Posted by Literary Titan
Witch Heart follows Jan as she returns to West Point under a cloud of suspicion when several people are killed in unlucky accidents. What was the inspiration for this 3rd book in the Gray Girl Series?
The Gray Girl series (Gray Girl, Area Bird and Witch Heart) is mostly inspired by my experiences as a cadet at West Point from 1981-1985. Jan Wishart’s adventures are embellished, of course, but many of the events are authentic or realistic to what we experienced at that time. Being labeled a “witch,” for instance, certainly happened to some women then. Recently, we have seen examples of derogatory “labeling” used on outspoken and/or ambitious women.
The novel starts out at Army Airborne School in Fort Benning, GA. What experience do you have with the military. Anyone in your family serve?
Well, as stated above, I attended West Point in the early 1980’s. After that, I served five years as a missile maintenance officer in the Army. As part of our training, I attended Airborne School during the summer before cow (junior) year, which follows the storyline in Witch Heart. I wrote most of the Airborne School chapters based on memory. However, I cheated a little and looked at Youtube videos. I also consulted a few friends who went through Airborne training. One of my beta readers was stationed with the 82nd Airborne for a few years.
The book tackles the social issue of women serving in the military. How do you see women in the military and what is a common misconception you’ve come across?
Women have only added value to the military, as they have in all areas where they have been allowed to compete. One common misconception that seems prevalent is that standards had to be lowered for women to enter the military academies. What is surprising, however, is that ALL standards have gone up since women have been admitted. There’s probably a social-gender dynamic that might explain this reality, but physical and academic standards began to rise considerably with the admission of women cadets.
Jan is a well developed character. What were some obstacles that you felt were important for the characters development?
I wanted Jan to be a good person, but flawed. In other words, I wanted her to be authentic. I think hearing her internal dialogue (which is more prevalent in the first two books) is both an obstacle and an opportunity to bring a character to life. The reader sees her inner self, knowing her mixed emotions and the biases that she carries with her. You don’t really hear the inner voices of the other characters, but hopefully, using dialogue and actions, you get a feeling of the well-developed relationships and personalities.
Where does the story go in the next book and where do you see it going in the future?
Jan has to finish West Point. So, the final book in the Gray Girl series will be about her firstie (senior) year. She will encounter another major problem at West Point which can only be solved with the help of her friends and collaborators. This one, if I can pull it off, will involve international espionage—or something like that. I hate to say too much until it’s written because often times the book takes on a life of its own—and I never really know what’s going to happen until it does. It’s called writing.
“Jan Wishart starts cow (junior) year at West Point in Airborne School. Terrified of heights, she narrowly escapes an accident that later turns deadly for another jumper. With a third death in as many years associated with her, Jan returns to West Point under a cloud of suspicion. Ominous signs left for her to find cause Jan to lose a precious and necessary requirement for survival at West Point: sleep. With her mental state in question, a masked intruder makes nocturnal visits to her room. Or is she imagining that? Events escalate to the point of no return for Jan and her two best friends. When they swear an oath of loyalty to each other, they have no idea how much it will cost to fulfill that vow. Leadership always requires sacrifice. So does loyalty. And sometimes, one virtue must yield to the other.”
Posted in Interviews
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Posted by Literary Titan
West Point, the school for those that value honor and tradition. A group of elite students and soldiers that want nothing more than to continue the long-standing traditions and be the absolute best out there. It is also a school that has long been a boy’s only club, stuck in the mindset and traditions of the male gender. However now, women are there. They are changing things and not everyone likes these changes. When Jan, Kristi, and Pamela start leaving a trail of bad luck behind them they are branded as witches. Jan is convinced someone is out to kill her. It isn’t long though before Kristi and Pamela are also targets, someone wants them gone for good. Susan Spieth takes readers into the world of being a West Point cadet in her novel Witch Heart.
The novel starts out at Army Airborne School in Fort Benning GA. At first the novel is mildly humorous as you realize that Jan the main character is afraid of heights. Why is she at Airborne School? The simple answer is, she is a West Point Cadet and she will not fail at anything. We start getting some of the back story of her bad luck and how her old roommate Violet killed herself. The reason for why this happened lies deep into the novel and Spieth takes the reader on an emotional journey to get to the answers. Along the way you find romance with Jan and fellow Cadet Rick, and friendships so deep hazing and Honor Courts will not rip them apart.
The plot deepens and the witch hunt continues, all we know of the antagonist is that it is a male that wares a black ski mask. This mask holds a special meaning for him but you don’t know what that meaning is. After there are three deaths all from the time Jan, Kristi and Pamela arrive at West Point, they become known as the witches’ coven. The mystery intruder braking into rooms is only known as the man with the ski mask and he reveals his plans and hate for two of the women especially.
The author has given a lot of time into explaining the environment at West Point, it is a boy’s club atmosphere that is just tolerating women in the ranks. I feel this is still relevant today, that many feel West Point should still be an all-male environment. The author uses higher ranking officers to brush off hazing rituals as good old fun and traditions. It speaks of the hostility that women face when they are told “you want to be one of us deal with it” and are left with little options; all too real of a situation. Susan Spieth is able to tap into the fears and anger that these female cadets feel.
While not overly complex in plot lines, the social structure and interactions of the characters make this a complex novel. The reader is drawn into the stories of Jan, Kristi and Pamela and how they have survived to be 3rd year cows’s at West Point. This is not your mushy feel good novel, but it does speak to the strength of women cadets and their ability to overcome the odds against them.
Pages: 237 | ASIN: B01MCYSLQB
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