After two years, three total revisions, and countless editorial back and forth, I'm pleased (understatement of the year) to announce that Flak Jacket Rock has finally been accepted and put into production at HarperCollins. Flak is a Vietnam War memoir for young adults I co-wrote with veteran Dean Kohler. Dean was a teen guitar prodigy who, in 1966, landed a record deal and his draft notice in the same week. Rather than give up his rock star dreams, Dean wangled some instruments and equipment, taught a few fellow soldiers to play, and formed his own touring rock band right there in the combat zone – all without missing a single patrol. What started as a lark ultimately became a lifeline for Dean and the band, as well as the hundreds of combat-weary troops they played for. Incredibly, Dean's wartime band even recorded a single in the jungle.
As many of you know, this has been my most challenging project yet in nearly 20 years of writing for dollars. I was fascinated by the big house editorial process for the last pass – four other editors/assistants in addition to my own, HC's editorial director – all working as a team to hone and polish, 80K words down to 59K. Whew!
I can honestly say that the finished ms is the best pass yet, fast-paced and hard-hitting. The focus is tightly and squarely on the band and Dean's who-am-I emotional evolution. I'm totally excited about it. Pub date is Fall, 2009.
So, time to ponder dream blurbers... How about Tim O'Brien, Walter Dean Myers, Ron Kovic, Oliver Stone... ?
Causes Susan VanHecke Supports
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
National Trust For Historic Preservation