Blue Stars, the second novel by Emily Gray Tedrowe, explores the lives of military families on the homefront. The novel focuses on two women, Ellen and Lacey, and the other family members left behind after deployment. She read from the book at BooKCourt in Brooklyn.
Tedrowe comes from a military family, and the novel is based partly on her personal experience as a family member with a deployed service member. Her brother had been deployed to Iraq. His time away from the family and the experience of waiting on the homefront inspired her desire to write the book, though she says she felt she needed to wait until he returned to know what kind of book it would be. She wanted to explore the impact of deployment on the other people in lives of soldiers.
“I didn’t write about the front lines of the war… that felt too hard to imagine,” she says.
At first, Tedrowe says that she felt that two characters each represented some portion of her, divided equally between them. But as the novel progressed, she found herself relating more to the mother-in-law: “she just kept getting better and better lines,” she jokes.
In writing the book, she pulled in her own experiences, but then also the experiences of her family members. She has many cousins with deployed service members, and they would end up talking about the concern they shared. She spoke to her cousin’s wife and had another family member read the novel for accuracy.
In her research, she visited Walter Reed Medical Center. It had recently closed, and so she stood outside the fence taking pictures. She jokes that she is probably on a watch-list now as a result.
The characters came to Tedrowe first. She was thinking about the homefront as a concept and the different kinds of people involved. Even very different people with very different backgrounds would likely have similar concerns. She decided she wanted to explore those concerns through the relationships of disparate people. The protagonists Ellen and Lacey came to her at roughly the same time and then she knew the kind of novel she was going to write.
Tedrowe likes to have about half the novel planned before she begins writing. She hopes the rest of the novel will come to her before she gets to it. Once she creates characters though, the action is less difficult. She knows how the characters will react to situations and she can give them challenges and know how they will overcome them.
When it comes to reading the work publicly, its something she enjoys. “When I’m reading the work, I get to say it aloud just the way I hear it in my head,” she says.