Friday, June 6, 2014

Interview with historical romance author Glen Hierlmeier

Today's guest author writes historical romances. Glen Hierlmeier is here to talk about his newest novel, Honor and Innocence: Against the Tides of War.

Glen graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, then earned a Masters of Business Administration at The University of Wisconsin at Madison. He served in the US Air Force on the Manned Orbiting Laboratory space exploration program and on the design phase of the development of the F-15 fighter aircraft. After leaving the Air Force, Glen returned to Wisconsin and became Vice President of the largest bank in his home state, First Wisconsin National Bank. In 1979, he moved on to become President and CEO of several real estate development and management companies. Glen retired in 2009 to devote full time to his grandchildren and his writing. Glen is the author of Honor and Innocence, We Had to Live: We Had No Choice…, and Thoughts From Yesterday: Moments to Remember.

Welcome, Glen. Please tell us about your current release, Honor & Innocence: Against the Tides of War
Every romance has a dark side. When that dark side is war, hell has no mercy. Through hardship and suffering, the bond of love grows strong.

Hank Fischer is drafted into the American Army soon after high school graduation in 1945, beginning a six month saga of intrigue, horror, and love that takes him from his southern Wisconsin home to Texas, then Germany, Switzerland, Greece, and Singapore, revealing along the way the devastating truth of the tragic consequences of war. In the Texas prisoner of war camp where Germans were interned, a youthful and naïve Hank is targeted by Haynes who becomes his lifelong tormentor, but he also begins his closest, nearly unimaginable lifelong friendship with Max, a German prisoner of war under his supervision, whose twin sister, Roberta, back in their German homeland, is destined to become the love of his life.

Hank is drawn into a dangerous web of intrigue by the common heritage he shares with Max, a prisoner of war being returned to his homeland, and the intense love he finds with Roberta. Because of their ties to the SS through their father, a senior Nazi official hand-selected by Adolph Hitler himself, Max and Roberta are pursued by the Intelligence Forces of the American and British Occupation. Hank is faced with the colossal choice between his allegiance to the U.S. Army and his love for Roberta. Hank chooses to collaborate with Max and free Roberta from a British prison camp, beginning a desperate flight through war-torn Germany where they witness first-hand the ravages of post –war Europe, while staying perilously ahead of pursuing forces. Their flight takes them to a secret refuge in the mountains of neutral Switzerland where Lazlo, a Hungarian born war-time profiteer provides the opportunity for their escape.

Sadly leaving Max behind in Switzerland, they set out for the port city of Trieste by train, only to survive an attack by post-war Italian Army pirates, then sail the seas on a merchant ship with a modern day Greek philosopher, Captain Koz, to search out hidden treasure in a small Greek village. Again forced to flee, Captain Koz helps them find refuge across the Indian Ocean, in Singapore, only to once again face the bane of powerful men…another war-torn country. Their very survival hangs in the delicate balance between their powerful love and will to live, and evil men’s violent quest for power and wealth. Their amazing journey, immersed in horrors of war, bombed-out cities, dead bodies, displaced person by the millions, desperation and hopelessness, give the reader a rare look at the despair of victims of the hubris of men seeking power for the sake of power, amidst their powerful love story.

What inspired you to write this book?
In researching my first book, a story based on my ancestry, I spoke by telephone extensively with my oldest brother, Hank, who was born in 1927, and was at the time the oldest living member of my family. During our conversations, he relayed to me some stories of his experiences as a draftee into the Army late in WW2, and his service with the Occupation Force in Europe. I was surprised to find from him that there were over 700 prisoner of war camps in the USA for German and Italian prisoners. I knew a lot about the internment of Japanese in California, but had never heard about the Germans and Italians. 

One story he related to me stuck in my mind and as I researched more about the camps and the post-war experience, I realized that there is a lot of history of that period that is not included in the history texts. People don’t generally know about the German and Italian camps, and assume that since the war was over, the suffering stopped, but it was nothing like that. I decided to tell a story about a soldier based on my brother who experienced the occupation and recovery of Europe from a personal perspective, including him falling in love with the twin sister of a German prisoner he befriended on the voyage back to Germany. Through their story I am able to portray the travesty wreaked on the people of Europe and the Far East in a very sensitive and dramatic way through their experiences as lovers with a lot in common, who have to flee to find a place where they can find peace and be accepted in a very cruel, uncaring world.

