ARLINGTON, VA — Dorine Andrews can put it all together at one point.
“I was digging through some old boxes of stuff my mom left me, and I found some kind of keepsake box,” she said. “It was full of old letters and I found a whole series of letters from and to my grandmother and my uncle.”
Andrews never knew his 22-year-old uncle, who died when his B-17 went down on a mission during World War II.
“Because I didn’t know, I said, ‘What if while he was in England something had happened? Would he have had a life-changing relationship for our family?'”
From these questions, Andrews began to craft a narrative that would become the basis of his first novel, “Jack’s Gift.”
Writing was still relatively new to Andrews, who retired in 2015 after a long consulting career. His last job was a five-year stint as director of information for the Peace Corps. She had a lot of experience overseeing business systems and didn’t have much of an interest in writing.
Everything changed when Andrews discovered blogging.
“I really got into it and decided I really wanted to improve my writing,” she said. “I went to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, their writing school. I took online classes and practiced blogging over and over again.”
Feeling more confident about her skills, Andrews took her ideas about her uncle and began to turn them into a story. She wrote at least two to three hours a day or every other day.
“Sometimes I got into this mode where my characters were dreaming with me,” she said. “And that’s how the story developed. I kept saying, ‘What if? And if?
Andrews conducted research online and even visited the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in Savanah, Georgia to learn more about the B-17s. Additionally, she leveraged the personal connections she had made as a teacher at Georgetown University to learn more about South Asian culture.
But it was the letters that provided the depth Andrews needed to tell his story.
“The documentation my family had on him, and the whole war situation at that time, was probably about three inches tall,” she said. “It really got me thinking.”
Andrews completed her first draft in December 2020. Based on the feedback she received, she decided to contact a professional editor at Mascot Books, who helped her rework the book and get it published.
Now that her first novel is behind her, Andrews is hard at work on a second. Once again, she draws inspiration from her own family history.
“It’s a little different,” she said. “It’s the same foundation. It’s really my mother’s story, in a kind of fictional version. She was a product of the 50s. She married my father in 1942. And then he was shipped off and n didn’t come in until ’45. And then she was a 1950s woman and not particularly an ordinary woman.”
As a published author, Andrews has this advice for those looking to get into writing:
“Write stories. Write blogs. Write journals and do research. Find things that interest you and see if you really enjoy writing, because if writing becomes a burden, you’ll never enjoy it.”
“Jack’s Gift” is available for purchase on Amazon or the author’s website.