Fighting for Eden

| June 27, 2018

cover

What happens when a fighter and a peacenik fall in love?

From the wind-swept horse country of the Yakima Valley to the airy academic halls of the University of Washington, three adventurers pursue their own Edens. One wants to be a hero, the second just wants to save her home, the third to make sense of it all.

Jake’s tragic death in the opening days of the Iraq War leaves his sister and best friend reeling.

Jessie finds herself all alone in the fight to save their family cattle ranch, even as the patriarchy of the Valley seeks to crush her.

Andrew’s questing mind is driven to the brink as he seeks to balance his pacifict convictions with his friend’s sacrifice.

Drawn together, this unlikely pair struggles to find meaning in their loss while they fight for their dreams.

Author Interview

Why did you write a novel about the Iraq War?

It is a fascinating time for me, being the most divisive period in America since the Vietnam War. Many of the ideals used to justify the Iraq War – rejected later as neo-conservative delusions – had been held in high regard just two generations earlier during WWII and the reconstruction of Europe. The debate about what role, if any, America should play in the world began with Thomas Jefferson’s administration and continues today. While I have the same longing as Andrew for a world without war, I know from living overseas that this world can be a dangerous place. Jake, a soldier whose basic motivation is the Arthurian legends of Lancelot – a shining knight righting the wrongs of the world by defending those who cannot defend themselves – was equally enthralling.

Andrew does a lot of deep thinking in this novel. How did you approach that?

Questions of ultimate meaning have been a burning issue with me since I went looking for God on my paper route when I was ten. As such, I’ve spent decades pondering – including through formal study – the major faith traditions that we as a people have developed over the last millennia. I focused on Andrew’s struggles as he grieves the loss of his best friend. He explores classical Buddhism, classical Taoism, mainstream Christianity and evangelical Christianity. His questing mind cannot help but find delight in drawing contrasts and comparisons between these traditions of spirituality. Then, too, I never want to approach religion without a sense of humor. I hope readers will be tickled by his equating sexual ecstasy with the murmurings of a medieval saint.

Tell us about Jessie.

The inspiration for Jessie was my wife. She found growing up in a patriarchal, fundamentalist culture quite the challenge, as does Jessie. Jessie has no patience for the racism she experiences on a daily basis in the Valley. She has even less for the misogyny. When she was younger, she could brush them aside. But when Jake is killed, her father collapses, and she’s left alone to save her family ranch from those who wish to scoop it up for pennies on the dollar, she finds that she can ignore those twin evils no longer. At that point, just as her brother does, she finds the warrior within to save everything she cares about.

Your cattle ranching stories are very convincing. What research assisted your writing?

It begins with my love for the Yakima Valley and continued with the life experiences of my father-in-law and his best friend. John custom-fed Angus cattle that Harry raised. Both of them patiently endured hundreds of questions I asked about the particulars of raising and feeding cattle. They helped me create the Van der Vaal Ranch & Cattle of my mind. I buttressed that hands-in-the-dirt experience with broader research of white papers from several Cattlemen’s Associations and the findings of husbandry programs from several major research universities.

What happens when a fighter and a peacenik fall in love?

From the wind-swept horse country of the Yakima Valley to the airy academic halls of the University of Washington, three adventurers pursue their own Edens. One wants to be a hero, the second just wants to save her home, the third to make sense of it all.

Jake’s tragic death in the opening days of the Iraq War leaves his sister and best friend reeling.

Jessie finds herself all alone in the fight to save their family cattle ranch, even as the patriarchy of the Valley seeks to crush her.

Andrew’s questing mind is driven to the brink as he seeks to balance his pacifict convictions with his friend’s sacrifice.

Drawn together, this unlikely pair struggles to find meaning in their loss while they fight for their dreams.

Author Interview

Why did you write a novel about the Iraq War?

It is a fascinating time for me, being the most divisive period in America since the Vietnam War. Many of the ideals used to justify the Iraq War – rejected later as neo-conservative delusions – had been held in high regard just two generations earlier during WWII and the reconstruction of Europe. The debate about what role, if any, America should play in the world began with Thomas Jefferson’s administration and continues today. While I have the same longing as Andrew for a world without war, I know from living overseas that this world can be a dangerous place. Jake, a soldier whose basic motivation is the Arthurian legends of Lancelot – a shining knight righting the wrongs of the world by defending those who cannot defend themselves – was equally enthralling.

Andrew does a lot of deep thinking in this novel. How did you approach that?

Questions of ultimate meaning have been a burning issue with me since I went looking for God on my paper route when I was ten. As such, I’ve spent decades pondering – including through formal study – the major faith traditions that we as a people have developed over the last millennia. I focused on Andrew’s struggles as he grieves the loss of his best friend. He explores classical Buddhism, classical Taoism, mainstream Christianity and evangelical Christianity. His questing mind cannot help but find delight in drawing contrasts and comparisons between these traditions of spirituality. Then, too, I never want to approach religion without a sense of humor. I hope readers will be tickled by his equating sexual ecstasy with the murmurings of a medieval saint.

Tell us about Jessie.

The inspiration for Jessie was my wife. She found growing up in a patriarchal, fundamentalist culture quite the challenge, as does Jessie. Jessie has no patience for the racism she experiences on a daily basis in the Valley. She has even less for the misogyny. When she was younger, she could brush them aside. But when Jake is killed, her father collapses, and she’s left alone to save her family ranch from those who wish to scoop it up for pennies on the dollar, she finds that she can ignore those twin evils no longer. At that point, just as her brother does, she finds the warrior within to save everything she cares about.

Your cattle ranching stories are very convincing. What research assisted your writing?

It begins with my love for the Yakima Valley and continued with the life experiences of my father-in-law and his best friend. John custom-fed Angus cattle that Harry raised. Both of them patiently endured hundreds of questions I asked about the particulars of raising and feeding cattle. They helped me create the Van der Vaal Ranch & Cattle of my mind. I buttressed that hands-in-the-dirt experience with broader research of white papers from several Cattlemen’s Associations and the findings of husbandry programs from several major research universities.

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