Roxana Robinson's latest novel is Sparta.
From her Q & A with Alexis Burling at Publishers Weekly:
Like many who volunteer for military duty, [your protagonist] Conrad joins the Marines because of an idea: it’s the “biggest challenge” he can imagine facing. But then he is confronted with the harsh reality of that choice. How did you approach fleshing out that contradiction?Learn more about the book and author at Roxana Robinson’s website.
I was really struck by the difference between the two ideas–the heroic and romantic ideal of rising to a great challenge and becoming one’s best self, and the brutal reality of the combat zone where there are no good choices. The contrast seemed particularly vivid in [the Iraq] war, partly because the troops were all volunteer–many more of them were driven by idealism than in conscripted armies–and partly because this war was fought among the civilian population, so all sorts of lines became blurred. From the start it seemed difficult to maintain moral clarity. This was a war fought in the streets, and it was hard even to know who the enemy was–the insurgents didn’t wear uniforms, and didn’t fight in units. There was rarely a pitched battle in which the two opposing forces confronted each other directly. Instead, there were insurgents with stockpiles of weapons who had holed up in civilian apartment buildings that were full of families, or there was a single insurgent who detonated an IED with a cell phone and then melted into the crowd. All this created moral chaos, which is the worst kind of hell for an idealist. Learning about these circumstances made it possible for me to...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Sparta.
Writers Read: Roxana Robinson.