Mary Corbett – National Guard 101

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

NATIONAL GUARD 101: A Handbook for Spouses

Since 9/11, virtually every unit of the National Guard—a force the size of the entire active Army—has served on active duty for one or more of the deployments at home or abroad. The last time that the entire National Guard had been mobilized was for World War II.

America’s 365,000+ National Guardsman, and their family members, live and work as civilians in 2,700 communities across the United States and territories. National Guard 101: A Handbook for Spouses is the only military lifestyle book written specifically for this unique audience.

The book covers practical topics such as: the History of the National Guard, Understanding Rank, and How Promotions Work as well as softer subjects such as Social Life in the Guard, Family Programs, and What to do if Your Spouse Is the Company Commander. National Guard 101: A Handbook for Spouses also covers the benefits and assistance resources available to Guard families and guides readers through the process of setting up a Personal Assistance League (PAL) to provide support during deployment.

Tell us something about yourself.

I am from Minnesota. I moved from Minneapolis to the Atlanta suburbs in 2001. My background is in marketing and business development. I have worked with architects and engineers for 20 years. When I’m not taking care of my family and writing for fun, I work from home as a technical proposal writer.

What inspired you to write this book?

I married my husband—a long time member of the Minnesota National Guard—in 2000. Although I had family members who had served in the military, I had zero experience with military protocol or culture. The only thing I knew about the National Guard, at that time, was “one weekend a month, two weeks in the summer.” After moving to Georgia in 2001 and my husband’s deployment to Guantanamo in 2002, I realized that although I had never considered myself one, I was, indeed, a military wife. I spent a lot of time Googling to find information to help me understand my role as a Guard spouse. I found that much of the information available was targeted toward Active duty spouses who lived on military bases and lived a completely different lifestyle. I felt there was a need for a book for National Guard spouses. So I wrote it!

There are millions and millions of books on the shelves but National Guard 101 is the only book written specifically for the 162,000 Guard spouses.

How did you choose the title?

The titles of both my books were “working titles” that I used in the original query letters and proposals. With both books, the publishers helped me with the subtitle. I am a big fan of calling things what they are versus trying to be to overly clever. Mission accomplished.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you
overcome them?

Oh Lord–so many obstacles. The book is very niche. But the “niche” is a huge audience that is easy to target. Still, the publisher of my first book had to pass on National Guard 101 because it just didn’t fit in with their strategic place in the market. My agent found a smaller publisher that specialized in military and history titles. Unfortunately, the project was orphaned when the editor left. By that time, my agent had moved on from being an agent to editing and my new agent didn’t know if she could sell the project to her usual non-fiction editors. A few months later, a proponent of the project who worked for the National Guard Bureau approached me about publishing the book through their organization. Although she retired and I had to go back to the drawing board again, her feedback and enthusiasm provided the push I needed to persevere. I took a trip to my local Barnes and Noble and perused every military lifestyle book on the shelves. That’s where I found my publisher: Savas Beatie. When National Guard 101 finally hits the shelves this summer, it will have been five years since I sent the first query letter. Patience and persistence are key if you want to get a book published.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Writing is very much a side activity for me. I squeeze it in between work and family activities. That means that I can’t make excuses or wait to “be in the mood.” I make deadlines for myself to stay on track. I have a long-range plan of what major projects I want to complete every year. Some projects take years and years but I just keep moving forward. I also don’t write my chapters in order. I write the most interesting or “fun” content first and tackle the more difficult chapters last.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?

I read a book a week, sometimes more. I enjoy everything from political biographies to Chick Lit. Jane Austen is my favorite author because she has such a pulse on how people are wired. People are both as charming and annoying today, as they were back in her day.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

One thing at a time. For non-fiction, after you come up with your concept, size up the competition. If you are confident that you have something new to say, start writing. You will need sample chapters (usually not the first chapter). Once you have outstanding sample chapters, write the book proposal. After the book proposal is done, write the query letter. Even if you have an agent, you should still write a query letter. You have to sell them first. Be patient. If you have a good idea—you will know immediately. No matter what “the rules” say, great ideas break through. If you have a hot query letter, don’t be surprised if you hear back from an agent—or agents/editors—immediately. You also need to know when to walk away from an idea. I’ve written two book proposals that didn’t materialize. Don’t get overly attached to your work. Sometimes it’s better just to move onward and upward.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

Anyone who is dating, engaged to, or married to a National Guardsman. My hope is that the book will be bought in large quantities and distributed to Guard family members at conferences or military social occasions.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?