HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Or what’s left of them. And let’s hope for something great in the coming New Year, yeah?
Speaking of something great—today we’ve got the fab and first-class Anne Barwell joining us for Genre Talk here on The Novel Approach Reviews. Anne’s come to tell us about her new DSP Publications Historical/Mystery & Suspense release Winter Duet, Book Two in the Echoes Rising Series, and available for purchase now!
So let’s have a look at what we’ve got to look forward to….
Echoes Rising book 2 – Sequel to Shadowboxing
Hunted for treason and the information Kristopher carries, he and Michel leave the security of their safe house to journey across Germany toward Switzerland. Caught in a series of Allied bombings, they stop to help civilians and narrowly escape capture by German forces.
While investigating a downed aircraft in the Black Forest, the two men discover an injured RAF pilot. After they are separated, Kristopher and the pilot are discovered by a German officer who claims he is not who he appears to be. Determined to find Michel again, Kristopher has to trust the stranger and hope he is not connected to those searching for him and the information he carries. Meanwhile Michel is intercepted by one of the Allied soldiers he met in Berlin. His help is needed to save one of their own.
Time quickly runs out. Loyalties are tested and betrayed as the Gestapo closes in. Michel can only hope they can reach safety before information is revealed that could compromise not only his and Kristopher’s lives, but those of the remaining members of their team—if it is not already too late.
Carole: Thanks for being with us here today, Anne, and congrats on your 2nd Edition release. Why don’t we start with genre, since it’s why we’re here.
Anne: Winter Duet is historical fiction set in WWII. 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. Winter Duet falls into the former.
I love historical fiction, in particular stories set in the first half of the 20th century and around the decades before and after both world wars. I think war and hardship brings out the best and worst in people, and even in all the SF and fantasy I read, often the really bad guys are humans. I also enjoy putting my characters into situations they would usually not find themselves in, and that is what happens to the men and women in my WII Echoes Rising series. I didn’t want to tell the story of what happens on the battlefield, but that of the heroes who are everyday people doing what they can to fight a war that affects not just those in the field but civilians too.
One of the other reasons I like writing historical fiction is that people didn’t have access to all the technology we do today. If they need to get word to their superiors they have to rely on crystal radios, couriers and the ilk, and wait sometimes days for a reply. There is no instant communication. Although there is penicillin by this time, medicine is not as advanced as we’re used to today. Something that starts out as a simple scrape can become deadly.
Carole: Definitely different challenges than what we face today. So how do you explore that kind of thing in Winter Duet?
Anne: Winter Duet is the 2nd book in my WWII series Echoes Rising. Book 1 Shadowboxing came out in May 2016, and the third and final book Comes a Horseman will be published by DSP Publications in August 2017.
While the action in Shadowboxing took place in Berlin, Winter Duet could be described as a road trip across Germany in 1944 with the SS in pursuit. Relationships and friendships that began in the first book grow and change, while men who have never met need to trust each other and work together in order to survive. They experience the war at ground zero, and see the impact on civilians more closely than before. I’ve also introduced a few new characters as they leave others behind in Berlin. One of these new characters is Leo Dawson, a downed RAF pilot from New Zealand, whose fate quickly becomes intertwined with the Allied team and their mission to get the plans for the German atomic bomb, and one of the scientists who worked on the project, to safety.
Carole: This story is told during a time when, it could be said, the subject of multiculturalism was even more volatile than it is today. Tell us how you define “diversity” in your writing, and how you explored it in this book.
Anne: As with Shadowboxing, book 1 of this series, the main characters in Winter Duet are a mix of ethnicities. As WWII was fought by—and affected—many nationalities—I wanted to acknowledge that. Having them come from different backgrounds and cultures also means they each have a unique view of the situation and surroundings in which they find themselves.
Kristopher is German, and although he loves his country, he is doing what he can to bring an end to the war. Along the way he and the others meet other Germans who feel the same way, and doing their bit for the Resistance, whether offering shelter or helping others to leave the country.
Michel is French and part of their Resistance, the Maquis. He has lost people he loved to the war, and has been uncover in Germany for months.
Liang is British but also half Chinese, so brings with him a mix of those cultures. He was raised by his Chinese grandparents after his parents died in the 1918 influenza epidemic.
Matt and Ken are both American, but Ken has Japanese grandparents. He escaped being caught in an internment camp because being a quarter Japanese he is more able to hide his ethnicity. He has also taken his American father’s name in order to avoid detection. His mother and her family were not so fortunate. Matt, while American, has spent several years in Germany before the war, so has experience of living there.
