Welcome to the blog tour for KEEP FOREVER, a standalone adult historical romance/women’s fiction, by award-winning author, Alexa Kingaard. See below for information on the book, buy links, my exclusive interview with the author, and details on her giveaway.
About the Book
Title: KEEP FOREVER
Author: Alexa Kingaard
Publisher: Acorn Publishing
Release Date: April 30, 2020
Genre: Adult Historical Romance/Women’s Fiction
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo
“Unlike some war stories that focus on intense, harsh and graphic depictions of post-combat trauma, this tale unfolds gently, like an Edna Ferber novel, spread across many decades, detailing the impact this soldier’s illness has on an entire family, including children and grandchildren. KEEP FOREVER is a wonderful, emotionally satisfying read that I highly recommend. ”
GARY SEIGEL, author of “Haskell Himself”
Paul O’Brien’s idyllic childhood in Southern California comes to a halt when his mother dies in the summer before his senior year of high school and a very different persona of his father emerges – isolating himself inside the house, turning to alcohol for comfort, and barely noticing his only child. Simultaneously, the war in Vietnam is sending shock waves around the world and young men from one coast to the other are being called upon to serve. Paul enlists in the Marines before receiving his draft notice.
Elizabeth Sutton is eager to gain some independence from her father’s old fashioned notions and looking forward to her first year in high school. At fifteen years old, tragedy strikes with the loss of both parents in an auto accident, turning her childhood into one of responsibility and worry overnight. The four siblings are scattered when her nine-year-old twin sisters are sent to live with their Aunt and Uncle on Nantucket Island, and Elizabeth is left behind in Boston with their grandmother. Her older brother, Sam, enlists in the Marines, eager to join the conflict a world away as opposed to dealing with the one unfolding at home.
A bond develops between Paul and Sam in Vietnam, and both are injured in a bloody battle that costs Sam his right hand and sets the stage for a lifetime of nightmares and sleepless nights for Paul. Matched by similar tragedies at a young age, Elizabeth and Paul’s first introduction by Sam upon their return from Vietnam is the beginning of friendship and love that survives five decades.
After marrying, welcoming their first child, and inheriting a small beach house, the couple adapts to their new surroundings, but distant memories of Vietnam continue to haunt Paul. In an era when veterans refuse to speak of their pain and the government denies that thousands of soldiers are coming home irreparably damaged, he is left to deal with the challenge of caring for his loved ones amidst his his erratic flashback episodes and moods. As their lives unravel from the lingering effects of PTSD, Elizabeth learns to accept the burden that Paul brought home, and together they make their own memories to keep forever.
A True Story
Q: I see that KEEP FOREVER is inspired by a true story. Can you tell us a little more about that?
A: Anyone who was a teenager in the 60s’ and 70s’ has Vietnam firmly embedded in their history. It’s the story of my generation, and many of my girlfriends married veterans either right out of high school or when the men returned. Women were a part of this war, mostly as nurses and unsung heroines, but it was mostly a war fought by middle and lower class males, those who were not college bound or who were unable to get a deferment. As with every conflict, combat veterans bring home mental and physical burdens, but none were vilified like the young men and women who fought in Vietnam.
It stained their psyches, and many passed it down to their children – the second generation suffering the effects of this conflict. Wives were kept in the dark, the VA was not established until the late 80s’, and PTSD didn’t have a name. Aftercare was minimal, and many kept their unseen wounds bottled up for decades. I fell in love with a Vietnam veteran in 1969, nine months after he came home. This guy, and many like him, were just kids. Surfing and attending community college one day, picking up a machine gun and participating in a bloody fight for their lives the next. We married almost a decade later, had two children, and divorced after eleven years. But there was always that link that never faded, and a lot of guilt that I carried because I didn’t have the insight to deal with or understand PTSD at the time.
Q: What inspired you to tell this story now?
A: September 27, 2011, my veteran and I had become close again and spent almost all our free time together. His health was failing, he suffered from depression, but not lately, and on this day, he was on the top of his game. We were returning from a coffee date in the Village about a mile away from home. I was the driver – I always drove – and as I waited at the bottom of the hill to make a left turn a half a block away from the house, we were rear-ended by a large vehicle, twice as heavy as mine, going 50 miles an hour. Physically, we were not hurt. My car sustained $6,000 worth of damage, and the impact and collision triggered a PTSD episode in my veteran. Seventeen days later, October 13th, he committed suicide.
Q: What kind of research did you have to do to get all the historical details right?
A: I lived through most of it. People who know me recognize what is true, and what is embellished, but when I sat down to write, I didn’t have to think very hard. It was effortless, even though the first edition may not have been very polished. I was 68 years old and never published, never thought about writing a novel – ever. But shortly after my veteran died, I joined a Veteran’s Writing Group that welcomed me as the collateral damage that was never discussed. Most were Vietnam veterans, and I was a fly on the wall for five years. I was also a mess, but little by little, the story evolved in my head. Every month I listened to stories these men shared, never with their wives and families, and sometimes it felt like they forgot I was even there. Their memories were raw and gut-wrenching, fifty years after they returned. I was compelled, I had to tell this story. It is my mea culpa and tribute to my veteran, and every other service member who fought and was affected for a lifetime by this war.
