Most people don’t realize that during the war in Europe in the 1940s, it took an average of six support soldiers to make the work of four combat soldiers possible. Most of what’s available in the literature tends toward combat narratives, and yet the support soldiers had complex and unique experiences as well. This book is based on personal correspondence, and it is primarily a memoir that creates a picture of the day-to-day realities of an individual soldier told in his own words [as much as he could tell under the wartime rules of censorship, that is] as well as giving insight into what it was actually like to be an American soldier during WWII. It explores the experiences of a non-combat Army utilities engineer working in a combat zone during the war in Europe and takes the protagonist from basic training through various overseas assignments—in this case to England, North Africa, and Italy as a support soldier under Eisenhower and his successors at Allied Force Headquarters. It also includes some reflections about his life after returning to Oregon when the war was over.
The soldier involved is Captain Harold Alec Daniels [OSU, Class of 1939, ROTC] and most of the letters were written to his wife, Mary Daniels [attended U of O in the late 1930s]. They are the author’s parents, and she inherited the letter collection, photos, and all other primary source materials after her mother’s death in 2006.
Hello book lovers! Today is a day where I will be writing another author spotlight for a well-accomplished author whose work I have loved. As you know book lovers I love learning about authors and the inspiration behind their work, it fascinates me and adds to the depth of the book because the reader will be able to better understand it. That is how the author spotlights were created because I soon discovered that you lovely readers ALSO love learning about author’s, so I am excited to tell you a little bit more about author Rebecca Daniels whose book Keeping the Lights on for Ike captivated me from beginning to end. I personally would recommend this book to all of those that love memoir and biographies but really the book can be read by anybody as it is flawlessly written and highly enjoyable. With today’s author spotlight, a biography of the author and an interview between me and Rebecca Daniels will be shared, and I hope that you book lovers enjoy reading it! To kick this off here is an author bio about the wonderful Rebecca Daniels!
Rebecca Daniels (MFA, PhD) taught performance, writing, and speaking in liberal arts universities for over 25 years, including St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, from 1992-2015. She was the founding producing director of Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland, OR, and directed with many professional Portland theatre companies in the 1980s. She is the author of the groundbreaking Women Stage Directors Speak (McFarland, 1996) and has been published in multiple professional theatre journals. In 2015, she retired from teaching and moved to the Pioneer Valley in western Massachusetts where, in 2018, she completed the manuscript for Keeping the Lights on for Ike, a book based on her father’s letter home from Europe during WWII, which was published in 2019 by Sunbury Press. In 2019, she also served as literary manager and co-producer for Silverthorne Theater Company in Greenfield, MA. Lately, she has been working on two full-length plays and recently completed a memoir called Finding Sisters (to be published by Sunbury Press in 2021) that explores how DNA testing helped her find her genetic parents and other relatives in spite of being given up for a closed adoption at birth.
Now, how wonderful does Rebecca Daniels sound?! Rebecca Daniels is a truly exceptional writer and I hope that you lovely readers have a read of the author’s work because you will not regret it! Please see below an interview between me and the author and I hope that you enjoy Rebecca Daniels answers to my questions, they are incredible and provide some great advice too!
Thank you for joining us today at Red Headed Book Lover! Please tell us more about yourself
In addition to the info from my author’s bio, I can add that I’m an avid gardener and doting “mom” to two cats, Webster and Katniss. I also have two grandchildren, whom I adore (though covid-19 makes it hard because I don’t get to see or touch them nearly often enough these days).
Could you please tell us readers about your book and what inspired you to write your book?
The book is the story of my parents’ experiences during WWII while my dad was overseas assigned as a utilities engineer (primarily electrical) to Allied Forces Headquarters (AFHQ) in Europe, hence the title of the book. The inspiration for the book was inheriting my mother’s collection of the letters that my dad wrote home between 1942-45 as well as her scrapbooks and short essays about her experiences during the war years. Additionally, I also inherited dozens of color slides taken during the 1940s by both of my parents.
What would your advice be for aspiring writers?
Write about things you love, things that fascinate you. And revise, revise, revise. Everything I’ve written that’s ever been published has been through multiple edits and revisions. Writing is a craft that takes some focus and discipline, even if you are feeling inspired by your subject material. I’d also advise that you create some kind of writing routine for yourself, so you can build the habit of writing regularly.
In your opinion, what is the most important thing about a book?
A book needs to engage its readers so that they want to join the author on her journey, wherever it might take them together. That can have a lot of different forms, but the heart of the whole endeavor is to tell an engaging story and tell it well, whether that story is based in real life (current or historical) or created in your imagination.
What is your writing process like?
My writing process is entirely contextual and driven by my engagement with the topic at hand. It involves whatever is needed to tell the story I want to share. The three books I’ve written so far are all about different people, passions, or experiences in my life. The two plays I’ve written are about people or stories that fascinate me and seem like they would best be told in a performance mode.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
The answer to this question depends entirely on the subject of the book. For Women Stage Directors Speak, I was already a trained professional and educator in the field, so I didn’t need to research the context, and my research involved lots of interviews with other women directors. For Keeping the Lights on for Ike, the research involved a lot of reading about the European Theater of War during WWII. It also involved transcribing dozens of hand-written or typed letters and creating a chronology of the war in the locations where my dad was stationed, so I could place his words in the context of what was happening around him at the time, especially since he couldn’t say much directly due to censorship. For Finding Sisters, the book is the chronicle of my genetic genealogy search where I was learning about new things every day, and one discovery sparked the next and the next, so I was learning and researching as I was in the process of searching for my ancestors.
Do you have a set schedule for writing, or do you only write when you feel inspired?
I’m not someone with a daily writing practice (other than email and Facebook), but I do set specific goals for myself (for example: I want to finish the first draft of the chapter about XYZ by the end of this week, etc.), and I try to stick to those goals as much as possible.
Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?
Lately I’ve been rather obsessed with political and pandemic news, so I’m not reading books as much as I might during “normal” times. I also find that I’m seeking what I would consider escapist literature more than usual. I love historical fiction, fantasy, memoir, and mysteries that also create vivid pictures of the settings, almost as if the location were another character in the story. Recent favorites include books by Elizabeth Gilbert, Barbara Kingsolver, Alan Brennert, Colson Whitehead, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Louise Penny, and Archer Mayor.
Lastly, when can we readers expect to read more wonderful books from you?
I’ve signed a contract with the same publisher who produced Keeping the Lights on for Ike for a genetic genealogy memoir called Finding Sisters. The book tells the story of how I was able to discover the identity of both my birth parents (and two half-sisters) through DNA testing combined with more traditional genealogical research over a three-year period. The manuscript is complete, the project is sitting in the editing queue at Sunbury (presumably to start active editing before the holidays), and I hope it will be out by mid-2021.
Its official book lovers, I am obsessed with Rebecca Daniels! If you have liked what you have read about the author and are interested in learning more, then please do have a browse of the links below and be sure to have a read of the preview too! You will not regret it.
Goodbye for now book lovers,