The Story of a Novel

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With two novels in the capable hands of editors, I’m turning my mind to the challenge of what to write next. Two ideas have been swirling around: one is the continuation of the life of Claire, the daughter of World War One lovers Helene Noisette and Edward Jamieson. Raised by Francois Delancey as his own child, Claire never knew of her biological father until after her mother’s death. Lies Told in Silence ends when Claire calls Edward and he picks up the phone.

I’ve had many readers ask me to tell the story of what happened to Claire. Until recently, my response has always been: “When I know the story, I’ll be able to write it.”

The second idea is to write a sequel to Paris in Ruins, the novel I plan to publish in a few months time. That story would follow the lives of Camille Noisette – Helene’s aunt – and Mariele du Crecy who marries Camille’s brother. The plot would unfold during the Belle Epoque and feature some of the impressionist painters. Two years ago, I even wrote a few chapters.

I’m leaning toward the first idea. When I originally thought about writing a sequel to Claire’s story, I kept trying to imagine what would happen after Claire called Edward. It was only when I turned my imagination to what Claire’s life might have been like as a young woman living in Paris at the beginning of World War Two, that an idea sparked.

Recently, I purchased four books focused on stories related to D-Day to further spark the creative process.

Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre ~~ Macintyre returns with the untold story of the grand final deception of the war and of the extraordinary spies who achieved it.

D-Day Girls by Sarah Rose ~~ The dramatic, untold true story of the extraordinary women recruited by Britain’s elite spy agency to sabotage the Nazis and pave the way for Allied victory in World War II.

The Paris Game: Charles de Gaulle, the Liberation of Paris, and the Gamble that Won France by Ray Argyle ~~ Amid the ravages of a world war, three men — a general, a president, and a prime minister — are locked in a rivalry that threatens their partnership and puts the world’s most celebrated city at risk of destruction before it can be liberated. This is the setting of The Paris Game, a dramatic recounting of how an obscure French general under sentence of death by his government launches on the most enormous gamble of his life: to fight on alone after his country’s capitulation to Nazi Germany.

The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan ~~ A compelling tale of courage and heroism, glow and tragedy, The Longest Day painstakingly recreates the fateful hours that preceded and followed the massive invasion of Normandy to retell the story of an epic battle that would turn the tide against world fascism and free Europe from the grip of Nazi Germany.

I dipped into each one of these books just a few mornings ago before settling in to read Double Cross.

I’m cautious about yet another novel set during WWII, however, a good story is a good story regardless of the time period. With luck, I can turn the germ of an idea into a story arc. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Two cultures, three languages and one big conflict

Chrystyna LUCYK-BERGER is an award-winning writer whose Reschen Valley series released this past January. Today she gives us an intriguing look at how the series came about.

Imagine driving south over an alpine pass, crossing from Austria into Italy. You might expect Italian restaurants, Italian signs, and Italian architecture. But that’s not what happens. It still looks like the Austrian Tyrol with a few Italian names but the German language is still everywhere.

Keep driving, because here it comes: spread out before you, an unbelievably beautiful reservoir some 4 miles long and nestled into the horizon. The sight of that aquamarine water takes your breath away. You pass the first town and quickly come upon the next one called Graun / Curon Venosta. And then there it is. Off to the right, some 50 feet from the lakeshore, is a fully intact medieval church tower rising straight out of the water. This is the setting of my series, Reschen Valley.

That haunting sight! I saw it for the first time in 2000 and I wanted to know what had happened. Immediately. However, I didn’t know enough German or Italian to understand the local’s explanations. I passed that scene for five years before pieces of the story began to fall into place.

My German had improved. I was directed to a museum located above the fire department where I discovered what devastation and destruction lay below the surface of the water. I wanted to know more. I found information about the secret Treaty of London, signed by Italy in 1915 as negotiated with them by France, England and Russia. I researched Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points, then his biography. I read the Hungarian Ambassador’s book from 1964. I found a professor in Innsbruck whose work had been translated into English. But overall, almost nobody I talked to knew the details of how South Tyrol became Italian.

More so, the deeper I went, in all directions, the more mysterious and thrilling the story was becoming. Especially in regard to how the reservoir was built. I was making two or three trips a year, spending a lot of time in South Tyrol and getting to know two cultures: the Austrian Tyrolean one and the northern Italian one.

By the time I visited the Reschen Lake reservoir for the tenth time, a whole slew of characters had risen above its surface: a young farmer woman, a sassy innkeeper, an Italian engineer, a German carpenter, a dog. A colonel and a Fascist. They clambered into my Fiat and never let go.

Here’s how the story begins: The Great War is over but a new conflict has just begun. The Austrian Tyrol is cut in two, its southern half handed over to Italy leaving an entire population severed from its countrymen. Katharina Thaler, a Tyrolean farmer, is out hunting when she stumbles on an Italian veteran who’s been stabbed on her mountain. Terrified that one of her own people has committed the crime, she must choose to save him or leave him to die. Her decision thrusts her into a labyrinth of corruption, greed and prejudice as Katharina is caught between the Tyroleans who are trying to stop the annexation to Italy and the growing Fascist powers that need their land to produce electricity; electricity required to prepare for the next war.

The journey in writing what will be five novels spanning 3.5 decades, required steering around many a conundrum. First, how far beneath the strata of my two cultures must I go before I can feel confident about creating an entire world from them and do the cultures justice? I could never presume to know or understand enough than that which lays beneath the first few layers. I will always be an outsider writing from an outsider’s perspective. And I feel that has its advantages.

Further, I’m writing the books in English with characters who would normally speak German and/or Italian. It’s thrilling to have this much fodder for conflict between my characters: cultural clashes, misunderstandings, plays on words. I am also, however, acutely and painfully aware that my ability to play on those in depth are limited if my audience is an English-speaking or English-reading audience. This has caused me to experiment for years with the use of foreign phrases, and creating a world that is universally understandable. My concern has been to make sure that I had enough of both cultural aspects and unique language that, should these novels ever be translated into German or Italian, they would not feel watered down to the native population. This was a huge obstacle to overcome.

And then there was the question of taking sides in the conflict. I made the decision to explore all aspects of this story, all its arguments and objectives. It is not my job to illustrate who is right and who is wrong in this conflict and I don’t think it’s realistic anyhow. Once again, I made conscious decisions to create three-dimensional characters with all their flaws and strengths, with all their motivations to do good or evil. I did not want to make this conflict my conflict.

In the end, I set out to write a story as well as uncover one of the least known histories in western Europe. In the process, I also discovered that there is a warning in those pages that we, today, must also heed.

Chrystyna’s first two books in the Reschen Valley series, No Man’s Land and The Breach, are available on Amazon. Her novella, The Smuggler of Reschen Pass is a prequel to No Man’s Landand on preorder now on Amazon. It releases May 15th. Bolzano,Part 3, will release in September this year.

No Man’s Land by Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger – She wants her home. He wants control. The Fascist regime wants both.

1920, former Austrian Tyrol. Katharina Thaler faces becoming the first woman to ever own a farm in the Reschen Valley. The end of the Great War has taken more than her beloved family, it has robbed the province of its autonomy and severed it in half. As her countrymen fight to prevent the annexation to Italy, Katharina finds a wounded Italian engineer on her mountain. Her decision to save Angelo Grimani’s life, however, thrusts both into the midst of a new world order—a labyrinth of corruption, prejudice and greed.