A chance encounter with a girl at an Army air base and an inspiring high school teacher led Betty Hatcher down the path toward becoming a writer.
Hatcher, 96, recently had her book, “Her Innocent War,” published. The book is the product of an encounter with a young woman at a U.S. Army Air Corps base during World War II. The woman, whom Hatcher met while stationed at the base with her husband, stayed on her mind for years.
“She came out of the sand and the pines of North Carolina,” Hatcher said. “She was a real hick from the sticks. But then the second time I met her was some weeks later, and her heels were high, her skirts were short, and her makeup was perfect. She just haunted me, and I thought about how she changed and what she went on to do with her life.”
The 340-page book was published this year. Hatcher spent her career as an executive secretary. She occasionally wrote poetry and short stories, some of which were published.
Her love for writing was the result of her creative writing teacher at Classen High School, from which she graduated in 1936.
“I wrote mostly poetry, but she steered me into other directions,” Hatcher said. “The sad thing is, the last year she taught she was very ill and knew she was going to die. She wanted to find a student that would carry on her passion for writing, so she interviewed all of her best students. She wanted to find someone who could become a spectacular writer. I don’t think she found someone like that, because I was the last one she talked to, and I saw her crying afterwards.”
But it turns out Mrs. Florette McNeese had at least one future star in her class.
“What she didn’t know at the time was that Tommy Heggen would go on to write ‘Mister Roberts,’ which was on the best-seller list and turned into a very popular movie,” Hatcher said.
Hatcher only recently gave up her driver’s license. When her book was published, a book signing was held at her residence at the Fountains of Canterbury.
“It was supposed to go on for two hours, but within 30 minutes all the books were gone,” she said. “Some people weren’t really happy, but they did a very nice thing for me. It was a very elaborate setup with cookies and punch and things like that.”
Hatcher is working on a second book. She doesn’t know when it will be finished.
“I don’t know whether or not it’s going anywhere or not,” she said. “I get writer’s block like anyone else does. You run into a problem and you don’t know how to solve it. That slows it down. It brings you to a full stop.”
But whenever that happens, she can always turn to her own experiences in life. “Her Innocent War” is loaded with characters she knew in real life.
“Most of them are probably dead by now — so they won’t be able to sue me,” she joked.
“Her Innocent War” ($8.96 paperback, $4.99 Kindle) is available for purchase at www.amazon.com.