I am so pleased to welcome military romance author Heather Ashby back to The Romance Dish. I had the opportunity to meet Heather in person at this summer's RWA national conference and she's an absolute delight. Heather joins us today to talk about a very special book, her newest release, Never Forget and the importance of helping others. It's a valuable lesson that applies to each of us.
Heather is a Navy veteran who taught school and raised a family while accompanying her Navy husband around the United States, Japan and the Middle East. In gratitude for her Army son's safe return from Afghanistan and Iraq, she now writes military romance novels, donating half her royalties to Fisher House Foundation which supports wounded warriors and their families. Never Forget is Book #3 in her series, "Love in the Fleet" published by NY Times best selling author, Teresa Medeiros at Amber House Books. Heather lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida with her husband and two rescue cats.
“If You Can’t Help The One You Love, Help The One You’re With”
Thank you for inviting me to the Romance Dish, PJ It’s always wonderful to chat with you. I love sharing stories with your readers about romance novels, the military, and life’s lessons.
Remember that old Stephen Stills song, “Love The One You’re With?” I’m not here to analyze the lyrics and offer advice to the lovelorn, but I am here to share a valuable lesson I learned recently. Basically, my soul has always known this lesson about helping others, but it was never as clear to me as when the following happened on August 15, 2014.
I’m a Navy veteran who writes romance novels set in the Navy with Navy characters. Huh? How did I end up with a Marine Corps gunnery sergeant as my hero in Never Forget? I knew very little about Marines—except that they used to guard the gates at Navy bases. Oh, and that my dad was a Marine Corps staff sergeant during World War II. And that he had a globe, anchor, and eagle tattoo on his left forearm with the initials, “USMC” that I used to trace with my finger as a child. And that he had fought in places such as Guadalcanal and New Britain. And he had a Purple Heart medal I used to play with. But most of that was before I was born. I rarely remember my dad discussing the war. It was best left forgotten.
|USS New York|
My late father flashed inside my head. He was a strong man with a gentle soul, movie star handsome, humble to a fault, and emotionally damaged from a childhood trauma that haunted him his whole life. Throw in some unresolved war-time PTSD issues, and you have the classic wounded hero. Although my dad was brilliant, creative, and successful, he suffered from depression and always carried an element of sadness about him—as if he didn’t deserve to be happy. My heart ached for him and I spent many years wishing I could make things right in his life. Wished I could heal him – which, of course, I couldn’t.
But I can heal a character in a book.
I gave my hero, Gunnery Sergeant Adam Connor my dad’s back story. And I cannot describe the joy it is giving me to heal Adam in Never Forget and Unforgettable! (March 2015) And to work with a Marine Corps advisor, who not only helps me write these books authentically, but also tells me that sharing Adam’s journey may be the catalyst for other Marines to seek healing. (Most troops with combat PTSD are male. Most romance readers are female. Most males who seek help for PTSD are guided to do so by their wives. You do the math.) I love seeing anyone healed from anything in whatever way they can do it!
|USS New York|
The school teacher/daughter/mom in me—who wants everyone to be happy—was all over that! I read an advance copy of his book, commented, and offered suggestions when I realized he could use some advice on marketing and promotions. Shawn and I have spent hours chatting, both online and on the phone. He is a strong man with a gentle soul, deeply patriotic, and humble to a fault. Reminded me an awful lot of my late father—the Marine, who went on to be a writer with a career in public relations. And what’s that? Now I have an opportunity to guide this young writer with his marketing?
As I was digesting the fact that I was unable to help my dad—the Marine staff sergeant—heal in his life, but I’m able to help this young man—also a Marine staff sergeant—share his story of healing that can be a catalyst for other Marines to heal, I sat back in my chair, stretched and noticed the calendar on the wall.
August 15, 2014.
Twenty-five years to the day that my dad passed away.
And that’s when the tears flowed in earnest. Great buckets. I could practically feel the warmth of my father’s smile—no longer tinged with sadness—as he watched over Shawn and me in that moment of perfect kismet.
This was the day I truly got it. The day I could actually put into words what I have done for most of my life; as a mother, as a teacher, as a human being: We can’t always help the people we want to help in this world, but we can darn sure help somebody.
Thank you for letting me share with your readers, P.J. I would love to hear their stories of how they’ve helped someone out – sometimes “in honor” of somebody else. I have a copy of Never Forget for one lucky commenter. Thanks for joining me today, readers. And thank you in advance for your acts of kindness that help make the world a better place.
With 7.5 tons of World Trade Center steel melted into her bow,
what if there are more souls aboard the USS New York
than the sailors and Marines stationed there?
And what if those souls can help the troops defeat al-Qaeda this time?
When Royal Navy officer Gwyn Pritchard reports for exchange duty aboard the USS New York, she’s the only person who sees 9/11 spirits roaming the decks. The daughter of a famous Welsh psychic, Gwyn learns they must complete a mission in order to pass to the other side.
The sole survivor of an IED blast in Afghanistan, Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Adam Connor has his own issues. But when he discovers that the British officer sees ghosts aboard their ship, he becomes her confidant—and lover.
Passions rise to fever pitch when the New York rushes to liberate British and American hostages in North Africa before al-Qaeda’s deadline. Can the spirits gather the right intelligence to help the Marines save the prisoners? Can Gwyn help the ghosts move on to the light? Can Adam and Gwyn find the love they’ve searched the world over for?
For a "behind the scenes" look at the inspiration for and creation of Never Forget, check out Heather's September 11th interview with Kim at SOS Aloha.