A Conversation with MWSA Author Julia Dye


From the Fall 2018 edition of Dispatches

Julia Dye tells stories because she loves to entertain and see a certain secret smile from her readers when she strikes a chord. Julia writes about anything in the human condition that interests her, but she has an affinity for stories with a military flavor. Dr. Dye works as the Vice President and CFO of Warriors, Inc., the entertainment business’s premiere military advising company. She began with Warriors on the film Starship Troopers. Projects since then include Rough Riders, Terminator 2:3D, Star Trek: The Adventure, Wag the Dog, the Medal of Honor series for Electronic Arts, and was Weapons Master on Alexander with Oliver Stone. She served as Adjutant on the maxi-series The Pacific for HBO, and is currently directing a documentary about Marine Corps Combat Correspondents. Her book Backbone: History, Traditions, and Leadership Lessons of Marine Corps NCOs has received critical acclaim and a gold medal from the Military Writers Society of America. She currently lives between Los Angeles, close to the entertainment business, and Lockhart, Texas, close to her heart.

MWSA: Why did you become an author in the first place?

Dye: When I was young, I loved to read anything I could get my hands on. I was fortunate to come from a family of readers, and a huge variety of books were available to me, and no one said I shouldn’t read something because of my age. I remember reading I, Claudius in grade school and being swept away. I didn’t realize that book wasn’t meant for children until I was in high school. Books are magic. Readers can see and experience things we could never do in real life. It starts for me the minute I open the cover. I get so involved I don’t even notice that I’m turning the page. I wanted to create that kind of magic.

MWSA: When and why did you join MWSA?

Dye: I joined MWSA many years ago; I think it was in 2010, while I was writing Backbone. I wanted to be a part of a community of military writers, and I found the idea of a group of writers with similar goals and ideals very attractive.

MWSA: Why did you choose to work in this genre?

Dye: There’s so much going on right now in the world of Young Adult fiction. All the old rules have been thrown out and almost any topic is fair game. And I wanted to feel back to the child I was, who read everything and wanted more…I wanted to provide something for that kid. And I wanted a chance to write from a young girl’s perspective, to give insight to adults about what it’s like to grow up in a military family, especially when a parent is deployed.

MWSA: Will you briefly list your other books for us?

Dye: Backbone: History, Traditions, and Leadership Lessons of Marine Corps NCOs: Noncommissioned officers stand as the backbone of the United States Marine Corps. In this insightful and thoroughly researched book, Julia Dye explores the cadre of noncommissioned officers that make up the Marine Corps’ system of small-unit leadership. To help us better understand what makes these extraordinary men and women such effective leaders, Dye examines the 14 leadership traits embraced by every NCO. These qualities— including judgment, enthusiasm, determination, bearing, and unselfishness—are exemplified by men like Terry Anderson, the former Marine sergeant who spent nearly seven years as a hostage in Beirut, John Basilone, the hero of the Pacific, and many others. To assemble this extraordinary chronicle, Julia Dye interviewed Anderson and dozens of other Marines, mining a rich trove of historical and modern NCO heroes that comprise the Marine Corps’ astonishing legacy, from its founding in 1775 to the present day. Gold medal winner from MWSA, 2014 I also co-wrote with my husband, Captain Dale Dye, the graphic novel Code Word: Geronimo: The leader of SEAL Team 6 uttered, “Geronimo,” and the world let out a sigh of relief. The symbol of ultimate evil was no more. Code Word: Geronimo is the amazing, moment-by-moment story of the clandestine raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bronze medal winner from MWSA, 2013

MWSA: Tell us a little bit about this book.

Dye: Through My Daughter’s Eyes is a one-of-a-kind, much-needed look at what it means to come of age in a military family today. Our middle school heroine Abbie is wiser than her years—and most of the adults in her life, for that matter. Equal parts Flavia de Luce and Harriet the Spy, Abbie describes her life this way: “My best friend and fellow Army-brat Megan and I had a plan to get through Dessau Middle School (Go Diamondbacks!) by being just good enough to not get noticed and not so good we’d be picked out for any attention. And it worked—for a while.

“Then my dad got deployed—again—and mom fell apart, leaving me in charge of my own life and, it seemed, everyone else’s. When Dad came home after about a hundred-million years, he wasn’t much help, either. I know war is terrible, but it’s not like he talks to me about it, so how was I supposed to know what to do? He’s not even the same dad that left. “I turned to my grandpa for help, but in the end, I had to let go of being the glue that kept everything together. I had to learn to give my parents room to save themselves—and our family.”

MWSA: What made you interested in writing a book on this particular topic?

Dye: War shows human beings both at their very best and very worst. What war gives any given society, or social group, or economic structure, or religious base, or an individual, is an unequivocal stress-test. The true conviction behind the ideals and beliefs of a society is only revealed during and after the stress of something like war. That does not mean that war is a good or positive thing, just that it is a conduit for revealing elements of a society that are otherwise hidden to us. It’s a way to look beyond what a culture says it believes in to what that culture actually does.

MWSA: What makes this particular book special to you?

Dye: About 2 million American children have at least one parent serving in the military, and that number climbs exponentially when you add in other first-responder parents. And that doesn’t include children of veterans, like me. Military children tend to be healthy, well-adjusted, culturally savvy members of our communities. They’re citizens of the world. Remember, these kids belong to other cultural groups, too, and are not just defined by the military. There’s blended families, various religions, all of the possible kinds of families are also military families.