I’m so excited to have Anne Barwell here with me today to discuss the re-release of her WWII romance, Shadowboxing. As you know, I’m a huge fan of stories written in that time period and I deeply appreciate the research that goes into making history come alive for the reader. I can also appreciate the desire to set your story in a time that may create additional obstacles to the characters that might not exist today–or at least, don’t exist to the same degree. Anne has done the kind of research that I find exciting, and I love hearing about the source materials she drew on to bring this series to life! Please welcome Anne Barwell!
Thank you for hosting me. I’m excited to be re-releasing the first in my WWII Echoes Rising series.
When I original wrote Shadowboxing, I wanted to read an historical which was an action drama with gay characters. I couldn’t find one—although that isn’t a problem now, so I wrote one. I also wanted to write a story that had at its heart a romance between two men during a time where, if their relationship were discovered, they risked severe repercussions, even death. I also wanted to explore characters who needed to do some serious soul searching in order to break free of expectations of not only themselves but their society.
I’d always loved stories about WWII, and so the idea for the Echoes Rising series was born. People meet during wars who wouldn’t usually, as is the case of Kristopher and Michel, the main characters in the series. Kristopher is a German physicist, and Michel a French farmer. The Allied team sent to retrieve the plans for the project Kristopher is working are not only a mix of nationalities but have very different backgrounds. While Matt is American, he’s also spent time in Germany before the war. Ken is American but he’s also hiding part of his heritage, and Liang is British Chinese.
This mix is very deliberate as I wanted different perspectives to the story. War is not just about the battles fought, but the people affected by them. I don’t believe that wars are really won as each country involved loses loved ones, and is damaged to the extent that the consequences are felt for generations to come.
I also knew in writing a historical I had a lot of research ahead of me. This wasn’t a one book project but a series of three books. I need to plot out all three books as, although each book is written so it stands alone, the series is really one story split into three. I figured it was better to write three smaller books than one enormous tome, as those can be rather off-putting for readers as well as writers. Each part of the story splits nicely with location too so it works out well. Shadowboxing is set in Berlin, Winter Duet is a road trip across wartime Germany, and Comes a Horseman takes place in France.
I used a range of resources for my research. I work in a library—shelving in the 940.5 section is not a great idea as I get distracted by shiny things. The library, and its databases, has been a fantastic resource for writing this series. Half the fun was finding the resources as they weren’t just in the history section, as I also needed travel books—for locations—and information about clothing and weapons. Early on in the writing process for the story I found a book called The Bomb by Gerard DeGroot which was about the ‘life story of the Bomb’ and subtitled A History of Hell on Earth. I bought my own copy of it.
The Forgotten Voices series is also another invaluable resource as it relays personal accounts by both servicemen and women and civilians about what it was like to live through that time. The internet also provided a lot of interesting information although some things were next to impossible to find. The specifics of German telephones was one of these. Everything out there is about the US system at the time! Luckily one of my beta readers is German and she has proved an invaluable source of information. She also checked facts on websites written in German and provided/suggested the German used in the story.
However, there is a flip side to the research. While I try to ensure I’m as accurate as possible—within the constraints of telling a good story—history can also work for a story rather than against it. After all, there’s no need to find a way to blow something up when it’s already documented that the Allied forces dropped bombs in the area at that time.
I’m aiming to republish Winter Duet in January, and the conclusion to the series, Comes a Horseman, in March.
Echoes Rising Book 1
Complete their mission or lose everything.
An encounter with an old friend leaves German physicist Dr Kristopher Lehrer with doubts about his work. But when he confronts his superior, everything goes horribly wrong. Suddenly Kristopher and Michel, a member of the Resistance, are on the run, hunted for treason and a murder they did not commit. If they’re caught, Kristopher’s knowledge could be used to build a terrible weapon that could win the war.
For the team sent by the Allies—led by Captain Bryant, Sergeant Lowe, and Dr Zhou—a simple mission escalates into a deadly game against the Gestapo, with Dr Lehrer as the ultimate prize. But in enemy territory, surviving and completing their mission will test their strengths and loyalties and prove more complex than they ever imagined.
Author’s note: This is the third edition of Shadowboxing. The first and second editions were released by another publishing house. This story has been re-edited, and uses UK spelling to reflect its setting.
Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08LCRT1ZZ
This was his chance to put things right, to make sure the project did not go further. He hurriedly shoved the file back into the case and then froze. What exactly was he going to do? Only one complete copy existed as far as he knew, but he wasn’t certain if the Nazis were aware he was capable of replicating the information. He would have to destroy the file, then disappear.
That wasn’t going to be easy. The Nazis had spies everywhere, and he did not know anyone who would help him. He wouldn’t ask Clara, nor would he consider death as an option. He couldn’t do that to her, not after she’d spent so much of her energy taking care of him. Someone had to get the information about this device out to the rest of the world. He had helped to create it. He would make sure the project was only ever used for the benefit of all mankind, but where the hell was he supposed to find the people he needed to ensure that happened? How could he trust anyone now, let alone convince them to trust him?
Kristopher turned. The office door was opening. In one fluid movement he gripped the briefcase firmly beneath one arm and bent to retrieve a piece of broken glass, holding the jagged edge in front of him in a feeble attempt to defend himself.
The newcomer took in the situation at a glance, one eyebrow raised in an unspoken question. His eyes flickered onto what had once been Kluge, then back to Kristopher, and finally came to rest on his precious cargo, the briefcase containing the culmination of a dream now better described as a never-ending nightmare.
Kristopher debated for all of a second the chances of his success if he tackled the man head-on, then decided against it. Apart from the extra height, Schmitz’s uniform probably disguised a well-developed physique. He also had the advantage of military training and the gun he held. Kristopher’s opponent possessed some degree of intelligence. That much was obvious by the inquiring look on his face and the way his eyes seemed to penetrate Kristopher’s, searching for an answer. For an instant, Kristopher was sure he glimpsed a depth to those eyes, and the man behind them. He edged back a step, taking comfort in the solidity of the desk digging into the small of his back, the sensation grounding him while he attempted to place the pieces of the puzzle together.
How much had Schmitz seen? His expression did not reveal anything.
If Kristopher surrendered now, everything would be over, and the Nazis would win. He wouldn’t give up, no matter what the odds. He gripped the glass fragment tightly, ignoring the sharp pain as the rough edges scratched against his palm, the red liquid seeping into his shirt cuff already stained with the blood he’d earlier unsuccessfully attempted to stanch. He took a step closer, trying to look menacing, fully aware that on a scale of one to ten he wasn’t achieving even a one.
They stood staring at each other, or rather Kristopher stood staring. Schmitz leaned back casually against the door without shifting his gaze. After a few moments with Kristopher’s ragged breathing the only audible sound in the room, the Obergefreiter pulled himself to attention and took a step forward. He lowered his gun and placed it in its holster before holding out his hand for Kristopher’s makeshift weapon.
“Herr Dr Lehrer,” he said softly, the tone of his voice low, an expression of disbelief fleeting over his features. “You’re one of the most brilliant minds in this institution, and yet this is the extent of your plan?”
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with Kaylee: a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning.
In 2008, Anne 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 and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ.
Anne’s books have received honourable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up 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.
Website & Blog—Drops of Ink: http://annebarwell.wordpress.com/
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