, she instead finds him gravely injured and unconscious in a casualty station. As she fights for his care, she takes solace in his journals and letters.

In a farmhouse in Somme, Captain Jamie Graham is forever changed when he meets young Aveline Perrault. Both of them broken and walled off from the cruel and cold world around them—made even crueler and colder by the Great War—the pair form an unlikely bond. She finds in him the father she never had, and with her love, he faces the pain from his own childhood.

Readers will discover the depth of love and faith in the face of brutality and neglect as these characters learn to live while surviving World War I.

Let’s get to know Eva and her debut novel!

Where did you get the idea?
I’ve felt for a long time that there wasn’t enough WWI fiction out there, and as I was thinking about what I should write, I got a visual in my head of a red-headed girl standing in a barn. That was Aveline, and when she had some trouble, Captain Jamie Graham came to her aid.

What’s the story behind the title?
My best friend came up with the title and it stuck! I was able to tuck in a line to neatly tie the title to the story after she came up with it, too, which was super awesome.

No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.
There’s a sixteen-year-old runaway fisherman’s son named Willie Duncan who’s pretending to be twenty, and he’s kind of adorable and I’d like to write more about him someday.

Tell us about your favorite character.
I have incredible fondness for Estelle Graham, my MC’s wife, who is gorgeous, graceful, and sweet, yet doesn’t take sh*t from anyone. But my very favorite is my MC, Jamie Graham, who wasn’t even originally supposed to BE the main character, but he completely took over in spite of all my intentions.

If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?
I’d pick Estelle, definitely. She has a mischievous streak that would make her a Tremendously Fun Friend.

How long did you take to write this book?
It took almost exactly nine months from writing the first words to beginning the querying process, and another six months to complete the edits and proofreading.

What kind of research did you do for this book?
Honestly, I felt like I was drowning sometimes, but the upside is that I’ve learned so much I can continue to write about WWI and already have the basic history of the era covered in my head. For The War in Our Hearts particularly, I needed information about trench warfare more than anything else. Eye-Deep in Hell by John Ellis and Hot Blood, Cold Steel by Andy Simpson were both amazing resources.

What did you remove from this book during the editing process?
Mostly self-indulgent snogging scenes that didn’t do anything to move the plot forward. I also took out a lot of rambling and irrelevant nonsense about Captain Graham’s time training troops in Aldershot.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Pantser. When I have a solid idea where the story is going, then I make my detailed timelines and write my character sketches and all that technical jazz.

What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
I like the polishing part, when I have the bulk of the story in place and I get to rearrange and reword and weave everything together into a harmonious, well-crafted whole.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
Turning it over to beta readers before it’s reached a state of perfection.

Can you share your writing routine?
I write whenever and wherever I can. I use Google Docs, so I can (and do!) write on my phone or iPad in the car, sitting around waiting for people, relaxing the the bath, whatever. I also try to make time at my computer at least once a day for concentrated writing time with an actual keyboard under my fingers.

I write by hand sometimes early in the process, and I take most of my notes and do my character sketches by hand too. Usually about halfway through writing a novel, I’ll print out the initial draft and annotate it by hand (adding scenes, indicating rearrangements, making notes of things that are still needed and where they should go) before completely re-typing the work from scratch.

Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
If I can’t think of anything new to write that’s relevant, I’ll go back and do some editing, or draw pictures of characters/scenes, or pick my friends’ brains for ideas.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Probably I would tell it, “Someday you’re going to write fan-fiction and it’s going to change your life. You think that’s something to scoff at now, but you just wait and see.”

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have two completed works besides The War in Our Hearts: an old novel called Hide, which I will never go back to, and a novel-length fan-fiction. As far as unfinished works, I have four at the moment: a fictionalized memoir, a post-WWII novel, a novel about Belgian refugees in WWI, and a book set during the summer of 1925 in western Oregon near where I live.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a stay-at-home, homeschool mom to my two daughters. I overextend myself constantly trying to do ALL the things, because I enjoy so many things. I hate washing dishes, I’m very disorganized, and my brain retains pointless information from, say, the 1980s, whilst simultaneously filtering out 96.6% of anything someone said to me five minutes ago.

