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An Interview with Author Lynn Ellen Doxon

In September 2022, nonfiction author Lynn Ellen Doxon branched into historical fiction with her debut novel, Ninety Day Wonder (Becoming the Greatest Generation, Book 1), released by Artemesia Publishing. You’ll find Lynn on and her Amazon author page.

Tell us about the book Ninety Day Wonder. What were the origins of the story?
Ninety Day Wonder is the story of a Kansas schoolteacher who was drafted in June of 1941. He had just been accepted into medical school, fulfilling a lifelong dream, when the draft notice came. After basic training, he trained for a position in the coastal artillery and was posted to Fort Worden on Puget Sound. While there he wrangled an opportunity to become a pharmacist, furthering his interest in a medical career. The weekend after he finished that training the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The Army, in immediate need of officers, sends him to OCS, where, in 90 days, he becomes an antiaircraft artillery officer,

The story is based on my father’s experience in World War II. There are a few things in the book that didn’t happen to him — for example, meeting Sarah Gale while at OCS and falling in love, but some of the most surprising things did actually happen to him.

Who are your main characters, and did they surprise you as you wrote their story?
The main character and narrator is Eugene Sinclair. Other characters include Tom Morris, a friend from Kansas who goes off to pilot school as Gene goes to OCS, and Joseph Zook, a 16-year-old Mennonite who runs away from home to join the Army. Captain Henderson is the CO of the AAA Battery, for whom Eugene becomes executive officer, and Lieutenants Brasseux, Carson, Douglas, Edelstein, Sessions, Tilton, and Wright are officers of the battery during at least part of the book. And of course, Sarah Gale Simmons, a young civilian employee of the OCS base. In the original story arc, Sarah Gale would not even be in the third book of the trilogy, but through her letters to Gene and her adventures as she joins the newly formed WAACs, she takes over the book and becomes the favorite character of many readers. When I finish Gene’s trilogy, Sarah Gale will get a book of her own.

Can you give readers a glimpse into the main settings of your novel?
The novel follows Gene from a small town in central Kansas to basic training at Camp Callan (now the Scripps Institute and Torrey Pines Golf course), to Fort Worden on Puget Sound, to Camp Davis on the southern coast of North Carolina, to Fort Bliss (which at the time also included the White Sands missile range), to the Orlando Air Base in Florida and finally, to Jungle Warfare training in Australia. While each is an army base, some are new, some old, and some not even fully formed when Gene arrives.

What are some obstacles you faced while writing Ninety Day Wonder?
I have written three non-fiction books, hundreds of online, print magazine, and newspaper articles, and scientific publications, but this is my first novel. Novels are MUCH harder than anything else I have written. I researched the period, the equipment, the Army, the bases extensively, then had to write the story so that it did not sound like a report on the research. The learning curve was pretty steep, the time in process almost five years, but I finally finished and got it published.

What sort of decisions did you make about including historical figures and events while crafting your novel?
Events are historically accurate. For officers of the rank of colonel and above, I used real names in most cases. I debated how realistic to the Army of the 1940s to make the dialogue. I ended up using words like Jap, Negro, and damn, but avoided the more offensive pejoratives and expletives for the most part.

Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for this book?
I was surprised to learn that my father was trained as a pharmacist. I had always assumed his knowledge of medicines came from the fact that he was a chemistry and biology teacher. I also learned that the attitude of the majority of Americans was that we should stay out of the war right up until the Pearl Harbor attack. I discovered that there was a radar in Hawaii that detected the Japanese planes coming in, but the lieutenant those radar operators reported the sighting to thought it was a squadron of American planes that were expected that day and did not pass the report along. I had also been unaware of the frequent Japanese bombing raids on Darwin and other parts of Australia.

What was the most rewarding aspect of putting this project together?
My father spoke very little about his experience in the war, and I think the most rewarding part was learning what he did. This first book follows his experience pretty closely, although I departed from the actual timeline in the second half. The next two books are not so close to his actual experience, but his experiences gave me a strong basis for the story.  Simply having the book published and out there is also very rewarding.

When can your readers expect book two?
I had about 240,000 words down on paper and my publisher told me it could not be one novel, so it became a series at that point. I do not feel I did as good a job as I could have at making a suitable ending for the first book, but I made it into three books. I promise a better ending in book two, which will come out in April 2024.

