28 October 2009 0 Comments

The Real Iraq War: Michael Anthony’s Writing Life

By now it’s no secret that the Iraq War has been a disillusioning experience for many of the U.S. servicemen sent there. The literature on the war has, so far, been mostly written by journalists. There’s plenty of it, and like most journalism it runs pretty mainstream and inoffensive, no matter how bloody the scenes depicted. But Michael Anthony, a veteran of the war, has a different perspective. His new book Mass Casualties: A Young Medic’s True Story of Death, Deception, and Dishonor in Iraq is the best account yet of a war that continues to cost lives and to sully the image of the democracy in whose name it was supposedly fought. It’s a subject I’ve thought about a great deal as I travel my corner of the Middle East and as I continue to encounter fighters – Israeli and Palestinian – who endure personal hardship and tormenting nightmares when they face the realities of war. So read the book. Meantime, here’s Michael’s Writing Life.

How long did it take you to get published?

I started writing the book as soon as I returned home from Iraq. I wrote the first hundred pages in six months and then the last hundred pages in two days (for the first draft). I then spent several months editing and doing rewrites. In total, from starting to write until getting a book deal, it took one year (almost exactly).

Would you recommend any books on writing?

I’m sure there are some out there, but I’ve never read any books on writing. I can give you a few of my favorite books though; the ones that I place as the top tier of writing, and for me, I think reading books, with a great style and prose, can help your writing as well. My top books (not in any order): Atlas Shrugged, Catch 22, Catcher in the Rye, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

What’s a typical writing day?

I usually spend my typical writing day, finding other things to do than write. I think part of the aspect of being a writer is having the discipline to actually sit down and write. I don’t write every day as most writers do, but when I do write, that’s all I do. For me, it’s not about quantity of time, but quality of time. I could write while doing laundry or watching television, but it wouldn’t be the same. When I do write, it’s all about the writing and nothing else, I throw myself into and sometimes I won’t shower or leave the house for days.

Plug your book. What’s it about? Why’s it so great?

My latest and first book is: Mass Casualties: A Young Medic’s True Story of Death, Deception, and Dishonor in Iraq. It is the true story of what goes on during war, and what went on over there. It’s not a pro war or anti war book, it’s simply a true war story. I think a lot of stories/movies/shows out there; paint this picture of the American Soldier as this romanticized heroic idea. What I wanted to do with my book was simply paint a picture of the American Soldier as a human. It goes back to the old saying: “I’d rather be hated for what I am, than loved for what I’m not.” If people really want to appreciate and support the troops, the least they can do is learn the real stories, and not just the ones they’re told by reporters or the military officials.

If you look at a majority of war books or movies out there, they all paint this perfect picture of war and its effects. For example, look at one of the long running war movie franchises: Rambo, starring Sylvester Stallone. Rambo goes off to war and comes home with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Even with this PTSD, he still manages to be a hero, save a town or city from some disaster and at the end, still get the girl. But in reality, if a soldier comes home with severe PTSD, they kill themselves. End of movie, roll the credits.

The problem with romanticizing these soldiers and situations is that when they come home, no one understands what they went through and what it was really like. And because of this, today’s military has the highest suicide rates in thirty years. Since the Afghanistan war started, more active duty soldiers have killed themselves than have been injured or killed in Afghanistan—combined. This is why I think we need to give people the full picture of war, and not just the good stuff they want to know about.

Who’s the greatest stylist currently writing?

My current, favorite, contemporary writer is: Stephen Chbosky, author of: The Perks of Being a Wallflower. For me, I just loved everything about that book, from the idea of it, to the way it was written.

How much research was involved in your book?

The vast majority of my book was based on my journals in Iraq, and because of this, the research involved was minimal. All I had to do was convert my illegible sometimes chaotic journal entries, into readable prose.

What’s the best idea for marketing a book you can do yourself?

Tell everyone you know, or have ever known, and then tell them to tell everyone they know. I now think everyone in my high-school class knows I have a book in bookstores. Social Media is a great thing, and don’t be afraid to go out there and use it. Also, I think getting other authors to review and/or comment on your work. I was able to get over thirty well accomplished people to review, comment on, and endorse my work; from famous politicians, to famous historians, psychologists, veterans and authors.

How many books did you write before you were published?

When I was sixteen I had written three books and two movies; it then took me five years to realize I wanted to be a writer.

What’s your weirdest idea for a book you’ll never get to publish?

When I was younger, I once wrote a book from the perspective of a T-shirt. The book had a T-shirt as a main character and I followed him around and wrote about what he was thinking as the wearer of the shirt went around and did his daily duties.

Leave a Reply