Leo Dawson is a New Zealander. He’s the youngest of their group, and completely out of his depth. He doesn’t speak much German, has little field experience and is a RAF pilot.
As well as ethnicity, four of these men are homosexual. I’ve been asked why I included two homosexual couples—they each approach their sexuality from different angles, so I wanted to show diversity within that as well.
Carole: Winter Duet 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 Winter Duet and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.
Anne: Although there is romance in the story, it’s not the focus of the book. In fact the couples are split up for most of the book. Winter Duet is more of an ensemble story and told from multiple perspectives. In war there is no time to focus on building a romance, as their moments together are often snatched, and could be their last. It is a dangerous time in which to be homosexual so any declaration of feelings for another man needs to be said in private. It’s also why I decided early on that any sex scenes would be short and fade to black. Having long drawn out sex in this kind of story didn’t fit with the time period in which it is set.
I’d describe Winter Duet as an action drama series set against an historical backdrop, with the romance taking second place as it isn’t what drives the story forward. Other books that I’ve enjoyed set in the same time period are The Lavender Keeper and The French Promise by Fiona McIntosh and The Road Between Us by Nigel Farndale.
Carole: It sounds like this series requires quite a bit of specialized study.
Anne: Because of its setting, the Echoes Rising series needs a lot of research. I work in a library so I tend to lean heavily toward hardcopy resources, and have most of what I need on hand. The library has some great books with personal anecdotes of people’s experiences during this time and one of my go-to series when I’m writing historical fiction is the Hidden Voices series. I also read up about the aircraft of the time, the clothing and military uniforms, and about specific events which I needed to tie into the timeline of the book. The bombing raids described in the story were real and took place in the locations I’ve used. I was lucky enough to find an online source with the dates, times, and types of aircraft used to bomb which location. I also check etymology sites as often slang words and phrases are introduced later than we think!
With Winter Duet being more of a road trip story, I researched the various locations using a mix of guidebooks, atlases, and websites, and had a huge topographical map hanging from my bookcase while I wrote the story. Google maps are great for working out how long it would take to get somewhere, but I also had to adjust those times because of the time period, mode of transportation, and what was going on at the time. Being in the middle of a war zone complicates travel plans.
One of my beta readers is German so she provided the German in the story, and also provided information that is difficult to find. Often it’s the small details that make or break a story’s authenticity and those are the things that aren’t easy to locate especially if they’re written in another language.
Carole: Whew! That made me tired just thinking about it, so let’s segue into something lighter. What projects are you working on now and what’s coming next from you?
Anne: I have two releases coming out next year. Sunset at Pencarrow is co-written with Lou Sylvre and is a contemporary romance set in New Zealand and written for Dreamspinner Press’s World of Love series. It has a projected release date of June/July.
The third and final part of the Echoes Rising series is called Comes a Horseman and will be published by DSP Publications in August 2017.
Meantime I’m working on a story for Dreamspinner’s Dreamspun Desires range called The Right Note and finishing a co-written novel with Lou which is set in 1745 on Skye called The Harp and the Sea. After that I’ll be writing the final book in my Dragons of Astria series, which has a working title of A Sword to Rule.
Okay, that still made me tired! 😀 Thanks so much, Anne, for taking time out of what’s obviously a very busy schedule to come chat with us today. And, on behalf of our awesome readers, thanks for generously doing a giveaway, as well.
But before we get to that, please enjoy the following excerpt from Anne’s new release, Winter Duet:
Kristopher dropped to his knees and examined the boy. His eyes were glazed over, and he flinched when Kristopher touched him. “He must have hit his head when he fell,” Kristopher said. He brought his hand away from the boy’s temple. It was covered in blood. “He needs help. I can’t do much for him here, apart from just try and stop the bleeding.” He quickly opened his satchel and pulled out a short length of bandage, bundled it into a wad, and held it against the wound. Although it probably wouldn’t be enough to stop it, it was better than doing nothing. Head wounds tended to bleed, didn’t they? It didn’t mean it was something serious, but it could be.
He let out a quick breath. Damn it. He wished he’d paid more attention when he’d watched Clara at work. Why had he agreed to disguise himself as a medic? In this situation when that was exactly what was needed, he was next to useless.
“We can’t stay here,” Michel said. “Can you tie something around the bandage so it keeps the pressure on it when we move him?”