You said you started writing at a young age. At what point in your writing life did you finally consider yourself a writer?
I started telling stories at the age of 3 or 4 and started writing them down in second grade. I came in second in my first writing contest at the age of 18 (and have come in second in numerous others since then — never first). The local newspaper editor published my letters home (slightly edited to remove personal comments) when I traveled around the world on World Campus Afloat at the age of 20. My first book was published in 1980. I wrote a newspaper column called “Yard and Garden” for the Albuquerque Journal for 15 years, and numerous other articles in my position as Urban Horticulture Specialist with the New Mexico Cooperative Extension Service, but all of this was incidental to other jobs and I didn’t consider myself primarily a writer. Early in my retirement, I was making about $1000 a month writing online articles, but I still didn’t consider myself a writer. I didn’t really consider myself a writer until I was deep into the first draft of Ninety Day Wonder (my fourth book) and joined SouthWest Writers. I was surprised to learn that there were other people who considered themselves writers who had much less writing experience than me.

What are you most happy with, and what do you struggle with most, in your writing?
I can tell a good story and hold people’s interest. The plot and characters come easy to me. I am almost never at a loss for words and can quickly get lots of them down on paper. I have the most trouble with writing highly emotional action scenes. Because of my beginning as a scientific and educational writer, I use long sentences, too much passive voice, and excessive description. I have to go back and edit several times before I am satisfied, and Lee Child still beats me hands down every time. I am considering making Sarah Gale’s book a thriller just to challenge myself.

Writers can sometimes get bogged down with writing rules. Do rules ever affect your creativity?
I don’t pay too much attention to writing rules. That was a problem for editors when I wrote the Yard and Garden column. Having read voraciously for almost 70 years, I have internalized many of the rules but I don’t let them get in the way of creativity.

Su Lierz writes dark fiction, short story fiction, and personal essays. Her short story “Twelve Days in April,” written under the pen name Laney Payne, appeared in the 2018 SouthWest Writers Sage Anthology. Su was a finalist in the 2017 and 2018 Albuquerque Museum Authors Festival Writing Contest. She lives in Corrales, New Mexico, with her husband Dennis.

An Interview with Author Patricia Walkow

Author Patricia Walkow thinks of a blank page as a canvas that can become anything she imagines. She has written magazine articles and newspaper columns, and currently writes memoir, essays, short stories, and longer fiction. Her debut novel, The War Within, The Story of Josef (2016), is historical fiction based on the life of her Polish father-in-law. You can find Patricia on Facebook and her website, as well as her SWW author page.

thewarwithin200What is your elevator pitch for The War Within, The Story of Josef?
A teenage boy is a slave laborer in Nazi Germany. Young German man saves his life.

When readers turn the last page in the book, what do you hope they will take away from it?
Heart to heart, there are no enemies.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
This story is a fictionalized account of real events that happened to specific people in Nazi Germany during WWII and the post-war years. Some of the people in the story are still living, and their remembrances of an event are not always identical. I had to determine which one to incorporate into the story and let the people know which I was using and why.

Furthermore, I interviewed family and friends in both Germany and Poland, and there was a language barrier. Interviews took place in the form of a list of questions, as well as face-to-face via Skype in some instances. I was able to use software to convert my questions into either Polish or German, and then convert the interviewee’s responses into English. Software also read my questions aloud in German or Polish. I learned to keep my questions simple! I never completely trusted the software to properly translate complex sentences into another language.

How did the book come together?
I first thought of writing Josef’s story a long time ago. Josef was my Polish father-in-law. In 1969, on a hot summer day in New Jersey, my boyfriend (now my husband, Walter) and I were visiting his parents at their weekend cottage. I asked Walter why his father wore long pants on such a sweltering day, and he said it was because his dad had an artificial leg. He had lost his left leg during the war, not because he’d been in the Polish military, but as a result of an accident in the factory where he worked as a slave laborer in southern Germany. Josef was Catholic, captured from Poland at about age fifteen, and sent to work throughout Germany and its conquered lands. It was the first time I knew people other than those of the Jewish faith were targeted for slave labor and that all Poles (regardless of religion) were considered sub-human.

