Kerry Arquette talks with Book Glow about the writing of War Cries: Unheard Voices, Unmarked Graves. The book of poems about the victims of the Holocaust is available from Amazon and Open Books Direct.
BG: Did you always want to be a writer?
KA: Goodness, no! I wanted to be an actress. But my mother’s little hobby (my mother is award-winning author, Lois Duncan) was to transcribe my school essays and submit them to national magazines. So I sold my first piece when I was 13.
BG: So, you continued to write after that?
KA: On and off, but I was never really interested in doing so as a profession.
BG: At what point did that change?
KG: I was pregnant with my first child. I’d left my job doing television news and moved with my husband to a different state. I knew nobody and began to feel lonely and depressed. Mother started to hand off some of her small magazine writing jobs to me. She thought she was being subtle, but I knew that she was gifting me with these projects so that I’d have a reason to get up each morning. Eventually I began to think of myself as a writer and started initiating my own writing projects.
BG: What kinds of projects were they?
KA: Oh, I wrote for national magazines including Parenting, Parents, Good Housekeeping, and Woman’s Day. I wrote and sold several children’s books. And I wrote or edited quite a few craft books.
BG: How did you segue into writing War Cries?
KA: I’d always been drawn to the subject of the Holocaust.
BG: Were you raised Jewish?
KA: No. But I had a Jewish friend, so I knew just a little bit about the religion. And I felt strongly drawn to it. I eventually converted to Judism in my late 20s.
BG: Back to War Cries. How did it come about?
KA: Truth? I sat down at my computer one day and the stories came to me. I did almost no editing of them. When the stories stopped coming, I had 99 very different and diverse tales of life and death of those who had been caught up in WWII, the Holocaust.
BG: That is…well…an unbelievable story! How do you explain what you experienced?
KA: To understand, you have to know something odd about me. I am what is called “face blind.” I truly can’t distinguish faces—sometimes not even my own daughters’. So, over a lifetime I’ve developed coping mechanisms. One of those is that, upon occasion…not all that often, but upon occasion, I can sense things others can’t. I think that quirk came into play when I wrote War Cries.
BG: Do you believe the characters introduced in War Cries were actual people—that they lived during WWII?
KA: Yes. And I believe that they wanted their stories told. I was just the right person, in the right place, at the right time to set them down on paper.
BG: What is your hope for War Cries?
KA: That it finds its way into the hands of those whose lives will be changed by the stories. It isn’t going to be a book that everybody is okay reading. The material is tough. The voices are real. Some readers may find it upsetting. But others will find truths in the poems—and those truths will lead some readers to see the world differently.