Today we are lucky to welcome Anne Barwell for a visit!
Thanks, Nic, for hosting me today :)
My upcoming release, Winter Duet, can be described in part as a road trip across Germany. However, it’s not your usual road trip story as it takes place in 1944 during WW2, so the Gestapo are in pursuit, and bombs are falling.
While the first book in the Echoes series, Shadowboxing, took place in Berlin, I knew the second would have to take place across a much wider range of locations. Getting out of Germany would be dangerous, especially for wanted men in a time where everyone had to carry identification papers. They’d have to get from Berlin to one of Germany’s borders in order to escape the country. Not only that, but I’d need to plot the route they would take before I started writing as the locations—and what was happening there at that time—would impact the details of the story very heavily. Given the fact that Kristopher and Michel are separated after finding Leo, the downed RAF pilot, it wasn’t just a case of working out one route, but two.
Choosing the locations used in the story took a lot of research especially as the story is set when the Allies were bombing Germany. Did I want my characters to escape most of it and take a safe route skirting around the affected areas, or be caught in the thick of it?
I’ve been extremely lucky in writing this series that one of my betas—and a very good friend—is German. She loaned me a topographical wall map of Germany which hung from one of my bookshelves while I was writing. It made it so much easier to work out where all the locations were in association with each other, and what the terrain was like. She’d also been to several of the locations and travelled some of these roads although we had to adjust the time it would take to make the journey to take into account this was taking place seventy years ago. Google maps is very helpful in plotting routes especially with its information on how long it would take to get from one location to another, depending on mode of transport.
Further research led to several sites which provided details of The Big Week, which refers to concentrated bombing of Germany by the Allies during February 1944. Everything fell into place nicely as this was not only the time of year my characters would be taking their road trip, but it was along the route they’d need to travel on their way to Switzerland and safety. One good thing about writing in a time period where a lot was happening is that it is well documented. I found information about when and where the bombs fell, what type of aircraft was doing the bombing, and personal accounts about what it was like to live through it.
Various other resources—a mix of books and internet—filled in the gaps about the locations I used in the story. The internet is great for finding out information about specific towns and areas, and the library had some wonderful guide books full of photographs. I also read personal accounts from people on both sides who had lived through it. One of the reasons I love history is the human side of it. To me, that’s far more interesting than facts and figures. The more I researched, the more the plot I already grew to encompass both the locations, and historical events, bringing with them more complications for Kristopher, Michel and the rest of the Allied Team.
As to my earlier question about whether they should travel through the locations as they were bombed, or skirt around them and keep safe? I’ve always made my characters earn their happy endings. Why should this story be any different?
Winter Duet will be available from Dreamspinner Press on 6th October.
Winter Duet buy link:
Echoes book 2 – Sequel to Shadowboxing
With Kristopher finally fit enough to travel, he and Michel leave the security of their safe house and continue their 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 that 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.
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, but I can’t do much for him here, 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. It probably wouldn’t be enough to stop it, but 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 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.