By Kate Gavino

How would you characterize your time in the army, and how did it find itself into your writing?

There were certainly aspects of military life that I found satisfying. I love the outdoors, so that was something I really enjoyed. I appreciated the camaraderie. I made a lot of really close friends. The way that people talk about the bonds that develop, that’s a real phenomenon. Those relationships are still extraordinarily meaningful. All I can really say about being deployed in a place like Iraq, I imagine, probably people who have been to Afghanistan feel similarly. It’s extraordinary. The way that you think about things, the way that you’re physically, mentally, emotionally operating is constantly at an extreme state of existence. That becomes normal. You sort of become reset in a way…

The Yellow Birds is, to a larger degree, about how it’s like to function at that high level of stress and what it’s like to have the bottom drop off on you when you come home. As human beings, we have this incredible ability to adapt to almost any environment, but if you find yourself with that adaptation in the wrong environment, it very quickly becomes a maladaptation. The book, in a lot of ways, is about those two different sides of the coin.