Interview With Jeremy Strozer, Author of the Threads of The War Series

I’m Jeremy Strozer, author of the Threads of The War series. My work focuses on first-person historical flash-fiction of what I call The 20th Century’s War.

What this means is the period from 1898 to the present, which I consider one enduring conflict with tangents shooting off in multiple directions toward conflicts we are fighting to this day. What fascinates me most about this period is not the historical dates and events so much as the human experience through these momentous, and often destructive, occurrences.

I write to expose the wanton waste of war. Fascinated by ideas and personal stories, I work to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena. By enjoying thinking and learning about the past my hope is to understand the present through creating its context. I have faith in the links between all things; believing there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason. I’m also inspired by the future and what could be; thereby inspiring others with my visions of what occurred and what is possible.

My inspiration comes from education in improvisational acting; the actions and writing of Gene Sharp, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Woody Guthrie, Studs Terkel, and Henry David Thoreau; and an affinity for history. I believe all stories are best told from the personal perspective and learning about history should be an emotionally driven experience. Therefore, I push the conviction all history is simply a personal story, compounded and woven with the personal story of everyone else, throughout time.

Raised in California, I moved to Washington, D.C. at the age of 18 to attend The George Washington University. Through education and luck, I became a Fulbright Fellow to the European Union, a Presidential Management Fellow at the United States Department of State, and found ways to live and work across vast swaths of the world. Professionally, I helped remove unexploded ordnance from war-ravaged countries; stem the flow of the world’s most dangerous weapons; and potentially reduce the likelihood of war between a couple of the world’s most powerful countries.  

I now live in Falls Church, Virginia, with my wife, son and daughter where I continue to work on preventing future war and warning the world about the human cost of violence. 

Receive a free copy of  the first in the series, Threads of The War

When and why did you start writing?

I’ve written a short piece to answer this question, so I will post it here:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt and I learned the same lesson which altered our lives in similar, although individually relevant, ways.  FDR was Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the age of 31, under the Administration of President Wilson.  He was in this role during U.S. involvement in World War I.  During his tenure in this role he took a trip to the Western Front in France, where he was shown a very recent battlefield, as well as had the path he had just walked bombarded by German artillery.  He came away from that experience highly energized by the awesome power and majesty of War.

Yet, in the late 1930’s, as the world was descending into potentially another global existential conflict, he is quoted as saying: 

I have seen war.  I have seen war on the land and sea.  I have seen blood running from the wounded.  I have seen men coughing out their gassed lungs.  I have seen the dead in the mud.  I have seen cities destroyed.  I have seen two hundred limping, exhausted men come out of the line – the survivors of a regiment of one thousand that went forward forty-eight hours before.  I have seen children starving.  I have seen the agony of mothers and wives.  I hate war.

This quote was pulled from Commander In Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, His Lieutenants, and their War by Eric Larrabee (Simon & Schuster 1987).  Larrabee goes on to write:

“It must be admitted that at the time, he expressed no such sentiments.  There is nothing in the accounts he sent home to suggest anything but exultation and pride in the prowess of Allied arms – one more among the many indications that the Roosevelt who had survived his crippling illness, mastered the national political scene, and uneasily observed the advancing worldwide clash of conflict was not the same Roosevelt as the assistant secretary.  Even after Pearl Harbor, he remembered to refer to the field of battle as “ugly.” What the younger man looked at with an appetite for experience in its fullness, the older man looked back on with revulsion, or should the possibility be entirely discounted that abomination for war’s evil is not inconsistent with a sense of its awesomeness.”

Although I have never, and will never, serve as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, have not seen a fresh battlefield or had a path I just walked bombarded with artillery, I too have seen the remnants of war.  I was inspired to go into international affairs because of the Civil War in The Former Yugoslavia.  I traveled vast swaths of the planet touring battlefields, museums, libraries, and government ministries attempting to understand military history and the use of military force in foreign policy.  I have seen and met children and adults who lost limbs and loved ones from unexploded bombs left over from wars long-since forgotten by everyone else.  I worked to reduce the possibility of conflict between the world’s most powerful countries, as well as and stem the flow of the world’s most dangerous weapons. 

Through a maturation process that included a physical disability (although not to the degree of FDR’s) and having a son I both anticipate and fear may one day be called upon to fight and possibly die for his country, I now write emotional first-person historical fiction to help people enjoy learning to avoid the wanton waste of war.

