June Hutton Interview
April 22, 2010
the author of Underground
It was great to have June Hutton visit the blog on April 22, 2010. Her vividly realistic novel Underground is about a man who survives being buried alive in a trench during World War I.
What made you decide to write about a man suffering post-traumatic stress from a historic rather than a present-day war?
I find present-day conflict is just too close for a clear perspective. But a historic event is distant enough to allow some clarity. Also, I have to admit to a personal interest. Both of my grandfathers fought in the First World War. My father's father was buried alive when shellfire hit his trench, and he suffered terribly from shellshock. That inspired my opening. He never said what exactly caused the shellshock, or how it presented itself. I had to imagine that. My mother's father was hit with shrapnel, and when he was shaving some 20 years later a piece of metal popped out of his chin. The shrapnel motif in Underground grew from that description.
Your protagonist volunteers to fight in the Spanish Civil War before fully recovering from World War I. Do you know of real people who have made similar decisions?
Not exactly. Al Fraser is entirely fictional. But I did discover a tendency on the part of soldiers to return to war. There were 20 years separating the two wars, so mathematically, I thought it possible for the same man to have fought in both. Later, I read that some men had done just that, and that men had also fought in both world wars. Also, I interviewed a veteran named Arne Knudsen who volunteered in Spain and then served again in World War II. He was a Danish-born Canadian who fought with a German battalion on the Republican side in Spain. That fascinated me, that there were Germans and Italians fighting against the fascists, who were backed by Hitler and Mussolini. It was, as Al remarks at one point, a world wide civil war.
As a modern woman, did you find it more challenging writing from a male perspective or from the perspective of a time before you were born?
Writing from a male perspective was the greater challenge. How does a woman inhabit a man? I had a group of readers I called The Men, and they helped me with details like moose hunting and loading a rifle. But when it came to Al's thoughts and feelings I was on my own. I decided that war is horrific and when it comes to emotions, men and women are not all that different. Each time I had to decide how Al would feel about something, I asked myself how I would feel. And then I knew what to write.
Review of Underground by June Hutton
See listing for Underground at Amazon.com
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