The fifth book I wrote, Memories of Jake, dealt with two brothers who served in Vietnam in the late 1960s-early 1970s, and the impact their service had on them and their families. Andrew, the older by two years, an artist and musician, enlisted from a sense of duty after his first year of college. His rakish younger brother Jacob, an athlete and ladies’ man, enlisted immediately after high school from a desire for adventure.
During Jake’s time in Vietnam, where he served as a Green Beret, a helicopter crash resulted in severe retrograde amnesia. He could remember a great deal about the world, but almost nothing of his past life other than a few early childhood memories. Such a memory loss meant he could not continue with what he had hoped for, a career in the military.
Eventually, Jake left home and lost all contact with his family for nearly two decades. His disappearance resulted in Andrew being hospitalized and treated for deep-seated mental and emotional problems. However, with good care and the love of his family, he recovered, but he never stopped wondering where Jake could be.
While writing Memories of Jake from Andrew’s POV, just for fun I wrote a short chapter in first person of a romantic tryst Jake had with Andrew’s college art teacher who found him attractive and charming. I shared it with Ashleigh Evans, my editor, and she loved it and thought I should include it in the book. We added a few such first person moments. Since Andrew was an artist, they are termed “Sketches” in the book.
When I reached the point of Jacob’s disappearance it became apparent to me I couldn’t finish Memories of Jake until I knew exactly what had happened to him. So, time out from one book while I wrote a fairly detailed outline of where Jake had been during those years. Readers of Memories of Jake often commented on how real a character Jake had become to them, and I knew then that I needed to tell Jake’s story in a second book.
Only, I let Jake tell his story in the first person. In Man with No Yesterdays, this great-grandmother attempted a novel by a young warrior. Only, of course, at that point Jake was no longer a warrior…and didn’t know who he now was. It became undoubtedly the greatest challenge I had set myself, and it took time and effort, but it resulted in a book many people have read and appreciated.
Jake’s memories from Vietnam were never recovered, but he met other vets, one of whom had served with him, and he told Jake about some of their experiences. The book required a great deal of research because Jake traveled from his home town in Pennsylvania, first south, then across the continent, and eventually into Canada. He met many people on his odyssey, and this author journeyed with him while learning a great deal.
My talented editor, Ashleigh, also an artist, painted a portrait of Jake as I had envisioned him. It later became the image on the book’s cover and the original painting hangs next to my computer. More than most characters, Jake is an integral part of my life.
If you read and enjoyed “The Cameron Saga,” you’ll appreciate my upcoming release, And This Shall Be for Music. The protagonist, Lindsey Cameron, is Andrew’s daughter, a talented, aspiring opera singer who learns how quickly our life can change.
Author of the Augusta McKee Mystery Series