Welcome to the Historical Novel Blog Tour, a compilation of novelists from various publishers. I rounded them all up at two of my favorite (and infinitely helpful) Facebook pages – the manuscript review page of the Historical Novel Society and a private get together place for Booktrope authors. Over the next few months, every Monday, My Dear Readers, you will meet some of the most fascinating and talented writers of historical fiction alive today. If this is something you’re interested in pursuing yourself, or if you just love historical fiction, stop by. There will be a wealth of information, stories, and true life accounts of moments in history that changed the world. Mondays – this is the place to be. You’ll see a link each week to the next stop on the tour. At the end of the tour, in February 2015, I’ll have the whole tour here for you to review and enjoy all over again.
Let the nerdy good fun begin! (I’m first! Woo-hoo!)
I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, something I am fiercely proud of, even though I haven’t lived in the state since I was two and half. I went back to visit nearly every summer growing up, and I stay in constant contact with my family and friends who still live in the state. My Western and Southern heritage (of which I have a fine mix), influences everything I write, even A Berlin Story, my latest work about a young German woman who survives the Fall of Berlin, 1945. A young American G.I. named Aaron Gifford appears in the very beginning of the story, and sticks around for the remainder of the novella. He is fashioned after my great uncle, Aaron Lock, who served in the 101st Airborne in World War II. I tried to affect his Oklahoma twang in my descriptions of his fictional form. I hope I did him justice. From heaven, I believe he sees me and is “tickled pink” as he might have said to me over the phone, the way he was apt to do.
Though born in Oklahoma, I grew up in crazy Southern California, the exact opposite of the red earth of Oklahoma. I loved it as well, but during my senior year of high school, my family moved to Pennsylvania, and it is here, where I met my Hot Latin Husband (a proud Puerto Rican), married him, finished school, had four babies, and haven’t left yet. One day, I’ll get back to Oklahoma. All y’all will see.
Who you are, where you’re from, your writing credits.
I started writing professionally when I was pregnant with my first child and recovering from the paralyzing (literally) effects of Guillain-Barré’ syndromee and Myasthenia Gravis. You’ll just have to look those two diseases up, pals. Their explanations are as rough as the pronunciation of their names. In short, the experience sucked, but I survived and I drew myself out of my bed-rest boredom the only way I knew how, by stuffing my face with salty treats and writing quirky stories about animals that I loved. My first article was accepted by a dog magazine whose name I no longer remember. But the first line read, “Sam is my fat dog.” It was immediately accepted. But after that, I had only rejections until 2001, when a piece I wrote, about being a Westerner living in the beautiful northeastern state of Pennsylvania, was published in Pennsylvania Magazine.
I continued to write and submit, until I discovered my niche, which was human interest, spooky stuff, and history. I tend to combine all of those elements into absolutely everything I write (and there’s always war, too. I just can’t seem to get away from that). I wrote for several newspapers and hundreds of magazines. I continue to write some non-fiction, but mostly, I write novels and short stories for Booktrope and Kindle now.
What is your latest historical fiction piece?
My latest historical piece is the first in a World War II era series called The Embers of War. There will be four novellas coming out over the next two years – A Berlin Story, The Gate, The Raven, and The Red Earth.
A Berlin Story is my current work, and it is the story about 19 year old Annalise Bergen who is the sole survivor of any of her immediate and extended family when the Soviets invade Nazi Berlin, 1945. She endures all the horrible things women experienced during that harrowing time period, but she survives and moves forward, despite the tragedies that she endures.
Why did you choose to write it?
My family during World War II came from the exact opposite side of the events that Annalise endures. They were, either, American G.I.’s or European Jews. Until I began A Berlin Story, I had never in my life wondered what “good” Germans might have experienced. To me, they were all Nazis, all bad guys. But one night, and I have no idea why, I woke up in a cold sweat with the remnants of a nightmare on my brain. In the dream, I was a young woman, I was German, it was the Fall of Berlin, and the Soviets were coming into the city. I still remember the sounds of their tanks and katushka rockets. I must have seen a documentary earlier that week, or something, but it alludes me now, because only the dream that resulted (from whatever inspired my writing) remains in my memory. I immediately wrote down the feelings and the details, and I began the novella in the winter of 2007. It took me until 2013 to complete it, and it’s only 60-odd pages. It was like nothing else I have ever written.
