By Karl Weisel (Wiesbaden Family and MWR)February 10, 2020
WIESBADEN, Germany - Some have an intriguing story to tell. Others want to illuminate past events or to share ideas.
For first-time author Kathryn Goodwin Tone, writing "The King's Broad Arrow," a young adult novel about a boy drawn into the events of the American Revolutionary War, was a combination of all of the above.
"I had some life lessons I wanted to share with kids," said Tone, a former military spouse with a deep interest in American history.
"Writing the book was always on the back burner while my own kids were at home," Tone said, explaining that with her two children now out of the house -- one in college and one in the military, she felt the time was ripe to put pen to paper.
"Although there were many days when I questioned the whole thing completely and had huge doubts, the experience is one of the most joyful things I've ever done," she said. "In the end, I wrote the book I wanted to write, which feels great."
"The King's Broad Arrow" follows the adventures of Sam Nevens, the son of a sawmill operator in Machias, Maine, in 1775, who finds himself in grave peril after being imprisoned by the British for an offense against the Crown. His escape and subsequent travels lead him to crucial encounters with several of the Founding Fathers and to eventually joining the beleaguered Continental Army.
Tone, who has degrees in journalism and international relations, explained that her original idea for the fictional book was inspired by a class she taught to fourth- to sixth-graders, which introduced philosophy with various themes such as justice and courage.
"I decided that setting the story during a war was the perfect context to expand on the concepts of courage and responsibility -- how courage manifests itself," she said.
"One of the few things I planned from the start," explained Tone, "was that Sam would be from the region that is now Maine, my father's home state."
Researching the Revolutionary events in that part of the country led to the book's title.
"When my dad passed away in 2017, I found my grandmother's application for the Daughters of the American Revolution and discovered an ancestor who had fought in Machias during the war," she said. "That was definitely a bittersweet moment."
Hours spent in her local library and reading source materials such as Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" and "Washington's Crossing" helped Tone gain a solid grasp of the challenges faced by the fledgling nation.
"It was important to me, out of respect to readers, that the book be as authentic as possible. I wanted to write a story that could have actually happened -- fitted to real events and people," Tone said. "I believed in the story I was trying to tell, and felt very humbled by the people I was writing about.
"The American Revolution is sometimes viewed as a unanimous, spontaneous movement, which is far from the truth," she said. "Sam's journey is kind of the classic hero's adventure, but the larger picture is an incredible story -- that just by the skin of our teeth we made it through that crucial time. It was a tremendous moment in the history of the world -- a nation founded on the idea of self-government."
Learning about the birth of the nation's military was an affirmation for the author. "In the military you are always a part of something bigger than yourself," said Tone, who is married to a retired U.S. Army officer currently serving as a member of the U.S. Army Europe staff. "Even after a lifetime spent around the military, I'm still amazed that so many talented and smart individuals have chosen to dedicate themselves to the concepts of service and sacrifice. In that respect, I think George Washington's eclectic army, after a rough start, was not too different than what we have today. Men and women from every part of our remarkably diverse country are committed to a shared cause."
Tone said having the readily available resources of her local military library was much appreciated during her research. She praised the foresight of Benjamin Franklin and others in founding the first library in the colonies and the American Library Association and Special Services in continuing that legacy of providing free and open access to books and ideas wherever Americans serve around the globe.
"I think it's wonderful that even though you are far from home, when you go into a military library you feel like you are home again," she said.
Now that she has the first installment of her tale published and available to the public, the author said she is looking forward to writing a screenplay and sequels. "I have a lot more confidence in my instincts now, and more stories to tell."
She is also sharing her experiences with self-publishing at various events in the near future including presentations for AWAG and at the Wiesbaden Library in May.
For more information about the book and the American Revolution, visit the website www.revolutionrings.org. "The King's Broad Arrow" is available in print or ebook on Amazon, and in print on other online bookstores.
(Editor's note: To access a wealth of free classes, resources, online materials and more visit the U.S. Army Library website at http://mwrlibrary.armybiznet.com/screens~S102/europe.html)