I tucked Josef’s story away for a long time. Over the years, Josef and his wife, Ella, revealed snippets about their lives during and after the war, and I squirreled those away, too. They never dwelled on the past and always looked to the future. The war was a topic I thought they preferred to forget. Once I retired, after Josef had died and Ella had descended into dementia, I thought earnestly about writing their story.

When I joined the Corrales Writing Group in 2012, I wrote a very short story about the subject, and it blossomed into The War Within, The Story of Josef, which I started writing in 2013 and published in 2016. Members of the group were instrumental in making the book both readable and real. I could not have done it without their insights, critiques, and encouragement. Thank you, Don Reightley, Leon Wiskup,  Sandi Hoover, Tom Neiman, Chris Allen, Jim Tritten, and Maureen Cooke.

Tell us about your main characters.
Josef’s ability to face any situation with dignity and ingenuity inspired me. Ella’s steely persistence blossomed in the story, helping the family survive in the post-war years. Willie was the young German man who saved Josef’s life. He took a big gamble helping a slave laborer, breaking every rule a German citizen could break to help the teenager.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing the book?
I enjoyed the research. It greatly expanded my knowledge of World War II. Besides, it was a good excuse to buy books. I can deduct them on my taxes, too.

Any surprises while doing research for The War Within, The Story of Josef?
Yes, there were surprises. 1) There were relatively “few” casualties for the Americans (about 500,000) compared to the Russians, Germans, and Poles, each of whom endured enormous losses of both military and civilians—tens of millions of deaths for each country. The US experienced fewer than 2,000 civilian losses. In other countries, the civilian losses far exceeded the military losses. 2) Many Polish slave laborers were reluctant to be repatriated to Poland after the war. Their country had turned Communist, and they did not want to live under Communist rule. 3) I had thought the Marshall Plan served a primarily humanitarian purpose, but during my research I realized its primary objective was to prohibit a starving, decimated West Germany from turning to the east—the Soviet Union—for food and assistance in rebuilding, turning Communist in the process. The Marshall Plan did offer direct aid in terms of food, but also worked with the West Germans to rebuild the defeated country’s agricultural, industrial, and commercial infrastructure, and thus sowed the seeds for a robust economy.

If you suffer from writer’s block, how do you break through?
Regarding the writing process itself, sometimes I just need a break…a few weeks off, for example, to let things gestate in the background.

What are you most happy with in your writing?
In The War Within, The Story of Josef, I am most happy with offering the reader insight into a little known aspect of WWII: slave labor. I have learned many people do not know there was another holocaust—against all Slavic people. In addition to the 6,000,000 Jews killed by Hitler, there were over 5,000,000 non-Jews who were also killed, often through work-to-death programs.

What is the most difficult aspect of writing historical fiction?
One difficult aspect was the many revolting things I had to read about from this particular period in history. I often wound up with an upset stomach. Another difficulty came in writing dialogue. Much of The War Within, The Story of Josef tells the story through dialogue. It’s really the fictional part of the book. What would Josef say, and how would he say it? Same with the other characters.

Why do you think people like reading historical fiction?
Historical fiction roots the reader to the past. It lets us understand how people lived in a specific era, or how they dealt with very real events in human history.

What typically comes first for you: a character, an era, a story idea?
It depends. For The War Within, The Story of Josef the story came first, with Josef in the lead. For my novel in progress, The Far Moist End of the Earth, a writing prompt started the story. I wondered where the story could go with the prompt. Well, it took me to the early 20th century in Southeast Asia…who knew?

What’s on your to-read pile?
I have some books I’m using for research for The Far Moist End of the Earth about making paper, the history of various countries in the region, Buddhism, and the challenges of missionary work. I recently enjoyed Corran Harrington’s Follow the River Home. The two books I am currently reading are Mark Steyn’s After America and JJ Amaworo Wilson’s Damnificados.

What writing projects are you working on now?
The Far Moist End of the Earth is my novel-in-progress. It’s set in a Protestant mission in Southeast Asia during the early 1900s. Do you think people are missionaries just to spread their religion? Think again. The first chapter of the novel won third place in the 2016 William Faulkner Literary Competition (short story entry). The novel is about sixty percent written. Projected publication is 2018.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

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