“Keep pressure on the wound while I look.” Kristopher searched around in his bag, ripped some more of the bandaging material, and tied it quickly. His hands were shaking, but at least there didn’t seem to be any blood seeping through the original cloth he’d put over the wound. “I think that should hold it for now.”
Michel handed Kristopher the flashlight and then lifted the boy into his arms. “What’s your name?” he asked softly when the boy opened his eyes and looked up at him.
“Fritz,” the boy replied, his voice wavering. He put his arms around Michel’s neck and clung to him. Thankfully, he seemed more alert than he had a few moments before.
“Hello, Fritz. I’m Michel, and this is Paul,” Michel said. “We’re going to keep you safe, I promise.”
“You promise?” Fritz’s earlier confidence was gone. “I didn’t think it was so dark. I know this place. I shouldn’t have tripped.” He glared at the ground. “Stupid thing. Stupid, stupid. Everything looks different.” He sniffled loudly and wiped one dirty hand over his face.
“Do you remember the way to the shelter, Fritz?” Kristopher asked. Michel was watching Fritz carefully, holding the boy close to him. His grip had tightened at the first sign of Fritz’s distress.
“I don’t need to put you down,” Michel reassured Fritz. “You can still guide us while I’m holding you.”
“I don’t want to walk.” Fritz bit his lip. He looked around and then pointed to a street to their left. “If we go down there, it’s only about ten minutes away.”
They’d never reach the shelter in time before it closed.
“There isn’t one closer?” Michel asked.
“It’s the one I know about,” Fritz said, somewhat defensively. “Mutter told me if something happened I should go to it.”
“Where’s your mother now?” Kristopher asked. The light from the flashlight was dying quickly. They had to hurry.
“I don’t know. She went to get my baby sister, but she never came downstairs.” Fritz stuck his chin out. “I waited like she said, even when I heard the loud noises and people crying.”
“You live around here?” Kristopher hoped Fritz’s family had survived this. They’d have to try and reunite them or at least find someone who could look after him before they left Stuttgart.
Fritz nodded. Whatever his wound, it seemed as though it was definitely superficial or he wouldn’t be talking as much as he was. “I went looking for her, and I couldn’t find her.”
“You sound much better, Fritz. Do you think you could walk?” Michel asked.
“I don’t want to lose you and Paul too,” Fritz said. He let Michel put him down and then put one small hand into Michel’s.
“You won’t lose us,” Michel promised. “Keep holding my hand, and Paul will look after the flashlight. We can work together.”
“Michel’s very good at working together,” Kristopher told Fritz. He shone the flashlight around. The farther out into the street they got, the more rubble there was. It wasn’t safe to move too quickly, and at this speed they’d never reach the shelter before daylight. He glanced up at the sky. Most of the flashes of light now seemed to be focused toward the city center.
“I’m wondering if it’s safer to stay here but get as far away from the buildings as we can and wait for daylight.”
“We don’t know how long this raid is going to last,” Michel said, “but we need to make a decision.” Something creaked and groaned to the side of them. “Move!” Michel yelled. He picked up Fritz and ran back the way they’d come. Kristopher didn’t stop to see what was going on behind him. He followed.
Moments later, more rubble hit the street where they’d just been standing. If they’d stayed there, they would have been buried in it.
Kristopher shone the flashlight on it and shivered. “I think finding the shelter is the least of our problems,” he said. “We need to get out into the open. It’s not just more bombings that could kill us, but the buildings that are already damaged.”
“I know a place,” Fritz said after Michel put him down. “I’ll show you.” He took hold of Michel’s hand again. “You and Paul are soldiers.” He pointed to the red cross on Kristopher’s arm. “You’ll stay and help look after all the hurt people, won’t you? Vater is a soldier too. He’s fighting at the front. Mutter says he’s very brave.”
“Yes, we’ll stay and help,” Michel said before Kristopher could say anything. He squeezed Fritz’s hand. “We’ll also help you find your mother, or at least someone who can look after you.” He looked over at Kristopher and gave him a questioning look.
“Of course we will,” Kristopher said, wondering why Michel felt he’d even had to ask.
About the Author
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.
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 now for the GIVEAWAY! Anne is generously giving away a copy of Shadowboxing, book one in the Echoes Rising series, and there are a few ways to enter. Please click on the Rafflecopter link to find out how. A winner will be chosen on January 4, 2017, so until then, good luck!
For Elizabeth Noble and me, that’s all for this week, and thanks for spending some time with us. See you next time!