How did you get into writing?
I’ve been writing since I was little, but I never really FINISHED anything until roughly 2008, when I wrapped up a novel I’d started a couple years prior, and after that I quit writing completely until 2016, when I got sucked into writing fan-fic and realized I missed writing a lot and wanted write my own book.

Share something about you most people probably don’t know.
The wider world probably doesn’t know how actively I despise summer, sunshine, and being hot. I have reverse seasonal affective disorder (yes, reverse SAD is an actual thing).

What are you working on right now?
I’m working on my post-WWII novel, because it’s the closest to completion. It is a very ambitious and complex piece of work that isn’t coming together as easily and magically as The War in Our Hearts did, but I think it’s totally worth the extra trouble.

Where can we find you?
Website: www.evaseyler.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorevaseyler
Twitter: https://twitter.com/the_eva_seyler (I’m most active here!)
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theevaseyler
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/theevaseyler/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/2263146-eva-seyler

Why I Forked Over $55 for a Copy of Mein Kampf

I mentioned yesterday that the last book I found at John King Books was the one that broke my budget. It became its own post because I felt I needed to offer an explanation as to why I shelled out $55 for this 1939 printing of the first unabridged English translation of Mein Kampf.

As the introduction explains, the text is fully annotated to explain the history behind events Hitler mentions in the text and to correct false information.

Click on the picture and enlarge to read some of what the editors of the annotated edition have to say about their work.

Now, why on earth would I want such a book? I’m not a neo-Nazi or a white supremacist, though a card tucked in the pages which we discovered once we were back home certainly suggests that those people are active and looking to recruit like-minded people…

I have smudged out the contact information, but in case you’re curious, this group is headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Whatever my other reasons for buying this book, at least I have prevented the possible recruitment of another racist SOB.

One of the reasons I bought this book is that I am a student of history, particularly of the 20th century, and I am deeply interested in how historical events led to the world we live in today. I am also researching Adolf Hitler and the geopolitical realities of his lifetime for a series of books I hope to write someday. Thus, it is invaluable to have this pre-WWII view of the book and the man that changed the course of history. The editors are not looking back at Hitler through the historical lens of WWII and the Holocaust, but from the standpoint of what were to them current events. The introduction to this book mentions the reasoning behind the timing of this edition, and a preface even makes note of the tremendous speed at which they felt pressured to produce it.

In some ways, producing this book is a bit like people buying The Art of the Deal or other Trump-authored books after the election to see just what kind of man had come to power. This introduction was certainly written before the invasion of Poland in the fall of 1939 as it makes no mention of it. The world knew Europe was headed for conflict after Germany’s 1938 annexation of portions of Czechoslovakia, but it had no inkling of the scope of the war that would engulf the entire globe over the next six years. Seeing how they saw these events as they were unfolding rather than simply reading history from the standpoint of someone looking back in judgment — How could they have thought they could appease Hitler? How could they have turned a blind eye to what he was doing? — is vital for an honest, non-revisionist understanding of why world events happen as they do. It removes the “hindsight” glasses we are always inevitably wearing when we study history and allows us to see with the biases that the people of that time had.

When you read portions of Mein Kampf that deal with the question of race, and especially the Jewish people, you wonder how on earth anyone could believe any of it. While Hitler can even sound reasonable in some of his views of more political questions (even if you disagree with him, there are logical underpinnings to his arguments in this sphere), the logical leaps he makes when talking about race sound utterly absurd to us. How could anyone have followed this guy? We’ve all seen the newsreels. He was a raving lunatic. They must have all been brainwashed. I’ve even heard an acquaintance of mine say that she thought they must have been eating something bad or the water must have been poisoned for them to blindly follow him.

