Next Big Thing: what I’m working on now.

Writers are tagging each other with a questionnaire about what they’re working on now.  I was tagged by Marsha Skrypuch. To read Marsha’s answers, go here.

What is your working title of your book?
Unmasking the Enemy

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

In 1943, Erich is barely 18 when he is captured by the British and sent to a prison camp beside Lethbridge, AB, where he is badly beaten by other POWs, so he volunteers to spend the winter as a lumberjack in northern Alberta where the lovely Cora (an English orphan) works – but he trades known enemies for unknown ones when a saboteur starts causing accidents.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
The idea came from a desire to write time travel. It occurred to me that many WWII war brides experienced a kind of time travel when they left English cities for what were essentially pioneer-era farms, because electricity didn’t come to many part of rural Canada until the mid-1950s. I couldn’t use a war bride as a YA character, so I gave the war bride a younger sister. She is an essential part of the story, though it was Erich who eventually became the main character. I wanted someone who was conflicted, and Erich filled the bill – a young man who loves Germany (not his government) but also loves his English grandfather.

An important sub-plot arose from a phone call. Not quite a year after my first novel, Run Like Jager, came out, a friend of my father’s called me. “I only read your book because you’re my friend’s daughter,” he said, “but I really liked it.” Then he went on to tell me about his childhood as the child of German immigrants (they’d left Germany around 1930). He was six when the war started, and even though his parents had left Germany before Hitler had even come to power, those war years were pure hell for him as he was mercilessly bullied by his schoolmates. Max, the character who was inspired by my dad’s friend, came into being from that phone call.

What genre does your book fall under?
YA historical.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

It’s tough to cast any of my books because most of the actors I’m familiar with are way too old to play a teen. My best guesses: Erich would be played by Zac Efron or someone who looks like a slightly younger version of Zac (ideas, anyone?); Cora would be played by Dakota Blue Richards or possibly Juno Temple (both English); based solely on his age, Max would be played by MattyB whom I’ve never heard of but has the right look.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I do not have an agent at this time, though I’m hoping to some day. The question is an either/or choice which leaves out the important avenue of small publishers. My first three books were published by a small/medium publisher and I love what they bring to the table, especially their editorial and marketing efforts. I’m not yet at a point where I’d even want to consider doing it all on my own. I’m not sure I’ll ever be at that point, but hey, you never know.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It took about eight months, a bit longer than usual for me. Then I had to do a significant re-write when I realized, with the help of my first reader, that it had veered into territory where I didn’t really want it to go. It’s essentially finished but I’m trying to decide on some POV and structural issues and am hopeful that I’ll soon be done waffling.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
There are a lot of books out there that cover a multitude of aspects of World War Two, but I’m not aware of any fiction set in POW camps in Canada (there are a few nonfiction titles on the subject). Because the story involves the interaction between a German POW and a Canadian (British?) civilian, it might possibly be compared to Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene, but that’s a stretch because the stories are quite different.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve already touched on this when talking about where the ideas came from. I can add that the POW part of the story came from a fascination with the fact that huge numbers of German POWs were sent to Canada by the British for a number of reasons – not having the resources to feed all those prisoners, but also not wanting a “fifth column” ready to fight against them should Germany successfully invade England. Most people have no idea that the two largest POW camps in Canada were in southern Alberta.

Years ago, a library patron mentioned to me in passing that he remembers there being German prisoners who worked at a logging camp by the small town of Kinuso, AB, which was very close to where I grew up. The thought that POWs worked in northern Alberta immediately fascinated me. I had no actual proof of this casual statement until I visited the archives in Lethbridge, AB, and did some digging. The second I knew that German POWs actually went to northern Alberta to work in logging camps, I knew I wanted to write a story about it.

As a bonus, it now means my sister can no longer ask why I don’t have any stories set in, as she puts it, “our part of the world.”

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Well, I’m always up for a story set in WWII, especially one that explores a different aspect of the era, but if you need more than that… Culture clash! Shakespeare in the bush! Lumberjacks! (ps: I’ve now used my allotment of exclamation marks for the year.)

***I am tagging Karen Krossing, Erin Bow, KC DyerMaureen Bush, and (dearly-loved token American) Janni Lee Simner. This is just a sampling of authors I’d like to hear from about their current or next projects. If you aren’t tagged but want to complete the questionnaire, let me know when you have because I’d love to read about your project.

Addendum: Karen Krossing responded to the questionnaire here.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Next Big Thing: what I’m working on now.

  1. Pingback: Calla | calla

  2. gabe says:

    This sounds really interesting. A friend of mine’s dad was a German POW near Portage la Prairie. The Hutterites would bring chicken to the prisoners. My friend’s dad befriended at least one of the Hutterites, and when he later immigrated to Canada in the 50s, that friendship continued. I love the war stories.

    • admin says:

      From what I’ve read, quite a few POWs became friends with Canadians, often with ones they worked for. I think it speaks of a person’s character when he/she can look past a label or mask (like “enemy”) and see the actual person.

  3. Pingback: Calla - Next big thing: What I’m working on now…