When it comes to writing thrillers, Ronie Kendig shoots right for the heart. Nightshade, the first book in the Discarded Hero series, tackles combat-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the toll it takes on the soldier, and the courage he must muster to respond to the call of duty as part of a covert operation. Contributing editor Janice Gable Bashman chats with Ronie about Nightshade and her writing process.
Give us the scoop on Nightshade and its “in-your-face” protagonist Max Jacobs.
Soldiers across the globe are returning home to their families after brutal tours of duty. They are discharged from the service. . .and on their own. Meet Max Jacobs, one of these discarded heroes, as he faces a wall of failure–in his career, his friendships, and his marriage. Failing again–this time to end his life–he is offered a thread of hope. Are covert operations the answer for him, or will they only bring more danger and dissension upon his broken family? Will Max yield to a force greater than himself–love?
What triggered the idea for the book?
I’ve always loved writing military or action-adventure stories. But one Sunday during church, a woman requested prayer. Her husband was a Navy SEAL, and his anger and PTSD were destroying their marriage. It was a moment of stunning clarity for me–I knew it would be a grave injustice to ever pen a story that romanticized our heroes. Don’t get me wrong–they are heroes, but they’re also people with hurts/needs, and I think that is often forgotten. Since our president is promising to bring our troops home in the next year, America needs to be ready to support these heroes in any way we can.
Tell us about your writing and research process.
A good friend whose husband just retired last month put me in contact with a VA counselor/chaplain who works at the VA Hospital in Temple and worked for years with the PTSD clinic at the Waco hospital. He proved invaluable to me. As expected, I did a ton of reading on PTSD, talking to various people who’d been affected, talked to psychologists, and watched news segments and specials on combat-related PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury). The research process is ongoing since every day there are new things learned/discovered in this field.
How has your background as a “military brat” and your marriage to a vet informed your writing?
I believe this adds realism to these stories–I grew up around the military and married a man who’d wanted to make the military his career. A busted-up knee severed that goal. What has been fascinating to me is that as I’ve studied and researched, my father-in-law, who is a Viet Nam vet and also a vet of Desert Storm, began opening up about some of his experiences in Nam. It’s numbing when your mother-in-law tells you later that in the 40-something years since his tour, she never heard that story. I cried. To me, the purpose of these stories was served–to open dialogue. Having been around the military, I think I have a greater appreciation and determination to get the story right. If something’s not right in it, I want to know because I want to honor our troops/veterans.
You stated previously that you didn’t grow up thinking you’d be a writer and that you were “terrified to dream, to put [yourself] out there because [you were] too afraid of being rejected or failing.” What made you change your mind and take the leap?
My husband, Brian. He’s been my biggest champion, encourager, and hero. He’s the one who pushed me to try to get published, to step out of my comfort zone. This might sound sappy or something, but I found safety in our relationship that freed me to explore adventures (writing) that would inevitably come with rejection and pain.
What advice can you give aspiring writers?
I joke with my friends that no sane person would ever attempt this career. So, with that in mind, know that only those who are “called” or have a gift ask themselves if they want to keep writing…and also, just remember (as my husband said to me in the years before I signed with my agent), “What’s there to quit to?”
What’s next for Ronie Kendig?
My agent and I just talked about what’s next. Right now, I’m prepping another military series for my Nightshade publisher, but I also have another spy thriller series I’d like to sell. Also, on the more adventurous side, I’m exploring a supernatural thriller.
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