Q: How do you think this story differs from one that would be told about PTSD today?
A: Thanks to the Vietnam veterans who fought for decades for better care, the younger veterans have a more stream-lined manner in which to apply for benefits. Even though they may need to wait 12-18 months for approval of an application, Vietnam veterans are literally falling apart, and are still getting denied in record numbers. I am grateful that as of five years ago, the Vietnam veteran now has their own day set aside for them, March 29th. But it took fifty years. Today, we also have wonderful non-profits, like the Gary Sinise Foundation, who have brought the struggles of our returning military into the light. But PTSD is the same in every war, just different settings and conflict. It is still a struggle for families and loved ones to watch and understand what their veteran is going through on a daily basis.
Q: What is the most important thing that you want readers to take away from KEEP FOREVER?
A: That the burden brought home is shared by everyone, from family members to government entities. Even if a veteran physically survives, it alters their entire life once they have seen combat. I can’t even imagine, even though I am closer than most to the reality that accompanies a veteran home.
Q: If you had to pick a theme song for the book, what would it be?
A: That was an easy one.. ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ by Paul McCartney.
Q: What are you working on now? And what stage are you in?
A: I write a newsletter every month for my website subscribers, but throughout the quarantine, I have been keeping a journal. The situation and my thoughts change daily, sometimes hourly, and some of my friends suggested I share my unique experience with my readers. I tend to think that we are all in the middle of our own unique experiences, but I started to publish my thoughts every week, blog-style, on my website.
I have also written the first twelve chapters of my third novel, MIRACLE. Don’t hold me to the title, it could change. I’m not sure where these little nuggets of inspiration come from, but after KEEP FOREVER and MY NAME IS ROSE, I noticed that I like writing about nostalgia. I also write about characters that are normal and ordinary, faced with difficult and extraordinary circumstances. It’s the human condition that moves my stories forward.
Q: Switching gears, how are you coping with being quarantined? I see from your Instagram account that you are not riding it out at home. Has that impacted your ability to write?
A: Thank you for noticing! What had started as an extended visit to Oahu to assist my niece and her family with their relocation from the East Coast, has turned into lock-down situation from the first week. Schools were closed almost immediately, resorts and tourist attractions were shuttered, coffee shops and restaurants closed, and all the tourists were sent home. Flights in and out are being closing monitored and if an individual does not have a place to stay when they arrive, either with family or friends, perhaps an Air B&B, they are being given a free, one-way ticket back to where they came from. These strict measures are keeping the number of confirmed cases fairly manageable, but I have now been in total quarantine for over four weeks with my niece, her husband, their daughter , and a German Shepherd. Nothing but walks, but I can’t complain about the weather.
It’s not been easy keeping a kindergartener entertained, but overall, I think my family unit has risen to the occasion and we are doing our part to remain healthy. My stay has been extended to whenever, and I’m anxious to get home to Southern California, but my circumstances are far better than many. As far as writing, I’m more determined than ever to complete the first draft of MIRACLE, whether I decide to publish it or not. I can write almost anywhere, alone or in the midst of others – but I need to be productive. I need to have something tangible to show for my weeks of no excuses that I didn’t have enough time to write or be creative. I’m limping along on a refurbished iPad and my phone, sometimes long-hand, but I’m moving quickly. The whole story is in my head, just have to get it typed out on paper.
Q: Have you seen the meme about picking a house to live in during quarantine? A lot of them are going around, but I’m going to give you a unique one. Pick a house from the list below and tell us why you chose it.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg
George W. Bush
Of course, there are one or two in every house that don’t make my short list of people to socialize with, but the most well-rounded one to me would be House #1. The wisdom of Ruth, the sharp and intelligent humor of Jon, and the persistent, never-give-up attitude of JK would make for an interesting household.
About the Author
ALEXA KINGAARD, a California native, currently resides in Carlsbad and is the mother of a son and daughter who continue to be her biggest fans and cheerleaders.
October 13, 2011, was the day that changed her life forever when her ex-husband, a Vietnam veteran, took his life during a PTSD flashback episode. Inspired to share this tragedy that continues to rob husbands and wives of their spouses, children of their parents, mothers of their children, brothers and sisters of their siblings, and comrades of their friends, Kingaard relied on her own experiences to shed light on this crisis. The burden brought home is not partial to Vietnam, but is an insidious aftershock endured by combat veterans of all conflicts.
Kingaard continues to pursue her literary career, writing about nostalgia and the human condition, the common denominator of our lives.
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