Monday, April 15, 2013

A Pledge of Silence

Flora J. Solomon was a student nurse, wife, 3 times a mother, baccalaureate student, biochemical researcher, graduate student, healthcare analyst, 4 times a grandmother, retiree, and author— in that order. Coming of age at the dawn of the 2nd wave of the women’s liberation movement, she embraced the opportunities that were opening to women. Decades later, she continues to broaden the scope of her life beyond what she had ever imagined. Asked her life’s accomplishes, she will reply: her long marriage, her 3 children, her two college degrees, and now—her book, A Pledge of Silence.  This latest endeavor is the culmination of her belief in continuing education, years of work experience in the healthcare field, and a love for history and research.
Welcome, Flora.    

Thanks, Susan. It's nice to be here.

Where do you live, and how much has your environment affected your writing?

I live in a golf community just outside Southport, North Carolina, the picturesque town where Nicholas Sparks’ movie Safe Haven was filmed in the summer of 2012. I wanted to be an extra in the town scenes, but my schedule interfered—wouldn’t that have been fun!  Close by are golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pools and, of course, the beautiful North Carolina beaches. The availability of physical and social activity nicely balances my proclivity to be a writer-recluse.

I love Southport and I've been there a few times for writing inspiration myself! 
How many books have your written?

A Pledge of Silence is my first book and it took me eight years to write it. Though business writing was part of my career, writing fiction was new to me. I had to study, learn, and practice. Additionally, the subject required extensive research which I loved doing.

Congratulations on the book. Give a short synopsis.

A Pledge of Silence is a World War II novel about the U. S. military nurses working in the Philippines. Though rumors of war circulate, they feel safe until December 8, 1941, when the Japanese bomb the island. Evacuating with U.S. troops, they care for sick and wounded soldiers in open air field hospitals in the jungles of Bataan, then in underground tunnels on the island of Corregidor. Ultimately taken prisoners of war, the nurses doubt their survival as they languish for 3 years in a Japanese prison camp.

After the war, the nurses’ story was forgotten until 1999 when Elizabeth Norman published We Band of Angels, a notable non-fiction account. My desire is to bring this riveting story to the aficionados of fiction.

 Do your characters take on a life of their own? If so, which one is your favorite?

After living in this story for over 8 years, both the actual WWII nurses known as the Angels of Bataan, and my fictional nurses are like my friends. In March 2013, I read in the New York Times that Mildred Manning, the last Angel of Bataan, had died at the age of 98. I vaguely felt that someone I knew had passed, and that it was an end of an era. Of my fictional nurses, it was Gracie’s incredible strength of character that developed on its own and surprised me the most.

How much of you is hidden the characters of your book?

Not much, if any, however, I did draw on some personal experiences. I was a student nurse for a time in the 1960s. I did not finish the 3 year program, but my characterization of the program—the grueling schedule, the hard-bitten instructors of the era, and the irreverent attitude of the student nurses—were from my memory. What I gained from the 18 months of training was a vocabulary and a knowledge of techniques and procedures. It was a short jump to retrofit my knowledge to the 1930s.

What advice can you give new writers?

My advice for other new writers is to listen to your readers and be open to criticism. I gave my manuscript to friends and family members and asked them to please tell me what they didn’t like. Many were reluctant to criticize, but I was grateful to those who did.

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

Because I self-published, promotion falls on my shoulders alone. At this date, A Pledge of Silence has been available for only 3 months. I am pleased, so far, with the online exposure it is getting through KDP Select. Their free downloads (I know—an anathema to some authors) have been very fruitful. Goodreads, Library Thing, and Shelfari are websites I’ll be building a presence on over the next few months, and I plan to check out blog tours.

The North Carolina Writer’s Network is a great place to make connections. I have been a member for years, and through their regional chapter, I found this blog www.susanwhitfield.blogspot. The library and several book clubs have scheduled me for presentations. Local bookstores and gift shops are happy to carry my paperback book on consignment.
Yes, the NC Writer's Network is very supportive of us. I'm so glad you contacted me. I love learning about other Carolina writers.

Where can folks learn more about your book and events?

Please visit my website, to learn more about me, my book, and to browse through my heroine’s album displaying pictures of pre-war Manila—the Pearl of the Orient, the jungle hospitals on Bataan, the catacomb of tunnels on Corregidor, and the nurses desolate life while in Santo Tomas Internment Camp.

A Pledge of Silence is available on Amazon both as a paperback and as an e-book. The Amazon link:

Flora, thanks for letting us get to know you. Best of sales! Maybe we'll meet in person soon.