Hello everyone, and welcome to the latest edition of Genre Talk hosted by our fab friends here at The Novel Approach Reviews! Today DSP Publications author Anne Barwell has agreed to come and let us grill her about her brand-spanking-new Historical/Mystery & Suspense release Comes a Horseman, available right now at the links below. So let’s dig right in and see what Anne’s got in store for us.
Book 3, sequel to Winter Duet
Sometimes the most desperate struggles take place far from the battlefield, and what happens in secret can change the course of history.
Victory is close at hand, but freedom remains frustratingly just beyond the grasp of German physicist Dr. Kristopher Lehrer, Resistance fighter Michel, and the remaining members of the team sent by the Allies—Captain Matt Bryant, Sergeant Ken Lowe, and Dr. Zhou Liang—as they fight to keep the atomic plans from the Nazis. The team reaches France and connects with members of Michel’s French Resistance cell in Normandy. Allied troops are poised to liberate France, and rescue is supposedly at hand. However, Kristopher is no longer sure the information he carries in his memory is safe with either side.
When Standartenführer Holm and his men finally catch up with their prey, the team is left with few options as they fight to keep atomic plans from the Nazis. With a traitor in their midst, who can they trust? Kristopher realizes he must become something he is not in order to save the man he loves. Death is biding his time, and sacrifices must be made for any of them to have the futures they want.
Carole: This sounds wonderfully complex and intriguing. Let’s start by talking about the genre first.
Anne: Comes a Horseman is historical fiction, and the third book in my WWII Echoes Rising series. I’ve seen a couple of definitions of historical fiction – one is fiction that is set in an earlier time from the author’s own lifetime, another is fiction written by an author set in their lifetime but not that of his or her current audience. Comes a Horseman falls into the former.
I enjoy writing and reading about earlier time periods, in particular the early to mid 20th century, and around the world wars. War brings out the best and worst in people who often find themselves reacting in ways they wouldn’t usually. I didn’t want to write about the battles, but explore characters who are in situations that are often out of their depth. Also, because it is an earlier time, they can’t rely on the technology that exists today so need to think about different ways to get out of a difficult situation. For example communication isn’t as instant as it is today so people behind enemy lines often had to rely on information that could be out of date by the time they received it.
Carole: I imagine there was a ton of research involved in getting everything just right, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Tell us about Comes a Horseman.
Anne: Comes a Horseman is the third and final book in my WWII Echoes Rising series, so as well as continuing the storyline started in Shadowboxing, it gives some closure to the Allied mission and to the men and women involved in it. While the first two books in the series were set in Germany, most of the action in this book takes place in France as the team head for the channel to make their escape from occupied Europe. There are a few new characters—with their own motivations—and D-Day is fast approaching.
Carole: The setting itself must have necessitated exploring diverse cultures and attitudes. Tell us how you define “diversity” in your writing, and how you explored it in this book.
Anne: Diversity is an important part of the story. The men who make up the Allied team are a mix of nationalities—German, French, British/Chinese, and American. Four of them are homosexual, and one straight. The war was fought and won by men and women from different backgrounds, and I wanted to acknowledge that. I’ve often been asked why I included two homosexual couples and the answer is that they each approach their sexuality from a different angle so there is diversity within that as well.
Judging one man by the actions of others of his ethnicity is a reoccurring role in the series, and drives some of the action in this story too. When members of the French Resistance meet the team when they cross the border into France, they are naturally suspicious of Kristopher in particular as he’s German. And as Michel points out later in the story, he’s not sure whether his father is going to be angrier about his son being in love with a German or that Kristopher is a man.
I also wanted to include strong women characters in this story, as I’d done so in the first two books in the series. Women played a big part in the war, both on the home front and as part of the Resistance, so I felt it was important to reflect that.
Carole: Comes a Horseman is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for genre novels that don’t necessarily focus on or even contain romance. Tell us about the relationship in Comes a Horseman and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.
Anne: Although there are romances in the story, they aren’t the main plot. Comes a Horseman is more of an ensemble story, and is told from multiple perspectives. As an aside, writing scenes from a bad guy’s POV is not a nice experience.
Given the time period in which the book is set, I also felt that on page sex scenes wouldn’t be appropriate to the story so those that are in the series are short and fade to black. Being homosexual during that time was dangerous, and if a relationship was suspected, those involved would be arrested, thrown into a camp or worse. Anything that could be construed as more than feelings of friendship toward another needed to be said in private, and a happy ending is never going to involve being able to be obviously together, and in love, at least in public.
Carole: The shelves in a bookstore are generally organized by genre. What books do you think this one should sit beside on a bookstore’s shelves?
Anne: I’d describe Comes a Horseman as an historical action drama. Other books I’ve enjoyed set in the same time period are The Lavender Keeper by Fiona McIntosh, and The Road Between Us by Nigel Farndale.
Carole: We put this question off earlier, so let’s get to research. It seems a book—series, actually—like this would require quite an investment in it. How much did you have to do?
Anne: The short answer to this question is a lot. The first two books were set in Germany but most of Comes a Horseman is set in France. Not only did I have to get my geography right, but what was going on in the country at the time. I also had an historical event I had to work into the story, so all the action had to fit around the timing of D-Day. German characters in the first two books had used phrases in their native tongue, so shifting location to France meant I needed to have some French in there as well so it meshed with the rest of the series.
