2014 ~ December 2nd
Prescott Valley author Arlene Eisenbise was nine when World War II broke out. She was 63 when news coverage of the 50th anniversary of the war’s end triggered an idea for a story about a 13-year-old girl’s experiences on the home front.
Former teen librarian, Jolanta Feliciano, Prescott Valley Public Library, told her to bring something in, the teenagers at the library would read it and let her know. She provided a couple of chapters and received helpful comments that she used in her revision work.
“I think I probably feared their judgment. But I found that I marveled at their energy and enthusiasm,” Eisenbise, a PV resident since 1997, said. “They didn’t realize they did much, but they pushed me off the diving board into the deep end of the pool.”
For the author, that meeting was a major turning point in her life, and she listed the teens by first name in the acknowledgements. When the book came out in July, Feliciano brought the teens back for a “reunion” with Eisenbise, who said the young adults were impressed with her presentation and excited to see the finished product.
In the self-published novel, the main character is based on Eisenbise’s own experiences – except for one fact. Her editor said it would be too hard for readers to accept that the main character actually had eight cousins, not five, who served in the war at the same time. All of them came home.
A motivating factor to finish the book was to present it to the one remaining cousin, Ray “Bud” Bowers, 91, while he was still alive. He was the cousin Eisenbise interviewed in 1999 who explained why it took so long to return to the States from Europe, a puzzling situation in the novel. In August, Eisenbise traveled to Oregon to give him a copy.
“At the end of the war, he didn’t come home. Nobody knew where anyone was, or even if he was dead or alive. Turns out he was sent on a secret assignment,” she said, adding that it involved the Nuremburg Trials.
One of the teens’ comments led to a change in the colors on the front cover. Another caused Eisenbise to expand on one of the minor characters that piqued the teens’ interest. When authors write about themselves, they already know the story, but may not realize the reader needs more information.
The book relates some facts about growing up during the Great Depression. Eisenbise said youngsters didn’t always realize the deprivations of the times.
“I remember my mom would pray that we would go to sleep before realizing how hungry we were. I remember my dad saying, ‘I’d give my eyeteeth for a beer,'” she said.
Her parents traveled to California to work in the fields when she was 4 or 5 years old. At one time they had a farm, but it cost more to feed the animals than what they got selling eggs or milk.
The book has received good reviews at amazon.com and goodreads.com. Eisenbise has appeared at several libraries, and will be presenting to the Sons and Daughters Survivors of Pearl Harbor chapter in April. For more information or to purchase her book, visit arleneeisenbise.com.
Interview by Sue Tone, Prescott Valley Tribune