Since then, I have spoken with survivors of those events and the children of men and women who survived those events, and I have come to realize that A Berlin Story is chillingly accurate.
What about that era appeals to you?
The bravery. How? Simply, how does one survive the Holocaust, Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, the Pacific, or even life on the home front, knowing that Adolf Hitler has freakishly and satanically influenced millions of humans and murdered millions more? What a ridiculous time in which to live. What a horrible time, but also, what an amazing time, because from the World War II era came heroes like my great uncle and my grandmother who was one of the first US Marine drill instructors in US history. She wasn’t a WAC. She was Marine, a short little Jewish woman from Brooklyn who wasn’t going to take the news about Nazi U-boats sinking off the the New York Harbor sitting down. She was getting a gun and learning how to use and training young men to go to Europe and do the same. She told me once that most of the boys she instructed never returned.
Are your characters real or fictional? If they’re real, how did you fictionalize them?
All of my characters are fictional, but like all good characters, their parts and elements are drawn from various real life people.
What kind of research is involved in writing your novel?
Lots. I read hundreds of books, watched a bunch of grisly documentaries, read diaries, spoke to eyewitnesses, etc…It’s a good thing I love libraries and late night internet searches, because that’s what this novella took to detail accurately.
How do you organize the fictional aspects of your writing vs. the historical facts?
I usually create a historical timeline, and one side, I write what actually happened during the time and on the other, I write what my characters were doing. It’s very helpful. I can note little details in the margins as well. For example, during the Fall of Berlin, women hung white sheets out their windows believing that the approaching Soviets would see and respect that as a sign of peaceful surrender. However, more Soviets had died in the war at Nazi hands than anything else, so the sheets were completely ignored and simply told the Soviets where women were living. This note went into the margin details on the historical side of the timeline. The women in A Berlin Story do this, so I added it to the fictional timeline as well.
How does the historical timeline move your plot along or influence the actions of your characters?
It helps me to see what my characters might do next.
How do you feel about writers taking creative license with historical facts? Or, does it bother you when facts area changed to fit the story in a movie or a book?
It all depends on what those facts are. If they aren’t a gross exaggeration of the truth, then I don’t care, but if they are egregious and they change history for millions of readers, it makes me want to punch the author. This especially angers me when the books are targeted at young people. Such actions can change how whole cultures view history. It’s important that historical fiction be accurate for this reason.
What’s next for you after this present work?
The Gate is the second book in the Embers of War series, and it will come out in the spring of 2015, right after my contemporary fiction novel, All This Time (which is also about…you probably guessed it…war. I think I need a vacation or something). The Gate is about life in the Soviet sector for Ukrainian, Dmitry Stolypin, who is a lieutenant in the Red Army. It’s got a lot of action, some romance, and spies.
Introduce the next author. If you don’t have that information yet, let me know. I will send the bio info to you.
The next amazing author on this tour is Meara Platt. I had the privilege of participating in the Facebook launch of her wonderful novel, My Fair Lily, which I am currently reading. Simply put, you will love it, My Dear Readers! Below, is information from Meara’s website about her work. It’s Cyber Monday, so consider supporting her work, and purchasing her novel. Thanks for reading, pals, and joining in the Historical Novel Blog Tour! Next stop – 19th Century England.
Meara Platt is happily married to her Russell Crowe look-alike husband, and they have two terrific children. She lives in one of the many great towns on Long Island, New York and loves it, except for the traffic. She has traveled the world, works as managing partner in a boutique law firm in NYC, occasionally lectures and finds time to write. Her favorite place in all the world is England’s Lake District, which may not come as a surprise since many of her stories are set in that idyllic landscape.
A close second is the rest of England and the British Isles, the original (and still beautiful) land of enchantment. For Meara, writing is all about enchantment, whether in the setting, the characters (such as Dragon Lords and Fae Kings), or in the author’s voice. A great writer entertains, inspires, makes us laugh or cry, and sometimes makes us think. She is honored to know and learn from some of the best romance writers of our day.
Meara is a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart award winner, and was thrilled to be recognized by this amazing organization. As with everything along life’s journey, it is always sweeter when shared with friends, so Meara’s special thanks goes out to fellow writers Pamela Burford and Patricia Ryan who have been with her from her very first baby steps as a writer.