Let’s get this out of the way first. You make it clear that you love music, especially Dave Matthews and Tori Amos. Tell me about that.
It’s that obvious? Good! Actually we had to cut an awful lot of the lyrics I wanted to use from the manuscript because of copyright laws, so what remained is the toned-down version. Music and lyrics have always wiggled their way into my conscious and unconscious mind, so writing a memoir without them as a backdrop didn’t feel genuine. I also hold out hope that Dave or Tori will hear about my book and call me up on stage with a spotlight shining into the audience or something crazy like that. I haven’t evolved past 8th grade with my sappy groupie fantasies.
What’s up with the f bombs and four-letter words in your book? Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?
Similar to my need to use lyrics, I couldn’t avoid not being true to my potty mouth. I grew up with a cuss and manners jar that required a nickel or quarter for every burp or use of the word fart. I guess I’m just a rebel. But I’ve taken a lot of shit for my language in the book. It’s my vice; and a cathartic vice. I disagree that people use curse words because they lack vocabulary skills. My vocabulary skills are just fine; I just prefer the many meanings and interpretations of four lettered words.
You wrote a war memoir about your personal journey and the journey of your army infantry wife subculture since 9/11. Considering you’ve never even picked up a weapon, that’s pretty ballsy to take a stab like that. Who do you think you are?
Well, I have picked up a weapon for your information. I was in ROTC for a hot second in college. And I know that technically doesn’t count, but it showed me where I did not belong and gave me a deeper respect for those who do answer that call to serve. I hate following orders. I decided I preferred domestic war games over real warfare, and that became the setting for my life—and eventually for my book.
So your book mainly focuses on military related issues?
Oh, not at all. I think the struggles in book mirror issues and challenges of all modern women and marriages. We each wrestle with our identity apart from being someone’s mother, wife, friend; whatever. Women try to be everything to everyone and then wake up eventually and wonder who the hell they are on their own. Sometimes we procrastinate mothering our own children because when the kids are little it feels like we have all the time in the world. Universal life conundrums. The Black Soul Phenomenon market is not cornered by army wives. Not by a long shot.
Have you taken heat from your community?
Yes and no. I’ve been overwhelmed with positive reactions from my own people, who I expected to be pissed or outraged by my exposure of our grittier side. You can’t have the beautiful bits without the ugly bits. Yin and yang. Mostly, I‘m pleasantly surprised by how many soldiers and leaders have enjoyed the book. Even a handful of two star generals have read the book and told me they see the journey of the wives in a new light now. That’s pretty cool. The personalities in the book are simply one part of the greater journey, not the focus of the book.
Writers each have a writing process. What’s yours?
Well. I obsess and percolate for a long time. Then I procrastinate and scribble thoughts on my palm, the back of grocery lists. Then I spend a week looking for wherever I scribbled those notes. Rinse, repeat. I have a great office with my grandfather’s desk he used at Harvard as my writing station, but you know what? I prefer writing in my pajamas in bed with my laptop. So as far as my family is concerned, I am supremely lazy and I have to defend my writing style because it really looks like I’m just sitting in bed yapping on Facebook. Which is another evil I’m easily lured into. Facebook, writing, pajamas and Trader Joe’s cookie butter live in perfect harmony in my cozy bed.
What’s up with your deep seeded hatred of sunny days?
I can handle one once in a while, but rain and snow are my favorite. Sunny days are a lot of pressure. I also hate squinting into the scorching sun. It makes me grumpy. Rain makes me happy. Rain doesn’t boss me around like the sun.
Are you a guy’s girl or a girl’s girl in terms of friends?
Oh, that’s easy. I live for my posse of girlfriends. I’ve had pretty much the same set of girlfriends, give or take, for twenty years. I trust easily and have no problem spilling my guts to new friends. Most of my friends are my polar opposite. But my favorite qualities in a girlfriend are loyalty and non-phoniness. Phonies be damned.
What would you tell a new army wife?
Well. Her ride will likely be different from mine, as each generation has had their own set of quirks and hurdles. But I would tell her to hold on and find her people. Those sisterhoods are defining. Is that really so different from advice I would give any young adult woman? Not really.
What advice would you give a new writer?
Break all the rules. Screw the rules. Rules are too binding and keep you inside your own head instead of on the paper.
Is there one thing that’s been a happy unexpected surprise about your new life as an author?
My kids’ reactions. I was a stay at home mom for 16 years, and I love how proud they are that I finally chased my dream and caught it. It’s never too late for a dream. That’s so corny. I’m sorry. Do you hear Steely Dan’s “Peg” playing in the background or is it just me?
Where do you find inspiration?
I already said music. I come up with lots of ideas on long drives and in the shower. Of course the two least convenient places to scribble a note. Another huge influence on my style is certain movies and a few cable TV series. I’m not a TV watcher, not at all, but I did lose myself in Weeds and then Orange is the New Black. Even the bad guy characters were lovable somehow. Anyone who says they aren’t flawed is lying. Oh! And Augusten Burroughs. He is so filterless and raw, and achingly hilarious at the same time. Perfection. Nothing like a great book to set a writer’s keyboard on fire.
Is there anything you regret or think is just insane about reactions to your book?
Definitely the dog poop smearing on the blanket. I was not proud of that moment, but my cheese slid off my cracker and I seized the moment of insanity. I’m shocked that of all the shocking stuff I reveal in that book, people are most appalled by that. Dog poop smearage. Really. Somehow I thought that would fly right under folks’ radars given all the other real life drama. Something visceral about dog poop I suppose.
What compelled you to write a memoir?
I was tired of the clichéd, one-dimensional representation of flag waving, tearful military families in joyful welcome home snapshots. There’s a world behind that picture that I’d never seen really shown before.
One superpower. Go.
Mid-reading. Invisibility. Definitely not flying or time travel. Both of those sound stressful.
What is your grocery store impulse purchase?
Those mini white powdered donuts in the bakery section. My husband just said his is fresh sushi. That speaks volumes about both of us. I married my polar opposite and there is never a dull moment. But he eats the donuts and I pick at the sushi. There’s a few metaphors in that, in case you missed it.
ANGELA RICKETTS holds a master’s degree in Social Psychology/Human Relations and an undergraduate degree in Sociology. She worked part-time for the American Red Cross in Germany in the 1990s, but since then her formal education has been used to navigate the politics and personalities that come with being an officer’s wife. Her husband remains on active duty but transitioned to Homeland Defense in 2012. She lives in Colorado Springs, CO. Her memoir, No Man’s War: Irreverent Confessions of an Infantry Wife, published this month from Counterpoint Press.