But that kind of talk removes responsibility from the real people who carry out horrific acts, and it makes those of us in the 21st century feel quite sure of our intellectual and moral superiority to those in the past. We would never do such things. No one could fool us the way Hitler fooled them.

Really?

The fact of the matter is, if you study even the century that led up to World War I, what do you find? Rampant antisemitism. What do you find after WWI? Rampant antisemitism. Leaders like Hitler cannot lead without a following. He struggled for years to gain his, but once he found the right combination of political views (including blaming the Jews for WWI and for the Marxist revolution in Germany after the war) and built the right kind of propaganda machine (which he talks about extensively in Mein Kampf) he found a very willing audience to listen to and applaud and follow him. They wanted someone to blame and they wanted someone to make Germany great again. He wasn’t a lunatic. He was a very clever man who knew how to convince people that he was going to fix everything that was wrong.

We live in a day when our president throws a lot of blame around. When it has been suggested that we register and track people of a particular religion. When the working class population is hard-pressed and suffering from long-term joblessness and wage stagnation. When we vote in someone from outside the establishment in order to shake things up. Our times are not so unlike those that led up to two of the most deadly and destructive wars in history (approximately 100 million people died as a result of WWI and WWII combined — that would be like the entire populations of California, Texas, New York, and Illinois combined…dead).

Now, I’m not equating Trump and Hitler. Trump’s a bumbling idiot muddling through a job he’s perhaps realizing he didn’t really want to do after all. Were Trump a decent orator, maybe (maybe) I’d be more concerned about him. (Aside: Imagine the crazy tweets Hitler would unleash if he’d had Twitter.) No, sir. Trump is no Hitler.

I’m simply saying that it’s important to study our history and to resist chronological snobbery, which suggests that since we live in a later time we are more enlightened or savvy or moral than those who lived in the past. We’re not. We must always be on guard against bad leadership and we must always be on guard against our own capacity to do evil…especially when we have convinced ourselves we are doing good.

Because the more pressing question, the more disturbing question is: Could we regular, everyday Americans be more like all those regular, everyday Germans in the 1930s than we think?

What I’m Reading in 2015

Well, I ended 2014 with what I’m assuming was a mild case of the flu and the news that our church had been broken into. I began 2015 with four stitches after a blunder with an extremely sharp knife that seemed to want to separate my right thumb from the rest of my hand. I also turned 35 on Friday. So there’s that.

Today was better, though. I’m healthy, my hand is healing, and I’m hoping to finish up the draft of my work in progress, a novel I’m currently calling I Hold the Wind, in the next couple weeks. I am also making preparations for what will probably be a full year researching for my next book, a historical novel set in various locales in France, Austria, and Germany during World War I and the years preceding it. I’m calling that one Enough of Peace at the moment. Here’s what I’ll be reading in 2015…

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Since Christmas I’ve been hip-deep in failing aristocracies, rising anarchy, the Dreyfus Affair, and various other social and political upheavals as I read about the decades that led up to the start of WWI in Barbara Tuchman’s The Proud Tower. I’ve also been reading Mein Kampf, which has been alternately fascinating and horrifying.

Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century was glossed over a bit in my history classes. Except for the requisite pat on the back for ending the war, the First World War was not a subject upon which we lingered. Generally, we stuck to American issues: Reparations after the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, the Roaring Twenties, and the Depression, only concerning ourselves with Europe again when we were sucked into the Second World War. For that reason, I’ve never truly understood the causes of WWI. All I remember learning about it was that it was the first truly mechanized war, it was the first war to be fought partially in the air, there were lots of trenches, and the colossal loss of life was all in vain. So I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Also on the immediate horizon is the Write on the Red Cedar writing conference that my writing group, the Capital City Writers Association, is putting on. We’re officially sold out (!) and taking care of all the last-minute logistics. I’ll be sure to share pictures from and thoughts on the conference in late January.

Oh, and in the past couple days, it has finally snowed. 🙂