I’m so excited about the Sept. 4 release of Pretty Much True…that I can’t wait – I have to give away a couple of copies, and exactly a month before the release seems like the perfect time.
First, a huge thank you to Craig Lancaster and Missouri Breaks Press. I’ll be saying thank you forever.
Second, as an intro to the book (what it is and why it is), a few excerpts from an interview conducted by author and co-founder of Somerville News Writers Festival Timothy Gager that will publish next month at the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene:
Tell me a little something about “Pretty Much True.”
With the early days of the Iraq conflict as the background, it drops readers into the grit of war that I don’t think a lot of people are aware exists. There’s a healthy amount of grit for those with a soul mate (for lack of a better phrase) at war. There’s the personal experience – emotional and psychological – of hoping the person you love doesn’t die right now (or right now…or right now…), but also present during those early days [when embedded reporters excitedly brought live war action into our houses every day] were politicians with their conveniently-safe-at-home opinions, the news media and their spin…
Pretty Much True… delivers a realistic portrait using a cast of characters who are all, in one way or another, reacting to the conflict in Iraq in deeply personal – and therefore, often unpredictable – ways.
(Blog note: Characters include Mia, the protagonist, a cab-driving former professor whose boyfriend leaves for Iraq in February 2003; two Army pilots – one married, one not [Mia's boyfriend] – who are revealed either through letters or the impressions of other characters; the wife of one of the pilots, and she’s tired of it all; and a Vietnam veteran struggling with a past that seems to be repeating itself.)
Early reader: “I didn’t expect to find as much humor in it as I did – or as much truth, whether the scene involved an unwanted flirtation, a moment of watching the news, or what it’s like to be involved in a conversation with a group of people – civilians who know nobody in the military – discussing the war.”
I’ve heard you say that “Pretty Much True” was the best thing you’d ever written because the story was important to you. Explain a little about the importance and urgency.
Most war stories are about the soldier, but after getting to know war, myself, it seemed just as important and every bit as valid to tell my version with the same kind of unfiltered honesty that’s made movies like “Platoon” and “Full Metal Jacket” so popular. (I don’t think it’s the war action that appeals to people as much as the truth represented in each particular film.)
Edited here to add: There are many truths in any war story, and understanding war means, I believe, understanding as well as possible all of the players and their war experiences.
Is “Pretty Much True” pretty much true?
I couldn’t have written about something like war without having experienced it. I really don’t think anyone could. Not in a way that would do it justice or reveal some of the lesser-known, more subtle, and maybe even not-talked-about truths (including some unexpectedly funny ones). The emotional experience of the book is very true. And even a few small details were yanked from my experience. So, yes. In a way I think matters the most, it’s pretty much true.
Name something Mia did in the book that you would have never done.
99% of it. Her behavior is a vehicle to communicate the feelings, but she’s nothing like me. While Ian was gone, I was Mia’s polar opposite, behaviorally. I enjoyed writing Ian (every day), and I certainly never wrote in an email to him about his mother, “You secretly want to fuck her, don’t you?” That’s all a fictional scenario, and I really like his mother. But, for many people and in many cases, you can see how that sentiment might be easy to relate to.
Seems like everyone today has an opinion about politics and defense of our country. Has any of that led to overstepping boundaries pertaining to differences of opinion in any interactions with a reader?
Not at all. I made a point of including politics (and being, I think, very obvious about the things that drove me crazy, politicians included) without taking a political position with the book. Characters discuss the war, a protest takes an unexpected turn… But the last thing I wanted to write was something that could be perceived as either partisan or pro- or anti-war. I don’t care about positions and labels. I didn’t set out to write a manifesto, but a story.
…The End… (until the full interview publishes in September)
To win one of two ARCs of Pretty Much True… (U.S. and APO addresses only, since I’ll be sending them snail-mail), write anything you want to write in the comments between now and noon Sunday, Aug. 12. Your favorite color, the last time you pet an alpaca, anything.
Winners will be selected by a random number generator and announced Sunday at 1 p.m. (Please check back for the winners.) I really look forward to sending you your copies, whoever you are.
Kristen Tsetsi did what most authors wouldn’t dare do… she wrote the ugly side of waiting. She wrote it without flowery words or manipulated perception…what she wrote was, simply put, the truth. I have cried while reading before (you already know this) but never once has it been because of raw unbridled emotion. I said that the writing wasn’t flowery, but that doesn’t take away from the brilliantness of it. Writing this novel in any other way would have been inconceivable. To change it would be a crime.
Grab this book. Read this book. Then put it down and never pick it up again. Not because it’s not great, but because sometimes the lesson only needs to be taught once. – Misty Baker