Rachel Starnes’s memoir “The War at Home” hits stores in just a little over a month but the local author isn’t sitting still while waiting for it to debut. Starnes has been sharing her story and discussing her writing process at literary events around the Central Valley. She recently published an essay in O, The Oprah Magazine, where she describes using Pinterest to imagine her family’s permanent home. And all the while she and her family are about to embark on another cross-country move.
“‘The War at Home’ is a broad overview of my life as a Navy spouse, but it has a lot of flashbacks and it’s interspersed with a lot of story about my past,” Starnes explained when the Lemoore Navy News first interviewed her in February. “It has a lot do with the idea of family patterns repeating themselves. I think it’s about trying to make peace with the repetition.”
With her book complete, Starnes said that the transition from writing her memoir to speaking about it has been a rewarding change.
“It’s been a seven year writing process and many of those years there was no guarantee this was going to get published or even finished,” said Starnes. “It’s nice. It’s been kind of a lonely road until now.”
On April 9, Starnes was a guest speaker at the University of California, Merced’s Creative Writing Conference. Starnes discussed the ethics of how you treat the people you write about in your stories and described her rules for writing about others in her memoir.
“I feel like a 3:1 ratio is good- if you’re going to say one critical thing of someone else, you need to say at least three of yourself. If they’re going to be exposed in anyway, you’re going to be much more exposed,” advised Starnes.
Starnes also read an excerpt from her upcoming memoir at Fresno’s LitHop event on April 23. Her story struck a chord with many of her listeners.
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“The really awesome thing is that I’ve talked to some long-time military wives, some 20 years plus, who were very supportive and kind. These are people who have been at this a lot longer than I have. It was really gratifying to be able to hear their stories.”
Public speaking hasn’t stopped Starnes from continuing to pursue her writing passion. She penned a short essay titled “Homes of the Brave” in the May issue of O Magazine. Starnes wrote about curating images of her “forever home” using Pinterest, an online bookmarking site. Like her book, the personal narrative provides insight into the life of a military spouse who is always on the move and dreams of a permanent place to call home.
Even though “The War at Home” hasn’t been officially released yet, it is already gaining attention from literary critics. Kirkus Reviews praised the book, saying, “The writing is often dramatic, providing readers with a behind-the-scenes look at military life from a unique perspective: that of the silent partner who endures separation, secrecy, and the fears that her husband may be the one who doesn't make it back. A gripping and guileless account of being the wife of a TOPGUN instructor.”
As for Starnes, her biggest hope for “The War at Home” isn’t about reviews or hitting a high sales mark.
“I just hope that it finds its audience, however big that is,” she said. “A lot of times in navy culture, especially moving around as much as we do, it’s really a struggle to find your niche. I’ve spent a lot of the last 12 years searching for that…One thing I hoped with this book is to speak to people who are still doing it. Just make somebody feel a little bit less alone.”
Starnes will kick-off a summer book tour in July with appearances in Texas and California. To keep up with the author, visit her website rachelstarnes.com. “The War at Home” is available for pre-order now and officially hits shelves July 5.