free the pen, a blog for writers

September 17, 2011

Are You a WWII Buff?

Filed under: Interviews — freethepen @ 4:08 pm
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           In an ordinary day, performing ordinary tasks, the extraordinary can happen. Picture this: I’m sitting in a chair at my hairdresser’s. I’ve got a black cape wrapped around me. My hair is sticking up in  newly dyed wasps of blob. I look like something from Jupiter. A couple walks in and begins to talk to Ann, my hairdresser. They hand her a postcard and talk about a booksigning they are doing at the coffee shop in the shopping center. I know nothing of this coffee shop because I am still fairly new in this town. But because I am an author and love booksignings, they draw me to them. They are trying to figure out how to get started now that they have books to sell. I hand them one of my book brochures and they hand me their card. We begin speaking about history, WWII, writing and twenty minutes later, deep in conversation, I am learning about a woman names Molly Martin who at twenty-eight in 1942 is emprisoned by the Japanese within the walls of Santo Tomas University. If you haven’t heard of this book, read this interview. You might just be as fascinated as I was with this amazing book, Within the Walls of Santo Tomas.

Here are the five questions I asked the authors: Berry Byron and Cassius Mullen.
1. What inspired you to write Within the Walls of Santo Tomas? You wrote this book together; how did that come about?

The inspiration came from Time/Life books on WW II, the volume on Return to the Philippines where a section discusses Redemption at Santo Tomas. Betty wrote most of the fiction and Cassius provided ideas and wrote military background. The idea appealed to us because we never heard of Santo Tomas.

2. Do you know what Molly Martin, whose encampment is portrayed in Within the Walls of Santo Tomas, did before WWII?

Molly is a fictitious character who is the embodiment of the sixty odd nurses who were interned with the 4000+ civilians. She was the only child of a WW I veteran who ran a feed and seed shop Karnak, TX. Upon the urging of her father, she entered nurses training and then joined the army in the early 1930’s. Shortly after being promoted to captain, she was shipped to the Philippines in early 1941.

3. Were you in the military and did that experience give you a deeper empathy for Molly and the other people held prisoners in Santo Thomas?

Cassius is a West Point graduate who spent some 21 years on active duty. His background enriched the military aspects of the novel. The affinity for the plight of the internees came from the various documents that we researched in the archives of the 1st Cavalry Division Museum at Ft. Hood, TX.

4. Why do you think the story of Molly Martin is important for people to know?

Most Americans have no idea of what happened to Americans and Allies in the Philippines after the surrender of American and Filipino forces in 1942.

5. Could you speak to the experience of writing this book? How did it effect your life?

Once we delved into the historical background regarding Santo Tomas, we found ourselves reading between the lines and building fictitious characters who represented the internees and gave them life and not just some historical footnote. The experience was highly educational and emotional and we wanted to bring it to the attention of a wide audience.

Betty Byron is a graduate of the Miami University of Ohio. Following graduation she married Cassius Mullen and spent the ensuing years traveling throughout the world. She decided to write novels based on her impressions of her years of travel. Her husband is a graduate of West Point and spent 21 years on active duty. The couple combined their ideas to create this historical fiction novel.

Make sure to visit my other blog: and my site where you can purchase all my books:

Until next time keep the pen moving,

Blessings, Jan

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