‘The Batter’s Box’: Five Questions for Andy Kutler [INTERVIEW]

Andy Kutler

Andy Kutler (Photo courtesy Andy Kutler, Facebook)

Author Andy Kutler swings for the fences and hits a home run with The Batter’s Box, his heartfelt tale about a baseball hero turned soldier who must navigate his reentry into life stateside in the years following the war. The result is a tale that is impassioned, sobering, and smart. We hope you enjoy our insightful chat with this award-winning writer!— J&H


J&H: The idea of brotherhood is important to Will Jamison in ways he had never really put into words before joining the military. (pg. 72-74) In what ways were his baseball brothers different from his servicemen brothers and why was this important for you to distinguish in the novel?

AK: The contrast reflects Will’s changing perspective. Once America entered the war, Will felt he had a greater obligation than the baseball diamond, which, to that point in his life, had been the center of the universe. When Will comes home from the war, he clearly has a special attachment to other returning servicemen, and the only other player Will can truly relate to is another combat veteran. There is just something about walking through those fires together, and surviving such harrowing experiences, that brings these soldiers so emotionally close to each other. Talk to anyone who has served under fire, and you will hear about this unique bond and kinship.

J&H: Will is in a foxhole with Lucas and Janikowski, facing off with an impossible number of German tanks and machinery. (Pg. 149-151) You describe this scene with concise but purposeful, evocative language that makes readers feel the soldiers’ sense of impending danger as well as their vacillating emotions. What type of research did you have to do to get the setting’s details just right for moments like these? And what was the most daunting part of capturing the warrior’s emotional state?

AK: I actually visited Noville, Belgium, and stood on the very ground where those men were dug in against the Germans. That perspective was vital to my research, as was hearing and reading the first-hand accounts from combat veterans who have suffered from post-traumatic stress – that is where I really came to understand the intensity and psychological trauma that comes from such experiences. I wanted readers to sense the freezing cold, to look down those rifle sights, and feel the ground trembling from the oncoming tanks. To have a sense of the fear, the fury, the adrenaline, and for so many, the pure terror. I could not have done that without those soldiers sharing their experiences and emotions, and I am so grateful and in such awe of those who are able to speak or write such things so we can learn from them.

J&H: When Kay tells Will about her divorce, she says that she finally left Eddie for herself and no one else. (pg. 217-218) How do you think our attitudes toward both alcoholism and domestic violence have shifted from the post-war years to today and did that make it challenging to write these characters as a result?

AK: When you read about those who suffer from post-traumatic stress, alcoholism and domestic violence are common threads. The alcohol is usually tied to a desperate need to dull haunting memories. The spousal or child abuse an outgrowth of wartime violence – things they saw, things they did. This is tough stuff to write about, but it is the core of the horrors and aftermath of war. One anecdote. I had a reader approach me at a book event and share with me a story that will always stay with me. When she was a little girl, her father, a recently returned Vietnam veteran, told her that she was never to sneak up behind him, in any circumstance. Well, she was a small child, so one time she did, playfully. She could not bring herself to describe to me what happened, but clearly something in her father snapped, and whatever he did to her in response, she said it was a shame he had to live with for the rest of his life. This is what these men and their families have had to live with.

J&H: Why was it important for you to address mental health in this novel, namely among veterans? And what is one thing you hope every reader walks away knowing after reading The Batter’s Box?

AK: We don’t talk enough about mental illness in this country. It has touched my family, and I know it has touched so many others in one form or another. We lose 17 veterans a day to suicide. These service members stood up for the rest of us, served their country, and sacrificed everything. And yet their suffering continues to this day. So now imagine the 1940s, when we had millions of returning combat veterans, and discussions of mental health were mostly non-existent. For me, it is a tragically untold story of World War II, one that merits a far larger spotlight.

J&H: What significant ways has baseball changed since the 40s? And which players (living or dead) would you most love to share a beer with and why?

AK: I’m not a baseball historian, and I’m pleased to report that I missed the 1940s by a few decades. But one aspect of that era that fascinates me is how those players were like gods to so many fans, young and old alike. By and large, they weren’t paid – relative to the times – the kind of money that today’s players earn, but they were royalty nonetheless, widely admired and revered. That’s why the handful of players who volunteered early in the war and insisted on combat duty – like the fictional Will Jamison – were so extraordinary. Superstars like Bob Feller and Ted Williams, who enlisted without a second thought, even though had they sat out or taken some non-combat role, no one would have blinked an eye.

The two players I’d love to share a beer with – let’s start with Sandy Koufax, the great Dodgers pitcher of the 1950s and 1960s. The man who threw four no-hitters, a perfect game, and refused to pitch on Yom Kippur. Plus he once went out on a double date with my mom, in Cincinnati, Ohio, so there’s that. And my childhood hero, Robin Yount, who played for my Milwaukee Brewers when I was a kid. He always played with such passion, yet he was also such a quiet, humble professional. We’ve lost so much of that in professional sports today, so I’d love to simply shake his hand and thank him for all the incredible memories. And for what it’s worth, both those guys look like they could suit up today.

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Andy Kutler's THE BATTER'S BOX

Warriors Publishing Group

ABOUT THE BOOK

In 1946, a returning World War II veteran is determined to reclaim his place among professional baseball’s upper echelon and win back the woman he once fell for. Two months into the new season, at the top of his game, he abandons his team, casting aside his fame and riches and vanishing forever from the public eye. What drives a man to walk away from everything he cherishes, never to be heard from again?

The Batter’s Box follows the path of Will Jamison, a star player with the Washington Senators who enlists in the U.S. Army following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. When the war ends, Jamison returns to Washington, a decorated hero tormented by deep emotional scars. Burdened with a crushing guilt and harrowing memories he cannot escape, Jamison’s life is consumed by an explosive temper, sleepless nights, and a gradual descent into alcoholism. He must also navigate public misconceptions about mental illness in the 1940s, and stigmas that often silenced those who suffered and drove veterans like Jamison into dark corners. Will he continue, alone with his anguish and misery? Or will he level with those around him, including the woman he loves, and seek the professional care he desperately needs, even at the risk of exposing his most closely guarded secrets?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Kutler is an award-winning author living in Arlington, Virginia. A native of Madison, Wisconsin and a graduate of Michigan State University (B.A.) and Georgetown University (M.A.), he has previously worked on the senior legislative staff of two United States Senators before serving as a senior policy officer with the U.S. Secret Service. He is serving today as a senior policy adviser and strategic communications consultant to the national security community.

The Other Side of Life was Andy’s first published novel. It was awarded the Bronze Medal (Military and Wartime Fiction) from the 2016 Independent Publishers Book Awards, and Honorable Mention (War and Military Fiction) from Foreword Magazine’s 2016 INDIEFAB Awards. Andy has also written extensively for the Huffington Post and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

To find out more, visit the author at AndyKutler.com, like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter and Goodreads.

THE BATTER’S BOX
By Andy Kutler
323 pp. Warriors Publishing Group. $15.95

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours bannerPurchase The Batter’s Box at one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, IndieBound, and Powell’s.

The Batter’s Box is brought to you in association with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

2 Responses to ‘The Batter’s Box’: Five Questions for Andy Kutler [INTERVIEW]

  1. Amy Bruno says:

    Thanks so much for the great questions, Jathan & Heather! We appreciate you hosting The Batter’s Box!

    Amy
    HF Virtual Book Tours

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