Saturday, July 14, 2007

Navy Brat

Although my new book, Piper Reed, Navy Brat is fiction, the setup is autobiographical. My dad, like Piper's dad was a Navy chief. I, too, am one of three daughters. However I am the oldest. I was the serious one, the bossy one, the one who worried about her weight. I didn't think that point of view would be as interesting as my middle sister's. She was the funny one, the confident one, the clever one.

When Piper's dad announces they will be moving, I chose their new home to be NAS Pensacola, Florida. I was born on that base. It was fun to return there and research. The base is also the home of the Blue Angels, a group of Navy pilots who travel the world, demonstrating flight formations.

My family lived on or near bases around the world. It seemed like anywhere we lived, the Blue Angels would be on tour and we'd attend their flight shows. They were a major part of my childhood. We military kids are like that. While kids who stay in one place might have childhood connections to classmates they see year after year, for us it's the Blue Angels or the same ship we see docked in several ports. You can only imagine what a thrill it was for me to see the Blue Angels up close and finally meet them. I used that connection. When Piper sees the Blue Angels perform, she is smitten and decides she will become a Blue Angel one day.

While researching in Pensacola, I interviewed military kids. I learned that although we had a lot in common, some things have changed. I only knew military kids with active duty dads. Today a lot of moms serve in the military and are away from their children for long periods. That difference appears in my book. Piper's dad is about to leave for ship duty, but so is the mom of two of her friends.

When I was growing up, I didn't appreciate the life my military childhood offered me. I had to become an adult to realize that I indeed had a rich childhood filled with wonderful experiences. In that way, I'm a little envious of Piper. Everyday she realizes how lucky she truly is to be Piper Reed, Navy Brat.