Genevieve Graham on the Inevitability of Writing About Nazis.


I’m sensing a theme with my questions. I can’t help it. I’ve always been curious about a book’s conception and giving it the story its life. So my questions with the authors that stop by my blog are always about the process involved. Today’s Timeless Tour stop is pretty much the same. I have Ms. Genevieve Graham, whose work, Come From Away just came out this past Tuesday. You can read my review of her book here.

What kind of research is involved in writing your stories?

Approximately fifty per cent of the time it takes for me to write a book (eight to ten months) is spent on research, so where is all that time being spent? Well, once I’ve chosen my topic, my first stop is always the library. Those folks know what I’m going to write about before anyone else does. Fortunately, they’re very understanding when I forget to renew … I take out non-fiction books, some fiction books—though in general I don’t read many of those because I don’t want to risk being influenced, and even some books written for children. I’m not very good, to be perfectly honest, with straight non-fiction. Just like when I was in high school, dry facts tend to put me to sleep. But I glean all I can from them, then I move on to the internet. The most wonderful things about the internet are a) the plethora of sites you can find on specific items/events/time periods/people b) the wonderful, dedicated contacts you can make online, and c) the Rabbit Hole. Of course the downsides of the internet are a) conflicting information and b) too many distractions. All that means is that I have to dig deeper to confirm the truth … and I need to shut down facebook.

In addition to the initial research I’ve done up front, my fact-finding continues throughout the creation of the book. My characters lead me along the story, then they stop short and point out a historical fact that requires my attention. For example, if someone needs to sail somewhere, what kind of ship was it on? Where were the ports of departure and arrival? How many people were on that ship? What did they eat? Where did they sleep? Those details may sound minute, but they are actually what bring a story alive. Anyone can look up dates and names and places, but “the devil’s in the details”, as they say.

You seem to have a love for the Canadian East Coast and particularly set in that period. Do you think you would be inspired to take your stories elsewhere?

The first three books I wrote were set in 1745 and took place in Scotland and the colonies. That was because my initial inspiration to write happened after I read the Outlander series over and over again, and I was fascinated by that time period. Then my family and I moved from Calgary to Nova Scotia in 2008, and everywhere I looked I came into contact with history. I wanted to learn about it, and when I write my books my characters will experience this history first hand, with me by their side.“Tides of Honour” happened because I didn’t know anything about the Halifax Explosion until I moved here, and digging into the Explosion automatically led to learning about WW1. “Promises to Keep” came along after my husband and I visited the Grand Pré Historical Site and in my head, the incredible story of the Acadian Expulsion was crying out to be told. “Come From Away” actually began because so many of my readers asked (and I was wondering, too) what happened to the Baker family after “Tides of Honour”. I realized the children from the first book would have grown up and become a part of the next world war. I needed to know how Danny would react, considering his own deep, painful memories of war, but the story (as usual) took on a life of its own and the spotlight went to the younger generation instead.

Would I be inspired to take my stories elsewhere? Definitely! I already am. My plan is to write Canadian Historical Fiction about all regions in Canada. The next book will be set in the West with the early Mounties and the Klondike Gold Rush, then I have at least one story set in Ontario (already in the works). As recently as yesterday I saw a news article that may inspire yet another Ontario book. I’m always open to suggestions!

Lately, there’s been a backlash on authors writing a romance novel that features a Nazi soldier. Was this a factor in making your character an ex-Nazi?

I actually had no idea there was a backlash. Why? I have a couple of issues on that, now that you ask. First off, I don’t consider my books to be “romance”. Yes they are love stories, but they are within the Historical Fiction framework (you’ll notice I don’t write sex – I’ve tried, but it always seems so cheesy when I’m reading it after!). And since they are Historical Fiction, it is imperative that I stick to the truths of history. Otherwise, why not just call it fiction? And well, Nazis were a part of history that simply cannot – and should not – be forgotten. So no, that wasn’t why Rudi ended up an “ex-Nazi”. Rudi was who he was because of his upbringing, then he adjusted due to the situation that landed him in Nova Scotia. Would he have been an ex-Nazi if he hadn’t ended up here? Who knows. We know he was uncomfortable with some of the things he’d seen, heard, and done, but he was raised to be loyal to the military. It would have taken something extreme to make him question everything.

ADDENDUM: “Backlash” may be the wrong word to use. But it’s come to my attention a novel featuring a Nazi romantic hero usually gets the quirk of a brow at the least. I have read Come From Away and agree that Rudi was the way he was because of how he was raised. I sent this question before I had a full grasp of Rudi’s character. I would’ve omitted this question & Ms. Graham’s answer but I feel it would be remiss of me.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Genevieve!