Parts of Tori Eversmann’s life were immortalized when her husband Matt’s role in the Battle of Mogadishu became the basis for the book and subsequent film Black Hawk Down. Now, the West Palm Beach resident is telling her experience and others like it as the main story in her debut novel, The Immortals (Seattle Book Company, $24.95). “I wanted my readers to have more than a glimpse but an opening of the kimono and see what it is like to be an army wife during the Iraq War,” she says. Using her journals as a jumping-off point, she crafted her semi-autobiographical main character, Calli Coleman, who must raise her daughter alone when her husband is recalled to active duty. By forging relationships with other military spouses, Coleman finds the strength she needs to not only withstand her husband’s lengthy deployment but also grow as an individual. “The war is a character in the novel, but I think the story really is about a woman coming into her own,” Eversmann says. PBI.com spoke with Eversmann about her book and her life as an army wife.
PBI.com: What led to your decision to write a book based on your experiences as an army wife?
Eversmann: It really was an epiphany I had when my husband, Matt, was in Iraq for 15 months. We were emailing, and I realized the other wives who were going through the deployment with me were also emailing. My mom had given me a book that my great-grandmother and great-grandfather had put together, it was called Letters and Verses, and it was just a compilation of letters they had written back and forth and poems and things like that. I realized that wouldn’t happen with these current wars because everybody’s communicating through email and Skype and nobody writes letters anymore. It concerned me that this particular part of our history, which is arguably one of the worst wars we’ve been in, was going to be written by or just talked about by a very small portion of people. I just really felt that it was incumbent upon me as an army wife during the Iraq War to keep a journal of what was going on.
Why did you choose to write a novel as opposed to a work of nonfiction?
I originally started off with a memoir but there were a few things that factored into [changing gears]. First of all, I’m very blessed with being happily married, and I’m even more blessed that Matt came home from Iraq literally unscathed in everyway—spiritually, emotionally, and physically. It kind of made for a boring, vanilla story. I feel very fortunate that that’s how my real life happened, however, it doesn’t make for a good book. I really wanted the public and my readers to have more than a glimpse but an opening up of the kimono and see what it’s like, or what it was like, to be an army wife during the Iraq War.
It sounds like by making it a novel you were able to touch upon many different stories.
Yes, and it gave me a lot of creative license to make my main characters do and say things I may not have. I was able to amalgamate people and compile events.
Can you describe your main character Calli Coleman?
She comes from an upper-middleclass family. Again, like me, she has really no experience in the military. She starts off the story with a bit of a chip on her shoulder and, also, an innocence to her. However, through these amazing women whom she befriends, she starts to really find herself and who she is without being in the shadow of her successful parents or her successful husband. She went to Juilliard, she was a very, very talented musician but she just wasn’t good enough. That’s why she sort of comes into this story with a little bit of a chip on her shoulder, always feeling like she just wasn’t good enough. People may not like her in the beginning but as she begins to shed the old Calli and transform into the new Calli, I find she’s inspirational because she does go back to her musical roots. It’s through friendship and music that she really blossoms and turns into this very, very strong woman who realizes that while she would love to have these wonderful things around her, she doesn’t need them. There’s a difference between want and need, and she has that actualization. Her strength all starts to come from within instead of trying to get it from the outside.
What do you hope readers get from The Immortals?
If I have touched one woman and made her feel like she doubted herself in anyway that perhaps she would take that doubt and just stomp on it and be like ‘you know what, even if that doubt is there, I’m going to move forward.’ When you are sitting still in a place of doubt or fear, it’s so detrimental. You just have to take steps. If you need your friends to help you take those steps, that’s great. If you need your family, that’s great. If you need to go run a marathon, then that’s great. My dream is that my readers will really feel inspired to not be afraid of just one aspect of their lives.