It's my pleasure to welcome Lee to 'Behind Every Story.' I'm excited to learn more about her newest novel, titled 'A Secret Life.'
WWII is the new Amish. This new genre is becoming quite popular. As the WWII veterans are rapidly dying, the war moves into the classification of historical. What prompted you to write this story?
I’ve never been a history buff. Biology and chemistry, such logical sciences, pushed away any desire to study history, politics, and especially wars. My husband is quite the opposite, and had always wanted to visit the European battlefields where his father fought. The book and TV series Band of Brothers brought that desire to a slow burn. Robin Sink McClelland, the daughter of Col. Robert Sink, Regimental Commander of the Parachute Infantry Regiment featured in Band of Brothers, is a personal friend. Having never traveled out of the US, Robin organized a private tour to visit the area where Col. Sink fought. We were invited to join the tour, which became a remarkable, world-expanding experience. I had toured Germany several times and used to speak the language, but this trip changed my understanding of Europe, its history, and World War II. I simply had to write a story about fictional characters caught in that scene.
You’ve never written a historical novel before. Does this represent a change in your genre for the future?
No, I’m returning to contemporary fiction. The intensive research necessary to write A Secret Life totally involved me for more than a year, and I’m so glad I did it. I have a renewed appreciation for the immense sacrifice required to keep America free from foreign rule.
While other WWII novels are written from the perspective of American soldiers and the women who fall in love with them, the central character of A Secret Life is a young German man. Why did you take that approach?
As a person who has lived in seven countries and traveled to more than forty-five, I felt that the attribute I could offer readers was a foreign view. I walked the hills in this story, I ate German food, spoke German, and toured the great cities of Europe. And while most war novels show Germans only as detestable Nazis, I knew and loved Germans who suffered terribly under Hitler. Without becoming too graphic, I wanted to show that there is another side to this beautiful country.
Romance novels, almost by definition, begin with a man and woman who must fall in love, but they have compelling reasons why they shouldn't. And then they do, and the story ends. Again, yours is different. Why did you break the pattern?
Can you imagine marrying someone who is not at all who you thought? The sweet love story covers a profound deception. The compromises of marriage are based on faith in the person and personality represented during the courtship. What if all that were totally false? Could love survive? Would God even bless such a marriage? The development of the character Karl—who he is, what he believes, and his purpose in life—continues to play out out after his marriage. He grows, strengthens, and takes control after his return to Germany. He is no longer reacting to events; he is making them happen. That’s when Karl becomes the hero of his own story.
You say that every novel you write is inspirational. How do you work that into a novel about war?
There is no pulpit event, no point at which action stops and I, the author, hop up on a soapbox and explain Jesus and salvation. It’s just there. My characters live in the Christian worldview. Karl comes from a Christian family, though his faith has not been tested as it will be. His mother, an American from a Jewish family, converted before she met her husband, and her faith runs deep. Karl’s relationship with God deepens as he perseveres, as he learns what love is. His faith is the foundation of his life, as it is for his wife Grace, and as it is for us.
One final question: you self-published three books before this one, which has a traditional publisher, the Inspirational line of Prism Book Group. Why the switch?
The Most Excellent Adventure, a collection of experiences—mostly humorous—all over the world, was first published in Brazil. Later I edited it and published through Amazon. Then I wrote the first novel, Love’s Second Verse, almost as on-the-job training. The plot involves a woman working as an IT specialist in the world largest international bank (go figure). As technology rapidly advanced, the story line was becoming dated. I had to either publish it right away or toss it. The third book, Flying for Jesus, is totally autobiographical, a nonprofit venture to give testimony to God for our amazing years as missionaries in Brazil. These are all available through Amazon.com. But my goal to be traditionally published is rooted in the desire to be recognized as a worthy novelist. I want to be admitted into the ACFW Conference courses for “published” authors—published by ACFW recognized publishers. It’s a gratifying professional step.
A romantic excerpt from the courtship of Karl, living as the American Henry:
“If I were wealthy, would your father consider me a better prospect for his only daughter?”
She bent her head. “It’s terrible to say, but I think so. He wants me to marry a ‘good provider.’ Sometimes he even tries to match me up with guys he meets in his business.”
Henry abhorred the thought of losing her to another man like grit in his teeth. He took both her hands in his and locked eyes with his love. “Someday, Grace, I will be wealthy. I will be the son-in-law your father respects.”
She drew a sudden breath.
His words were tantamount to a proposal of marriage.
He watched her recover from mild shock, and attempted to do the same. In truth, he had declared his intention.
She looked down with a blush. Then she leaned toward him. “Money isn’t important to me. I love you. We’ll make it fine. I’ll work…”
“You won’t have to, my sweet.” In an echo from the past, he borrowed Father’s words. “I have a plan.”
Her smile opened her expression as if in wonder. Whatever her thoughts, pleasure ran through them.
He found courage to continue. “I don’t know how long it will take, but I will not dally.”