This work is all done because of my personal affinity for the awesomeness of war combined with an utter inability to comprehend why it exists.  I simply cannot understand war, no matter how much I study it.  I can read about it, I can write about it, I can teach it, I can wax poetically on strategy, operations, tactics, military history, world-renown strategists and practitioners, and even the ancient to modern weapon systems used, but I fail to grasp what WAR actually means, other than simply one word:

WASTE

WAR is a waste of humanity, of resources, of energy, and ideas. 

WAR is bereft of value.

I am not advocating that a country never fight, or that some wars are not worth fighting.  Roosevelt was right to bring the United States into World War II.  I continue to question why we entered World War I, and how the world may be different had we not made that choice. What I am saying is that any decision to go to war has to be measured against its real and total cost.  Few political leaders in the position to make decisions about the use of force sincerely address the holistic costs of war.  They often latch on to a public anger or prime the pump of some hatred of “The Enemy” in order to unify their side toward conflict.

I write emotionally charged first-person accounts of WAR in order to draw people into the fact that all WAR is fought by individuals, at a human level, with each individual personally suffering through the trials, triumphs, agonies and defeats caused by decisions made by other humans for purposes that are never worth the value of what is paid.   

I recently finished a book about World War I, the war that later President Roosevelt witnessed before he had to lead our country through World War II.  This book summed up WAR in exactly the terms I try to help everyone comprehend. Here I will share them with you:

“Wars are and always have been paradoxical and deeply ironic phenomena that frequently change what people want to preserve, promote what people want to prevent and demolish what people want to protect.”

I would love to rekindle a local, national, and international conversation on the utility, futility, and military-industrial propensity toward WAR before the next one has the chance to claim lives and cause suffering in ways very few humans have yet imagined. 

The next WAR will be fought with new technology used in ways far more destructive than anything we have seen before, and can possibly imagine now. Every war, particularly those of the last 150 years, opens the field to improvements in the means by which death is administered, and the range from which it can be accomplished.  These means are traceable to technologies and ideas that existed before the WAR, but were not married-up until the circumstances and the need presented themselves.  We are in possession of every material means by which to wreak havoc and let slip the utter annihilation of humanity many times over in ways that would make the perpetrators of mass genocides in the past look tame.

May we learn to understand the true cost of WAR. May we debate the merits of WAR. May we learn to weed out the politicians in any country who advocate WAR. And, may we be able to avoid WAR. 

That is why I write!

What inspires your writing?

The birth of my son.

Having a son inspired me in two key ways. First, I wanted to show him how it is possible to do what you love in life. He doesn’t have to be a slave to someone else to earn his living, but rather can follow his dreams, doing what he loves, to make his way in the world. Second to this, I am a student of history. I have seen many young people’s lives wasted by decisions of political leaders. I do not want my son to be just another statistic in some loss figure. I want my son to live a full and rich life. Anything I can to do help make war less likely is worth my time, and my son’s life.

What has been your worst moment as a writer?

Not really a moment, but a length of time: The past 9 months. Last summer I released the third book in my series. As with the previous books, I did not yet fully understand marketing, and I did a poor job getting word out. After having written three books, all to paltry return, I lost a lot of verve for my writing.  At the time, I decided to refocus my effort on a more commercially viable book, which I’m in the middle of now. I’m writing in the same structure as before, but instead of instant one-off short stories, I’m writing a novel using first-person perspectives of a historically fictional event. This has been a struggle for me. Keeping the story in mind over this length of time, keeping everything straight in terms of characters, timelines, story arc, and all of the historical details is just so much more demanding than my earlier works. These demands have diminished my desire to write, forcing me to restart the project several times. Just this week I decided to shelve the project for now, instead refocusing on the writing which I love, and could do so prolifically before I got turned off by slow sales. Instead of thinking about sales, I am reconnecting to my original motives: Demonstrate to my son you can do what you love, even if you must go to a day job while you do it; and do my best to help people understand the human cost of state-sponsored violence. It’s been a long 9 months to get back here, but I’m excited to be reconnected to what got me writing in the first place. Putting it down here just made me feel that much better about the decision, so thanks for asking which forced me to reexamine this decision.

Do you have any writing rituals to get you in the mood for writing?

Yes, although I’m still perfecting them. I love to read history books, coming across some event which strikes me as fascinating to play with from the Point of View of someone going through that event. Therefore, my ritual is to spend the last hour before I go to sleep reading history. I usually get at least one good idea a night. Then my mind has an opportunity to play with that idea while I sleep. In the morning, when I wake up, I’m usually primed to turn that spark into a short story in one writing session. I wake up at 5am each morning, giving me about two hours before the rest of the family rise to knock-out a story, or at least it’s main components. I love that quiet time to focus, play in my head, and produce something I can be proud of.

