Writing Inspiration . . . Where do you find yours?
Admittedly, I’ve found mine scouring book covers online, stock photo sites, snapshots of actors, models, cover models, body builders, body builders that moonlight as cover models, talk show hosts, etc, etc., etc. I found inspiration for my upcoming book entirely by accident.
I’d been researching Marines in Afghanistan and wanted to know a little bit about their daily life over there. What do they do in their down time, do they even have down time, do they have access to Facebook, Twitter, Skype, cell phones or texting to keep in touch with their loved ones at home? How do the loved ones at home handle the long separations? How do the long separations affect their relationships?
Since I’m phenomenally good at procrastinating, and Facebook plays a large part in that procrastination, I thought it was only fair to turn to the site for help. I simply sent out a feeler. I posted a comment, asking for anyone who knew of someone with personal experience and who wouldn’t mind giving me some info. I got an immediate response from an elementary school teacher in my home town of Gueydan, LA, whose son, a Marine, had recently left the Corps. She gave me his name, tagged him in the message, and I contacted him. Not only has Lance Corporal Ben Bonin proven to be a wealth of information for me, he’s turned into a dear friend as well. He and his girlfriend, Haley Broussard, were so helpful to me in researching my previous book, MEAGAN’S MARINE, I decided to write them in that book as secondary characters. Their roles were so promising, that I eventually decided to give them their own book.
I wanted to meet them in person, so we met at a lovely seafood restaurant called the Regatta La. Seafood & Steakhouse, in Ben’s hometown of Lake Arthur, a town I’d spent lots of time in my previous life/marriage.
I sat there for two and a half hours, taking pages of notes, as these two young adults regaled me with stories of their personal experiences. Ben Bonin comes from good people in a small town. He was a good kid, athletic, respectful, and responsible. Or as they say where I come from, he was raised right. Tall and broad shouldered, with brown hair, hazel eyes and a kind smile, he looked like a clean cut, all American boy next door.
Ben Bonin (Pronounced Bo-nay)
Ben gave me so much insight to what life in Afghanistan was like for him. He’d been deployed twice, that’s two 7 month deployments to Afghanistan. He described so many things, like the act of ‘digging in’ while deployed and out on a mission. That’s digging a hole, in the cover of complete darkness, large enough for the entire team of four men to hide inside. He told me how, when waiting inside that hole for members of the Taliban to reveal themselves while setting out road bombs, the wind would blow that desert sand in a steady and repeated pattern that hit their helmets right at eye level. He told me about narrowly missing a road bomb himself. He described the feeling of weeks or months of dirt and sand build up, caked upon his skin. Wipes are a piss poor substitution for soap and fresh water, a rarity in the desert, but they were better than nothing. How when he got home, he’d take three or four baths a day . . . just because he could and it felt so damned good to be clean. How thoughts of his girl, waiting for him back at home, filled his daytime thoughts when he wasn’t occupied with a mission. How images of her invaded his dreams as he slept. I recently heard how he lost so much weight during his first deployment due to the heat, that he got the nickname “Bones”. How sick he got of eating the MRE’s…so sick that everything got to taste the same. How his mom sent him bags of Ramen noodles, his favorite meal when mixed with plain old oatmeal—yep, you read correctly—oatmeal MIXED with Ramen noodles and eaten as one meal, simply because it wasn’t the same on crap. . . nom, nom, nom!
Then I turned to Haley, a pretty, fresh-faced girl with big brown eyes and auburn hair.
Haley Broussard (Pronounced Brew-sard)
She grew up in another small town not far from where I live now, and rode horses all her life. She’s competed in rodeos for years, and I’ve seen enough of the footage to know she’s damn good at it.
“What was it like to have the man you loved so far away, Haley?” I asked her.
She turned to Ben, linked her hand in his, and stared into his eyes. She told me about the three torturous weeks with no word from him. How she moped around the house, bit her nails, ate sunflower seeds by the pound, tried to sleep a lot, jumped at every phone call, checked her Facebook account constantly (in case her phone wouldn’t ring), snapped at her poor mother, and finally screamed when the caller ID showed his number. How she couldn’t speak for a moment, her relief was so great. How they talked until they couldn’t anymore because someone else needed the phone. And how, once the call ended, she started all over again with worrying about the love of her life until he made it back to the Battalion Base so she could see his face during Skype calls. She told me about his thoughtful and romantic acts—actually admits that he’s more romantic than she is. (Earlier, he’d bragged to me in a text message about how romantic he was—I had laughed, then answered that I’d have to hear that from her mouth before believing it.) As it turns out, this particular Marine could give lessons on being romantic. Maybe it’s because he knew how easy it was to lose everything in a flash. He arranged to have a single fresh rose sent to her every Monday. I know, right? Sigh… And how he rented a stretch Hummer for her 21st birthday for her and all of her friends.
She told me that he insisted that she fly with HIS family to meet him in Hawaii after his deployment.
She also said how she entered their hotel room to find that he had rose petals spread all over their room, from the door to the bed, with candles lit and everything.
“Seriously?” I asked. Haley looked at Ben, and beamed up at her sweet Marine, as he sent me a slightly sheepish grin and nodded. Only slightly, I emphasize, because he was totally confident and proud of his actions.
OH. MY. GOD.
How could I not fall in love with this couple? It was inevitable. That’s when I decided that book would not only share some of their experiences, but that I had to have these two beautiful people on the cover of what I would forever consider to be their book. I mean—just look at these two!
They are both such bright, young, responsible and respectable adults. When I first met them, both were students, and Ben worked part time. Since then, Haley has graduated from Lamar University in medical sonography. Ben should be graduating from technical college in May and is working as an electrician’s helper during the week.
I expect an invitation to their wedding one day. I’ve already told him I hope he wears his dress blues. I guess it’s because my dad was a Marine also, and I admit I have a weakness for Marines in uniform. I expect to see them have beautiful children one day. I know they are wonderful people who will contribute something good to this world. And if they never do another thing, they will have inspired me to write a story based somewhat upon their unfailing and inspirational love. I haven’t finished the book yet, so I haven’t scheduled the photo shoot for the cover. I have some ideas about what I want. I guess I’ll have to wait and see if they pan out for the book cover. He’s already informed me that he won’t do anything to disrespect the uniform…and the cammies are as much a part of the uniform as the dress blues or the greens.
The working title for their book was RAINY SEASON, but certain input from Ben has led me to change it to ONE YEAR TO FOREVER, because, as Corporal Bonin so eloquently stated, “It means something.” And that’s just how Haley’s Marine rolls . . . Oo-rah, Benjamin . . .
Sometimes life can influence fantasy in a good way.
Have a good one!