Nicole from Tribute Books is stopping by today to introduce us to a new author that she is touring with, Ms Kathleen Toomey Jabs. I am looking forward to hearing about her book as it sounds like a great summer read!! So please help me welcome them to the CMash blog!!
KATHLEEN TOOMEY JABS
Kathleen Toomey Jabs is a 1988 graduate of the United States Naval Academy. She served on active duty for six years and is currently a Captain in the Navy Reserve. She holds an MA from the University of New Hampshire and an MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University. Her stories have been published in a number of literary journals and received several prizes, including selection in the National Public Radio Selected Shorts program. She lives with her husband and two children in Virginia.
Connect with Kathleen on Facebook and Goodreads.
How did you draw from personal experience in writing your book?
I entered the Naval Academy in 1984, a member of the eighth class to accept women. I had no idea what I was getting into or what military life entailed. In Black Wings, Bridget Donovan experiences some of the same disorientation I did. I drew some of Bridget Donovan’s early adventures from my real life experiences. For example, Bridget is originally from Boston and she is not a particularly squared away plebe when she arrives at the Academy. I’m also from Boston and I certainly had my share of culture shocks, especially during the first summer.
I used some of the my own remembrances to inform those critical early scenes—unpacking the myriad of uniforms and issued equipment, trying to race to morning formation, sitting erect and attempting to eat and answer questions in King Hall (the dining hall), struggling to march and conduct rifle maneuvers as well as the sheer physical exertion of constant physical training (PT). There was a danger with drawing on my own experience though. Bridget’s character is different from mine. I needed to experience the scenes through her.
At one point, as I read over an early draft of a PT scene in Black Wings, I counted 8 pages for Bridget to do 2 push-ups. Every drop of sweat was (literally) a sentence! I had to ask myself: was I recreating memory or did I really believe this description of Bridget’s ordeal somehow furthered the plot? I eventually cut the push-ups to a paragraph. Plebe summer scenes with uniforms and rifles underwent similar revision as I separated my memories from Bridget’s world. I’m not as brave or as mouthy as Bridget nor as resolute as Audrey, but through their experiences I was able to do and say things I wished I had. It was incredibly freeing.
When I moved into the post-Academy worlds of Audrey and Bridget I relied less on personal experience. As an officer, Bridget is part of the public affairs community. I’m also a public affairs officer or PAO in the Navy reserve. I know that world so I could draw on it, but I wasn’t constrained by it.
It was helpful to be familiar with so many different settings. I visited the Naval Academy several times to refresh my senses and took notes while I was on duty in the Pentagon. I’d walked onto an aircraft carrier, spent time in Quantico and Pensacola, and lived in the Arlington/Alexandria metro area so I felt confident writing about them. I did research on things I wasn’t familiar with like flying a jet and attending flight school. Even so, with all the research and memories, I took a lot of liberties.
Writing Black Wings, I approached the keyboard with a sense of wonder rather than a list of memories or specifics. I walked the Naval Academy cemetery to capture the mood and some of the landmarks, but when I sat down I wrote about mausoleums that didn’t exist, honor boards that weren’t held. I continued on that way, blending real-life places and bits of memory with fabrications to create what I hoped was a true depiction of Naval Academy life in the early years of female integration. I did the same with Bridget; I set her free to experience and react to the world on her own terms.
ABOUT THE BOOK
LT Bridget Donovan suspects the worst when her former Naval Academy roommate, Audrey Richards, perishes in a botched take-off from an aircraft carrier. The Navy says it’s an accident, but facts don’t add up. Could it be suicide, or murder? Donovan’s unofficial investigation into what really happened, both during their past Academy days and in Richards’ final hours, forces her to examine the concepts of honor, justice and the role of loyalty in pursuit of those ideals.
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THANKS TO AUTHOR, KATHLEEN TOOMEY JABS, I
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