Monday, March 4, 2013

Judith Sanders, Author

Judith Sanders is the author of In His Stead, a novel based on a father’s desire to take his son’s place in the military.  Retired US Army Ranger Thomas Lane is the book’s main character, vying for a chance to serve in his son’s place. In His Stead captures the essence of family life in wartime; the good, bad and hopeful.

Is there a precedent for being able to replace someone in the military, or is it artistic license?

My novel is grounded in solid historical fact. Yes there is a precedent. Paid substitutes were allowed during both the Revolutionary & Civil Wars. You may recognize some of the names of those who in 1863 paid for substitutes to fight for them. People like Andrew Carnegie ($850 Irish immigrant); J.P. Morgan (paid $300). And future president Grover Cleveland, who paid a Polish Immigrant 6 years his senior (Cleveland was 26), to serve in his place.

Why is it so controversial and unheard of for relatives, friends or even an acquaintance to go to war in someone else’s place?

Money! Can you imagine the outcry, if today a soldier tried to pay/hire someone to take his place? In 1863, it led to riots in NYC and the largest civil insurrection in America’s history. Of course, at that time Lincoln established the draft. Rioters dubbed the Civil War “the poor man’s war” and a subversion of the freedoms granted in the Constitution; they were correct to a certain extent. The Union forces numbered approximately 2,100,000 men –of that number (the vast majority were volunteers with 2% were drafted) 6% (126,000) were paid substitutes. (Some of these substitutes were unpaid sons replacing an older or ailing father. Or an older father replacing a son. Leaving the son free to stay home and take care of the farm and family.)

The Confederate army had about the same percentage of substitutes. But in this case there were also slaves replacing their masters.

Could the scenario on which In His Stead is based actually happen today?

In the early 20th century (W. Wilson 1917) the draft laws were revised to make it illegal to PAY for someone to take your place. Then we did away with the draft after the Vietnam War in 1979. But during my research with an Army lawyer, I discovered what makes the plot of In His Stead plausible is that NO MONEY IS EXCHANGED. And it is that loop-hole that Thomas Lane uses to his advantage.

Could a father go to war instead of his son/daughter?

If it was attempted, I’m sure the US Army would put up some sizable roadblocks. BUT, what is happening is that due to the duration of this war, 13 years, fathers who served in Iraq are now seeing their sons or daughters serving in Afghanistan.

How has war affected your family?

War has been the backdrop of my life. I was born at the end of the 2nd world war…. My brother served in Japan after the Korean War. I lost high school friends in Vietnam, my brother in-­law was an Army sniper during that war and still suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My husband is retired from the Army. My father in-­law served in the Navy during WWII. I worked as a civilian nurse for the Army. And right now I have two grandnephews serving; 21 year old in the Army & a 19 year old in the Marines. Both have just returned from their first tours in Afghanistan.

What are your thoughts on Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden's big cause -­ Joining  Forces?

The mission of Joining Forces’ is to bring attention to the unique needs and strength of America’s military families. One of the themes in my novel In His Stead is the family and how war /deployment affect the family.

You are donating a portion of the book’s proceeds to Hearts Apart. What is Hearts Apart? Why this organization?

Hearts Apart was started in Wilmington, North Carolina, USA, by local businessman Brett Martin and professional photographer Brownie Harris. Its goal is to keep military families connected. Brownie and his cast of volunteers take professional photographs of families who have a member deploying. The family receives photos to keep at home and the member deploying receives a vinyl bi-fold card. The vinyl is dirt, water, rain, and sweat proof. In other, words war proof. It can be rolled up and stuffed in a helmet or pocket. These professional photos link between home/family and wherever a loved one has been deployed. You might say a lifeline that can stretch around the world.

Where did you get the idea for the plot? It’s certainly not common knowledge that years ago people were able to pay someone to go fight for them.

I was in the middle of writing the sequel to my first novel Crescent Veil when my nephew came to me. His son wanted to join the Army right out of high school. He was concerned about his son’s safety. This was particularly alarming to him since just a few years earlier his daughter was involved in a near fatal car crash.  His worry touched my heart. Especially when he said he would do anything to protect his children even if it meant taking their place.

He had a point. After all isn’t it a parent’s job to protect our children. Isn’t that what we do? We discussed this scenario. Once I validated the possibility, I began writing.

Why this book? This plot?

Writer’s write what they know. I know the cheers and fears of parenting. And I have always had a fascination with the Cradle of Civilization / the Middle East. My first book took place in Iraq. My husband worked as a weapons inspector in Iraq. With In His Stead I’m back in the Middle East with a focus on family. Families exist everywhere.

Judith, you are a nurse, a wife, a mother who at one time was a single mother, and now a writer. With all of those hats, how do you find time to write?

I love to write…I can’t imagine not writing. I am inspired by the people I’ve met, the stories I’ve heard, and the books I’ve read.

What’s your next project?

I’m in the middle of three other novels. One is the squeal to Crescent Veil. Another is a fantasy for kids, and Diamond Island is an adult Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Who are your heroes?

Mr. Scagliotto, a teacher who encouraged my interest in science, my father- who attended every softball and soccer game. Kids need heroes. It should be their parents.

Who is your target audience?

I think anyone would enjoy reading In His Stead. It’s about our potential to do the extraordinary. You may cry at the end but you’ll also feel good. I’ve also had many readers say that In His Stead would offer a unique choice for YA males and one of my grand-nephews, an avid reader at 13, just loved the book, so I’m exploring how to expose YA males to the book.

What is the message you want readers to ‘take home’ ?

Lead by example. To parents I’d say, ‘your kids are watching you. Be a hero.’

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