2023 Finalist for Best Independently Published Book: An Enemy Like Me

Shelf Media hosts the annual Shelf Unbound Indie Best Book Competition for best self-published or independently published book. You can find the winner, finalists, long-listed, and more than 100 notable books from the competition in the December/January 2023 issue of Shelf Unbound.

What Would You Do for Love?

An Enemy Like Me, written by award-winning author Teri M Brown, is a powerful novel of love, war, and the complexities of family and identity.

How does a man show his love – for country, for heritage, for family – during a war that sets the three at odds? What sets in motion the necessity to choose one over the other? How will this choice change everything and everyone he loves?

Jacob Miller, a first-generation American, grew up in New Berlin, a small German immigrant town in Ohio where he endured the Great Depression, met his wife, and started a family. Though his early years were not easy, Jacob believes he is headed toward his ‘happily ever after’ until a friend is sent to an internment camp for enemy combatants, and the war lands resolutely on his doorstep.

In An Enemy Like Me, Teri M Brown uses the backdrop of World War II to show the angst experienced by Jacob, his wife, and his four-year-old son as he left for and fought in a war he did not create. She explores the concepts of xenophobia, intrafamily dynamics, and the recognition that war is not won and lost by nations, but by ordinary men and women and the families who support them.

About The Author: Teri M. Brown

Born in Athens, Greece as an Air Force brat, Teri M Brown came into this world with an imagination full of stories to tell. She now calls the North Carolina coast home, and the peaceful nature of the sea has been a great source of inspiration for her creativity.

Not letting 2020 get the best of her, Teri chose to go on an adventure that changed her outlook on life.

She and her husband, Bruce, rode a tandem bicycle across the United States from Astoria, Oregon to Washington DC, successfully raising money for Toys for Tots. She learned she is stronger than she realized and capable of anything she sets her mind to.

Teri is a wife, mother, grandmother, and author who loves word games, reading, bumming on the beach, taking photos, singing in the shower, hunting for bargains, ballroom dancing, playing bridge, and mentoring others.

Interview with Teri M. Brown

Tell us a little about your book.

TMB: An Enemy Like Me is a novel set during WWII. But unlike many WWII historical fiction novels, it does not focus on the war as much as it does on how a family survives the war. 

The soldier is a first-generation German American. When he decides to fight, he believes the enemy will be the Japanese. This is an enemy he believes in. They bombed Pearl Harbor. Not only that, they are very different from him. They look different. Eat different foods. Speak a very different language. However, he ends up fighting in Germany and recognizes that he is more like the enemy than he is different from them. 

An Enemy Like Me looks at war from the perspective of this soldier, his wife, and his four-year-old son who was left behind, both as a child and as an adult looking back. It looks at such concepts as xenophobia, intrafamily dynamics, and the recognition that war is not won and lost by nations, but by ordinary men and women and the families who support them.

What was your inspiration for the idea?

TMB: My family is German-American, though we came to the United States in the late 1700s. My grandfather fought in WWII and spent his time in Germany. He rarely spoke about the war. However, one time, when I was a teenager, he said, “I always wondered if the person on the other side of my gun was a cousin.” This has always stuck with me.

What was the experience of writing this book like for you?  

TMB: I wrote the first draft of this book while at a two-week writer’s retreat – Weymouth Writer’s in Residence – in Southern Pines, North Carolina. This is the former estate of James Boyd, a significant writer who often hosted literary guests like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe. Writers blessed to spend time there find amazing inspiration within those walls and throughout the grounds.

When I started, I only had the statement from my grandfather to get me going, but I used several family stories to move me from place to place. My great-grandmother disliked her son’s choice of a wife. My father was a child when his father left for the war. My grandfather fell in love at first sight. Of course, I took great license with these stories and changed the main character to be a first-generation American to make the story even more poignant.

As I wrote, I realized that my father’s story was one that needed telling. He was four when he father left for war, and my grandparents insisted that he had no memories of this day or the following two years. In their mind, he was too young to have been affected by the war. However, my father had very distinct memories that I believe haunted him until he passed away. It felt really good to find a way to honor those memories.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing this?

TMB: My grandfather did not sign up for the war when Pearl Harbor was bombed, but over three years later. We always wondered what prompted him to go at that point, but he and grandma never discussed it. I began doing research trying to discover what might have been going on in the Spring of 1944 that would be the impetus for him to sign up.

I assumed I would discover a substantial battle or a push from the government for volunteers, but instead, I found out about internment camps for German-American citizens, much like those for Japanese-Americans. I did not know they existed. I doubt their existence was the reason for my grandfather’s enlistment, but it was the perfect reason for Jacob to volunteer, and something I felt should be brought up in a historical fiction that featured a German-American community.

What is the one thing you hope readers take away reading this book?

TMB: I hope readers stop and think about what makes an enemy. Jacob, when he ended up in Germany, realized he was more like the enemy than he was different from the enemy. That is a true sentiment regardless of who your enemy is. When we strive to find similarities, we will find that we are all more alike than we are different.

I also want readers to recognize that the effects of a war do not stop at the official declaration of the end of fighting. Soldiers come home to their families having seen and done things that have changed them forever. Wives, children, parents, and even friends have suffered from the loss of their loved one during the duration of the war. These changes will affect things like how a soldier parents or how they work in a relationship. These changes send ripples across generations.

What are you working on next?

TMB: My third novel, Daughters of Green Mountain Gap, releases in January. This is a historical fiction about Maggie, a healer, known as a Granny Woman, in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. Her daughter, Carrie Ann, who goes to school to become a nurse, wants to see modern medicine come to the community. Her granddaughter, Josie Mae, wants to follow in her family’s tradition but doesn’t know which way is the right way – or is there a right way?

I’m also writing my fourth novel, which is a big change from my three previous published works. To date, I’ve set the story in the past, written in third person past tense, and explored multiple points of view. This story is a modern, single POV, first person present tense, humorous look at a woman going through menopause with a dash of romance set at Sunset Beach, NC. 

Besides writing novels, I also write flash fiction, short stories (The Youngest Lighthouse Keeper has been chosen to be part of an anthology Feisty Deeds: Historical Fictions of Daring Women), and host (Online for Authors) and co-host (The Writer’s Lounge) writing podcasts.

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Article originally Published in the December/January 2023 Issue “2023 Indie Best Award Winners”

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