Interview with Marian Small, author of ‘When Johnny Doesn’t Come Marching Home
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Marian Small was born in Cleveland, Ohio; she has been writing for most of her life. She began her 25 year business career as a secretary, a cashier and manager of a Detroit mortgage company, and as an Operations Manager of a Florida stock-brokerage firm. She moved to Beverly Hills, Calif. with her the 10-year-old son from her first marriage and became the Administrative Assistant to a Vice-President of the Regional Office of the same brokerage firm, which entailed frequent stints within the Wall Street office. She married again in 1973, at age 46. She and her husband shared a 34-year long marriage before they divorced. After surviving breast cancer and minor strokes, Marian resumed writing at age 86 and has been writing ever since.
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About the Book
First-time author Marian Small’s WHEN JOHNNY DOESN’T COME MARCHING HOME does for World War I what Tom Brokaw’s THE GREATEST GENERATION did for World War II.
Written as a memoir of her father, WHEN JOHNNY DOESN’T COME MARCHING HOME expands to pay tribute to the generation that fought in the trenches and on the battlefields of what has been called the “forgotten war.”
Employing an inherited cache of her father’s letters home, his diary of the war, and voluminous family and historic photographs, Small, at age 89, has scrupulously created a narrative rich in vivid, sometimes heartbreaking detail of First Sgt. John Small’s experiences on the front lines and as a returning wounded veteran.
As a young man touched with the “spirit of adventure,” John R. Small enlisted in the Ohio National Guard in 1916, when he was 20 years old. He was first sent to Gen. John J. Pershing’s command on the Texas/Mexican border in pursuit of the legendary revolutionary and bandit Pancho Villa. When America entered World War I, in 1917, Small was mustered into the Army and promoted to sergeant. His unit was sent to France in 1918. Among his personal possessions was a diary given to him by his wife, Mary. He made almost daily entries during his time witnessing and enduring the horrors of the war.
John Small was severely wounded by a high explosive during the Meuse-Argonne campaign. His legs were badly mangled. After six months in hospitals in France, he was sent home. “At the tender age of 23 years, Johnny didn’t come marching home,” says Marian Small.
Although John Small’s incredible story took place nearly 100 years ago, it is still relevant today as American troops continue to be deployed around the world in harm’s way. WHEN JOHNNY DOESNT COME MARCHING HOME is certain to appeal to military history buffs, veterans, their families and friends, and readers who enjoy a compelling tale.
Marian Small believes that her book is unique “in that every word is true as told by Johnny in his diary or in his letters as narrated by me. I do not believe it can be compared to any other World War I war story that I have read or that has been written.”
Readers are sure to agree with her.
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Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Marian! Can you tell us where you are from?
I live in Glendale, California.
Q: How did you come up with your title?
It is a true story about a 20 year-old boy, my father (Johnny), whose love of his country and adventure took him over the sea in 1918 to the trenches in France and No Man’s Land. He was wounded on the battleground of Verdun in the Meuse-Argonne Drive. He didn’t come marching home. He returned to America on a stretcher, a broken man at the age of 23 and a cripple for the rest of his life.
Q: They say you can judge a book by its cover. Can you tell us a little about your cover and who designed it?
I designed it. It is a 100 year old picture of my father, Johnny, that I had enlarged, – and placed it on a background showing an old American flag.
Q: Can you tell us something about your book that would make me run out and buy it?
Little is known about World War 1 and the hardships the soldiers endured. This book is historic in that Johnny kept a diary and wrote many letters home while in the trenches of No Mans Land, describing in detail the horrors of the war as he was experiencing it. I also studied the history of the war and have added my own narration to coincide with Johnny’s story.
Q: Are there any messages in this book that you want the reader to know about?
I believe it is a story of courage and the determination to never give up. It is also a story of patriotism and the love for our country that Johnny’s generation felt for America.
Q: What was your most favorite chapter to write and why?
Chapter VII – “No Man’s Land”. Johnny wrote long letters to Mary, his wife, describing in detail the horrors of the war as he was experiencing it; – enduring the cootie and rat-filled trenches and the long marches in mud and rain in the dark of night as he led his Platoon toward the battlefield.
Q: Why did you feel you had to write this book?
I felt it was an important part of the history of World War I. The U.S. will be observing it’s 100 year Centennial in April, 2017. I also felt it was a tribute to my Dad and all the doughboys of WWI who sacrificed so much to preserve our freedom.
Q: Now, some fun questions – What deep dark secret would you like to share with us.
I secretly hope that a General or someone with authority in our Government will read the book and restore posthumously Johnny’s well-deserved status of Master Sergeant.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
At age 89. I have already seen a lot of the world. With the terrorism going on now, I would want to stay in America and possibly visit the Midwest again, where I was born, and New York, where I once had the opportunity to live and have a career, but declined.
Q: Are you a morning person or a night person?
I am definitely a morning person, – up at 5:30 A.M. and to bed about 9:00 P.M.
Q: Are there any members in your family who also like to write?
No, my siblings are gone now as well as most of my generation. As far as I know, none of my nieces or nephews are writers.
Q: As a child, were you a dreamer?
Q: Last but not least, the magic genie has granted you one wish. What would that be?
To achieve, at 89, my life-time dream of becoming a successful author.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview! Do you have any final words?
Thank you for this opportunity to share my story with you.