If you could, what would you go back and tell yourself as a writer starting out?

Be patient with yourself. Stay true to your purpose. Don’t seek sales, but rather meaning for you. Others may never find what you create as important as you do. War may come. Your son may be lost. Yet, what you do has value in this world, so keep doing it.

What do you believe make for great writing?

What I love in writing is when someone experiences growth, coming out on the other end of the story a different character from when they entered. This is what fascinates me about first-person stories, we can see that transition occur within the person’s mind and through their actions, often before they realize it.

How do you measure success as a writer?

Success as a writer means you’re comfortable with your work. You’ve produced something you are proud to put out in public. I feel that is the most I can hope to achieve as a writer. I can put out the best piece of work I can produce.

What’s your biggest fear as a writer?

I am too lazy: Not enough production, not enough details, not enough editing, too much time wasted. I struggle with the idea I only have a set amount of time, but I don’t spend all of it producing great work. I spend a lot of it doing other things, especially over the past 9 months, and I am falling off the writer’s wagon.

Describe your latest book to our readers

The last book I published was Threads of The War, Volume III. It is a collection of personal truth-inspired flash-fictional stories of The 20th Century’s War. In it the reader will experience events from World War I, World War II, and The Korean War. I take readers from the office of the German Kaiser to the trenches of North Korea, from a POW camp in Germany to inside an American bomber hunting German subs in the Atlantic. Each story is a flash of time, told from the perspective of someone who went through that true event. All the stories are short, easily readable in less time than it will take you to read this interview.

What would you like readers to take away from your writing?

The human experience in war. War is a human activity. We hear about casualty figures, we hear about tons of bombs dropped, or targets hit, but war is utterly personal. I would like readers to understand how war touches each of us. What happens when someone is a civilian in a combat zone? What happens when someone is a soldier on the line? What happens to the human mind and body when gas, shells, shrapnel, screams, shrills, and terror combine in our environment? What is the cost of human violence?

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Focus on your passion for the writing. Do not let the commercial side of being an author deter or distract you from why you write. Write you passion. If necessary, hire out or marry someone who can do the marketing stuff for you.

What’s next for you?

I have two books I’m currently claiming to work on, both of which are on hold as I reconnect to my true writing purpose. Last week I would have told you about Damocles my novel taking a true planned Japanese suicide Commando raid on the island of Tinian for the night of August 5, 1945 and turning it into a historical fiction event with severe repercussions for the United States. This book was to come out August 5, 2017, but now it will be published August 5, 2020 (The 75th anniversary of the day of the planned raid). I would have also mentioned Threads of The War, Volume 4 which is a continuation of my Threads series. I have the outline all mapped out, the cover already done and just need to finish half of the stories.

Instead, I’ll talk about my new format and production plan. Instead of pre-planning my book’s stories in advance, I’m going to let history determine what I product. Each week I’m going to read something from WWI, II, and other components of The 20th Century’s War, to find the story I wish to produce that week. Then, I’ll write as well as record an audio version of my story. I’ll produce one-story per week in both written and audio formats, releasing the new product each Friday. In this way, I can turn my writing into not only a book, but into a podcast I can then encourage those who do not fancy reading to try out. My goal with this is to stay inspired by history, reconnect to true events, push my production, and increase my reach beyond readers into another realm in which people learn.


Threads of The War, Volume III

By Jeremy Strozer

Threads of The War, Volume III collects and shares personal narratives during real events across the span of The 20th Century’s War. Building off of the success of Volumes I and II, Threads III takes us from the private study of the Kaiser in the summer of 1914, through the trench on the last day of World War I, across the frosty Icelandic landmass in 1940 into the hills of Korea in 1951.

Within short easily-readable, yet emotionally compelling, bursts Threads III continues opening the door to the personal facet of war; exposing the reader to the facts, fictions, and fallacies of armed violence. Following each story, the reader is provided specific and revealing facts about the events narrated, offering both entertainment and education within the time it takes to read a blog-post.

If you like WEB Griffin, Tom Clancy, Robert Harris, or Mark Twain you’ll love Jeremy Strozer.

About the Author

Scott Mullins is a freelance writer and digital content manager. When he’s not finding ways to distract himself from writing his novel he writes killer copy for companies all over the world. Connect with Scott on Twitter @ScottMullins86 or LinkedIn. He’s always looking to connect with other writers.