Often the research influenced the storyline, as did locations. I made up one of the main locations in the story—the village of Cyrville-sur-Mer—although it is based on villages in the Normandy area at the time. Because a lot of the action takes place there, I wanted the freedom to be able to place buildings within the village where they needed to be, and trying to get locations etc in a small village that existed in Normandy in 1944 exactly right would be difficult. The other named locations are real places although there are others I’ve used but haven’t named as I’ve relocated them slightly. I spent hours on google maps working out travel times, and being able to find floor plans for the Maisie Battery in Normandy was very helpful.
I also learnt a lot about D-Day and the events leading up to it, and crossing the Rhine—and with it the German/French border—during war time.
Carole: Wow. That does sound quite immersive, and it must have been a ton of work. I almost hate to ask you this next question, but readers always like to know: What projects are you working on now and what is coming next from you?
Anne: One Word—book 3 of my fantasy series Hidden Places, although this one is more of a contemporary romance with a bit of mystery detective, releases on 6th November with Dreamspinner Press.
Prelude to Love, a contemporary New Zealand set romance, is contracted with Dreamspinner Press as part of their Dreamspun Desires range, with a projected release date of January/February 2018.
Once I get a break from promo/edits, I’ll be starting back work on The Harp and the Sea, an historical with a touch of fantasy set on Skye in 1745 that I’m co-writing with Lou Sylvre. When Lou is writing her scenes, I’ll be writing A Sword to Rule, the 2nd and final book of my Dragons of Astria fantasy series.
Carole: Well, Anne, you certainly don’t mess around when it comes to hard work and dedication. We appreciate you taking the time to chat with us today, and look forward to spending time in your worlds. Best of luck to you on your new release, and thanks so much.
And thanks to you as well, Awesome Readers, for spending time with us today. We still have that giveaway to get to, but first, please enjoy this excerpt from Anne’s new Historical/Mystery & Suspense release, Comes a Horseman.
Matt nodded, his lips moving although he did not speak. He was counting, Michel realized, as they pulled away from shore, and using the rhythm of his movement to distract himself from the darkness.
The moon’s light highlighted the waves lapping around the boat—the water seemed to reach toward them before diving back again. Ken and Matt quickly settled into a unified motion, both focused on what they were doing, although Ken glanced at Matt a couple of times.
Frej signaled for Matt and Ken to change direction slightly and rest the oars. They did that for a few moments, letting the boat drift with the current. If Michel squinted, he could see the outline of the bridge in the distance and several shapes moving at either end of it. The guards on duty would hopefully stay focused on the bridge itself and not notice a small rowboat sneaking over the border. The area was well guarded, but as it had been secured for quite some time, they would not be expecting trouble.
On the other side of the boat, Liang quickly turned and leaned over the side. As soon as he started to make a gagging noise he shoved his hand over his mouth to silence it. If his seasickness got any worse, it would be difficult to mask the noise of him vomiting over the side of the boat. He was doing his best to silence his dry heaving, but his hunched posture suggested he felt miserable and unwell.
Frej leaned toward Ken and gestured. Ken nodded, rested the oars again, and then he and Matt changed direction. Matt was still counting under his breath, and he gripped the oar tightly.
“Who’s there?” The shouted question shattered the silence.
Kristopher glanced around, an expression of panic on his face.
Michel put a hand on his arm to calm him but didn’t dare whisper the reassurance he wanted to. He turned around and strained his eyes, trying to find the source of the disruption. Matt and Ken stopped rowing, the boat drifting back the way they’d come, caught by the current.
He heard boots against wood in the distance—the unmistakable sound of men running, probably over the bridge crossing the Rhine south of their position. “No farther or I’ll shoot,” one of them yelled.
Frej got down on the floor of the boat. Michel and Kristopher followed, then Liang. Matt kept hold of his oar, trying to keep it as still as he could. He leaned down into a crouch, as did Ken.
Gunfire sounded from the bridge. A couple of shots in succession before stopping. Michel heard an engine, a vehicle approaching. A door slammed, and then everything went quiet again. Logically he knew the bridge was a good few kilometers away, but Frej was right about noise carrying on the water. If felt too close for comfort.
Frej waited a few minutes. “Row,” he whispered urgently. “While they are distracted.”
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.
In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.
She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts other authors, reviews for the GLBTQ Historical Site “Our Story” and Top2Bottom Reviews, and writes monthly blog posts for Authors Speak and Love Bytes.
Anne’s books have received honorable mentions four times and reached the finals three times in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.
(And you can follow Anne on her blog tour HERE)
Now, as promised, Anne is offering a $10 DSP Publications voucher, and there are several ways to win. Click the Rafflecopter widget and below and find out how!
And while Anne’s being all generous and stuff, the ebooks for Shadowboxing (book 1), and Winter Duet (book 2) are on sale from 17th July-August 4th. But them HERE!
Okay, that’s everything for now. Thanks for joining us, everyone! If you’d like to keep tabs on Genre Talk and never miss a post, hop on over and like our Facebook page, join our Facebook group, and check out our web page.
Until then, that’s all for us. On behalf of me and Co-pilot Extraordinaire Elizabeth Noble, thanks for spending some time with us, and have a great week!