Heather Ashby is a novelist, but 13 years ago, her husband and she were retired Navy veterans with two children.
“My son was our high-maintenance child,” she says. “When he was kicked out of college, he joined the Army. As veterans, we thought that was a great idea. The problem was, it was just before September 11, 2001. No one knew he’d be searching caves in Afghanistan for Taliban on his 21st birthday.”
Heather’s son was with the 101st Airborne, which not only went first into Afghanistan, but and a year later, invaded Iraq, moving rapidly to Baghdad. It was a tough time for Heather.
“It was the most terrifying time of my life, to have my son in combat. We knew so little about what was happening. And on top of that, my sister died suddenly. Then, my eccentric and high-maintenance mother moved in with us. There was a lot of chaos going on for five years.
But after five years, her son returned, uninjured and grown up.
“He not only came home … he came home a better person than he’d ever been in his life.”
Heather decided to finally write the novels that she’d thought about for years.
“When my son returned, I quit teaching and wrote a novel. It was a romance set in the Navy. It appealed to all sorts of people, especially ciovilians who wrote me, ‘thank you, I learned so much about the Navy, how difficult it is and about coping with long absences.” One book turned into four.
“I realized that there was a theme of healing in the books … and I had no idea where this was coming from.”
The answer was that Heather herself had not yet healed. She’d resumed smoking, for one thing.
“When we’re under pressure, we seek out the things that give us pleasure,” she explains. “I grew up in an alcoholic family. My sister and I learned to smoke as teenagers, when we were going through so much turmoil. That’s what got us through.”
In an effort to quit smoking, she visited a hypnotherapist.
“Not only did I become a non-smoker in one day, she helped clean out the emotional debris from my entire life. I asked her if hypnosis could help cure Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD], and she said, ‘Of course.’ So, with her help, I use hypnosis in my fourth novel to heal the Marine in my series.”
The final novel in Heather Ashby’s “Love in the Fleet” will be published next spring. She’s working on other writing projects now. But it’s the novels’ platform to introduce hypnosis as a therapy for PTSD that has her most excited.
“If one person reads, and pursues, and heals,” she says “then I’ve been successful.”