The Air Force Made Me Do It

Sherry Harris
from Northern Virginia

Being an Air Force spouse had a lot to do with how I ended up writing. Having a regular career is difficult when you are moving all of the time. Climbing a corporate ladder is next to impossible.

080508-F-0672W-005We were stationed in Dayton, Ohio at Wright-Patterson AFB when I spotted a short story contest in the local newspaper. I thought why not and started writing.  I realized right away the story was bigger than the parameters of the contest. And I set off on my writing journey moving it with me from Dayton, to Monterey, to Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Northern Virginia, Bedford, Massachusetts and back to Northern Virginia.

During that time I worked on the craft of writing by attending conferences. At one I met fellow Air Force wife and author Sara Rosett, whose protagonist is a military spouse. I  joined critique groups and wrote and wrote and revised. It eventually led to my current series. Tagged for Death features Sarah Winston, a former Air Force spouse, and is set in the fictional town of Ellington, Massachusetts and the very real Hanscom Air Force Base. I’m excited to use a part of my life that I loved so much in my novels.

I decided to ask two other military spouses how the military influenced their writing careers. I met Kim Stokely when our kids were in the same first grade class while we were stationed at Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California. I met Gwen Hernandez recently. She taught a class on Scrivener offered through the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime. I read her bio and found out she was an Air Force wife and also lived near me in Northern Virginia.

KimstokelyKim: Newly married to a naval officer, I found myself alone 275 days of our first year stationed in Virginia Beach, VA. I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in dramatic communication as a way to keep my sanity. My advisor warned me at my graduation that I needed to find ways to be creative even as I moved around and started a family. He suggested I try writing as an outlet. I got the idea for Woman of Flames, soon to be released on, from a play woman-of-flames7cI performed while working toward my degree. I jotted down notes for the story for over a decade before I finally had the time to research my subject and time period. It took another year to write the first draft. Our various duty stations gave me ample opportunity to see the country and I’ve used several of our homes as settings for my novels including Monterey, CA; Saratoga Springs, NY and Omaha, NE. Although I’m working on a fantasy trilogy now, I’m still using my different memories to inspire my settings.

scrivenerfdcoverGwen: I didn’t start writing because my husband is in the military—though his income stability didn’t hurt—but it’s the perfect job for someone who’s always on the move. Assuming you can actually get paid for your writing, there’s no more worrying about lack of career advancement or finding employment in each new city. I can take my work anywhere in the world and set my own hours. Definitely a plus when it comes to reducing the stresses of relocating and caring for my family.

gwenhernandezAnd since I write romantic suspense—often featuring military, or former military, heroes and heroines—it’s nice to have a built-in resource at home. If my husband doesn’t know something, one of the many friends we’ve made over the years probably does, or can help me find an expert. Plus, having lived in and visited so many parts of the world, I don’t always have to set my books where I currently live to be able to write credibly about an area.

It’s not easy earning a living as a writer, but if it’s something you love to do, I can’t imagine a better career for a military spouse.

How has your life influenced your career choice?

20 Thoughts

  1. Way to make the best of your situation, ladies! I know Gwen from our fabulous Scrivener course, but now I’ll have to check out your books, and yours as well, Kim. I have traveled a lot, too, but not connected to the military (except unofficially in Japan with an American boyfriend who was in the Navy).

  2. I, too, am a writer living in NoVA thanks to my AF hubby. Over the years I’ve struggled with letting moves hijack my writing, sometimes for years at a time. I’m trying desperately to get back on track, and hoping even more desperately that a move isn’t imminent! I’ve moved from Romance to Young Adult Paranormal fiction, with an easy reader thrown in for good measure. (I’m slightly ADD!) Nice to “meet” y’all!

      1. Sherry,

        Rebecca is my BFF that you’ve probably seen going in and out of my house. Y’all need to get together!

      2. SCBWI. I used to be in RWA but dropped that several years ago, after about a decade of membership. I had some good luck with editors but no takers. Then I switched to Children’s/YA and here I am! 🙂 Trying to get back in the submitting game. Thanks for the good luck!

      3. That is so cool! Small world indeed. Once I get over the scourge that my little lovelies brought home from back-to-school, I’d love to meet up! Thanks, Ash!

    1. Hey, Rebecca! It seems like everyone in the AF ends up in DC eventually, huh? This is our second time. Good luck with submissions. You’re right, moving can definitely derail the writing for a while. 🙂

      1. Probably more than I ever realized. I never met any (that talked about it) until I joined RWA, but now it seems that every chapter I visit I meet a few. We’re definitely out there!

  3. It’s a small world…I’m a writer and an AF spouse, too! My newest book “My Afghanistan Campaign Diary: Views of a Military Spouse” launched in May 2013 and I’m currently working on the sequel “Beyond Afghanistan: More Views of a Military Spouse”. We just arrived at Wright-Patterson AFB and I look forward to adding our new experiences to my next book. Happy Writing!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I’m guessing there are more military spouses out there writing than we know! We lived at Wright-Pat for three years in the 90s! I’ll stop by your website!

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