A stage play written by David Webster, based on Ed Kugler's and my book "The Well House," will be presented in Hope, Indiana on Thursday, Nov.14th and Friday, Nov. 15th at the WILLow LeaVes Dinner Theatre.

This will be the second consecutive year for members of the Actors' Studio of Hope to perform this wonderful adaptation of the book. I was present last year, one of many to watch and enjoy our book come to life on stage, and consider it a privilege to travel from Utah to be in attendance again this year for the performances.

First published in 2005, many readers have asked me if the story is based on actual people and events. Although the locations and the Vietnam War are very real, the characters and the story are the creation of the authors.

Ed and I have been close friends for over 40 years. Kug, as close friends refer to him, is a former Marine and veteran of the Vietnam War. He is retired from corporate America. Now, he is a consultant and writes full time. He and his wife, Gloria, have been married for over forty-five years. They have three children and four grandchildren and currently live on a peaceful mountainside near Big Arm, Montana.

I was born and raised in Anderson, Indiana and am a graduate of Indiana University with an undergraduate degree in U.S. history and a master’s degree in secondary education. I am the father of six children and grandfather of fifteen grandchildren. Our family lived in Columbus, a short drive from Hope, for nearly six years.

The year was 2003, and Ed and I were talking on the phone and catching up on our lives after several years of going our own ways. We discussed our desire to write a novel. Although he had written several non-fiction books, Ed had never attempted to author a fictional story. As for me, I had always wanted to write a romance novel. In that moment, we began the creative process of writing a fictional story that would eventually become “The Well House,” A Hoosier Love Story of War, Peace, Hope, and Forever.

With any fictional story, there are several elements needed to make the work flow and keep the reader engaged from one chapter to the next. These elements include plot, characters, conflict, setting, and point of view. Following many phone calls, Ed and I came up with the following details that covered each subject area.

We chose a war and romance story based on the Vietnam conflict as the plot. Ed served as a Marine sniper in Vietnam for two tours of duty and was very familiar with Con Thien and other places in Vietnam mentioned in the book. I served as an Army signal officer stateside from 1970 to 1972. The story begins in 1967. The conflict in Vietnam had become a war no one wanted. The story is about Maggie Erin O’Reilly, the daughter of wealthy Chicago socialites and Clayton Wesley Riggs, a farm boy from Hope, Indiana. The two would meet at the Well House on the Indiana University campus and begin a beautiful friendship.

The characters in the novel are fictitious. However, both Ed and I wanted to create individuals that would remind the readers of someone that they might know. Maggie’s parents were dissenters of the Vietnam War and were engaged in protest movements in Chicago. Maggie, meanwhile, was a reporter for the Indiana Daily Student and actively participated in anti-war demonstrations on the IU campus. Clayton grew up on a farm just outside of Hope and wanted to follow in the family tradition of being a Marine.

Following a year of being friends at IU, Clayton lets Maggie know that he is joining the Marines and will be going to Vietnam. This decision would certainly change their lives and the lives of their families. Other characters in the book include Maggie’s parents, Clayton’s parents, and a tough sergeant, Moto, who would become Clayton’s nemesis when arriving at Con Thien.

Three settings in The Well House novel give the reader a sense of familiarity to this romantic novel. Those settings are the Well House, Con Thien, and the historic town of Hope.

The Rose Well House is an iconic monument located in the heart of the Indiana University campus. The monument was a gift from Theodore F. Rose in 1908 and covers the original well for IU. It is listed on the National Register for Historical Landmarks. Tradition holds that a female student is not officially a co-ed until she kissed beneath its dome at midnight. This iconic structure is where Maggie Erin O’Reilly and Clayton Wesley Riggs meet for the first time.

Con Thien was a lonely outpost located two miles south of the demilitarized zone between North and South Vietnam. Clayton's first assignment was to help defend this lonely and isolated spot against North Vietnamese regulars coming across the DMZ into South Vietnam. It was a barren piece of dirt, surrounded by barbed wire, trenches, and sand-bagged covered bunkers. Marines called it, “A Little Piece of Hell.” It was a place that Clayton Riggs would discover his own truth about the Vietnam War.

Hope, appropriately referred to as a “Surprising Little Town,” was the perfect setting for the farm of the Riggs's family. This south central Indiana town with a population of just over 2,000 citizens is known for its unique landmarks, Moravian heritage, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In the end, Hope is more than just a place. Hope is a wish, a desire, and a confident expectation that all things are possible with God.

The Well House is a story of conflict, both personal and physical, war and peace, truth versus falsehood, and love overcoming hate. It is a novel about redemption and healing, a story of how one letter from Vietnam delivered twenty-five years later by Moto, a Marine who stayed true to his word, would change the life of Maggie O’Reilly, forever.

Footnote: I will always be grateful to David Webster and the community of Hope for bringing this inspiring stage play to the perfect venue, WILLow LeaVes. And, I would encourage you to join us by calling them at 812-546-0640 to make reservations soon.