Chapter 23
…and Forever
There was little rest for Hank again that night. His heart and his mind were being pulled in different directions. He had made commitments to Max and Oliver, then to Captain Stein, and now to Roberta. He had always been trusted by everyone, a pillar of integrity. Now, he would surely destroy that reputation. As he tossed and turned, and scolded himself for getting himself into such a quandary, his thoughts kept going back to Roberta, warm thoughts full of wonder and excitement. But, as the night progressed, doubts began to creep into his head.
Hank couldn’t deny how he felt; he felt fantastic, incredible. He had met the girl of his dreams---love at first sight. He couldn’t wait to see her again. She was everything he had always imagined she would be, everything he hoped for in a woman. Yet, he began to wonder, is this real? Could it be possible for two people to be in love when they’ve only known each other for two days? Was he being foolish? Had the events of the past five months and his absence from the comforts of home made him vulnerable in a dangerous way? A frightful pang of fear shot through his gut as he thought: Is she just using me? Does she see me as her way out of confinement? Am I being fooled by her? Maybe she doesn’t care about me at all; she only needs me to get what she really wants. Why should I trust her? I don’t really know her. Oh, what a fool I must be to fall for the first beautiful woman who shows an interest in me, who caresses me. Am I that vulnerable? Am I that foolish?
Thoughts of Roberta dazzled and confused him; nothing in his young life had ever left him so unsure of himself. No amount of concentration overcame the cascade of emotions flooding his chest. He tossed and turned long into the night, soaked his pillow through with his sweat, though he wasn’t warm, and felt his pulse exploding his temples; alternating between visions of pure, romantic love and sheer foolishness. The pull on his heart skidded back and forth like a tug of war. That is…until he recalled his mother’s words, spoken on his eighteenth birthday, just after a high school sweetheart informed him that another man had won her heart.
Hank, you are such a precious son. I adore you. I am sad when you are sad, but you must know this pain you feel will pass. Sometimes love is fleeting, it may disappear as quickly as it appears. You have your whole life ahead of you. I know you will meet the woman who will love you completely, and for your lifetime. I have no doubt. Love between a man and a woman cannot be easily defined; love comes in many forms and is never the same for everyone. Almost always love charges into your life like a cosmic experience, even magical, it is so difficult to predict or understand. Sometimes that special feeling in your heart really is true love---sometimes not. When love comes suddenly, we can be swept off our feet. It’s a dazzling experience that confuses us. That’s often called love at first sight, but it’s never really love at first sight. If it happens to you, don’t take it for granted, it’s very special and you won’t want to lose it. It’s one of the best feelings you will ever have, and I believe the best beginning for true love.
Don’t be deceived, true love has to be built; it takes a lot of hard work and may take a very long time. When two people stop working on their love, it fades, no matter if it’s the first month, the first year, the tenth or the twenty-fifth. There will always be difficulties and complications, that’s how life is, not just marriage. Use those difficulties to work on making your marriage stronger. Don’t expect not to have challenges, welcome them and be ready to take them on together. Everything really worthwhile in your life will require hard work. Your marriage is the one very most worthwhile jewel you will ever have.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I have had many very positive comments about Honor & Innocence, including that they loved the characters and wanted to know more about them. One such character is Lazlo Floznik, a Hungarian refugee who found a safe harbor in Zurich, Switzerland during the war, aiding others to escape Germany and countries dominated by the Nazis. I decided there was much more to tell of the story, so I am writing a novel with Lazlo as the main character. Through his family ancestry I will bring in scenes from WWI, beginning in 1914, to augment and expand the first book. Lazlo will bring a completely unique perspective to the story as he faces tremendous obstacle in his quest to save lives.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
In high school, my advanced placement English and literature teacher, Ms. Elizabeth Ritzmann convinced me that I could and should write. Unfortunately, my education and career took me in a different direction, but my writing skills proved invaluable during my business career. I have often been called upon to be the “writer”, and have always considered myself to be accomplished. I have thought for nearly my entire adult life that in my later chapters of life I should write.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am committed full time to my writing, and realize that to be successful I have to be a combination of a creative writer, an executive, and a marketer, all skills I have honed over a 45+ year career in business. I augment my writing life with activities involving our four children and ten grandchildren. My wife and I are also avid bicyclists specializing in rail-trail rides through the west and southwest United States.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have a large collection of fine writing pens. I often get started on a new project, chapter, or passage by choosing one of them, filling it with fresh ink, then imagining myself to be a great writer, just as Dostoevsky, sitting down to a writing desk with a fresh page and a new adventure.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
The primary focus in my family was athletics and outdoor sports. I played them all and was very successful. They got me an excellent education. Fortunately, I was heavily influenced by two great high school teachers; one, Ms. Ritzmann as I have described above: and, a second, Ms. Darlene McCormick, who insisted I also sing. While my sports scholarship got me my education, and my education led me into business, I have always harbored the feeling that my creative abilities were not being given full opportunity. Now is my time to write, and maybe sing a little, too!

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Interesting places you will learn about in the book:

There are numerous fascinating locations where the story takes place as it moves from Wisconsin to Mineral Springs, Texas, to Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Singapore, and Australia. I wanted to give the reader a perspective of what was happening in each of those places post-war, while confronting Hank and Roberta with obstacles unique to those locations.

The highlights for me, those places I would most like to see, are as follows: 
  • Hamburg, Germany – to see what remains of the devastation of the city
  • Zurich, Switzerland – to see the grandeur of Lake Zurich, the mountains, and stay at The Dolder Grand Hotel where Hank and Roberta met Lazlo.
  • Casa dei Pagani, in the mountains of Italy – a serene mountain location with a mystical past
  • Kapsia, Greece – the romantic retreat in the Greek countryside south of Athens
  • Singapore – to look for Puteh


Thank you for being here today, Glen and giving us a glimpse into your writing life. 

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