Monday, June 4, 2018

Interview with novelist Madeleine Romeyer Dherbey

Author Madeleine Romeyer Dherbey is with me today and we’re talking about her new WWII historical, The Fortress.

During her virtual book tour, Madeleine will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too.

Madeleine Romeyer Dherbey was born in the French Alps, moved to the United States twenty-five years later, and currently lives in the mountains of Virginia with her husband, two daughters, and Mikko.

Welcome, Madeleine. Please share a little bit about your current release.
It is a fiction take on the Resistance in the Vercors, a World War Two story told from the perspective of common people, whose characters and emotions create the sense of time and space that brings history to life. One of them, Alix, is thrust into the world of La RĂ©sistance after her father’s death, and learns that there are no choices ahead of her that don’t mean life or death. As her country braces for the seismic shock of D-day, Alix faces unrelenting violence, unforeseen possibilities, and a dangerous leader named Marc. Marc is a complicated man fighting many inner demons, who doesn’t not like to share control, and especially not with an eighteen year-old girl. The story feeds on biographical elements and the political swamp that is France right before D-Day, an environment I know inside-out, and which I think contributes to make the tale a true Historical.

What inspired you to write this book?
My own family history. Three of my uncles were condemned to death for collaborating with the Vichy government, a puppet of the Nazis. Their sentences were eventually commuted to national disgrace, and ten years of forced labor—thanks to my father, who had fought with honor during the war and was able to litigate a lighter sentence with the subsequent political swamp of the liberation. My uncles had to leave the area to avoid being murdered, but we stayed. It would be too long to explain the kind of resentment and mistrust that centuries of hardship and war can breed in a small community, but to summarize the situation, we were the children of traitors to the nation, born on the wrong side of glory. I grew up a collaborator’s daughter, a hard legacy to overcome in a community mauled by four years of occupation and violence, and seventy years later, my last name remains associated with the destruction of the C2 Maquis in Malleval. Yet the whole experience had a strangely strengthening effect on me. It gave me roots, a documented past, an inheritance of sorts, that made me want to understand what tears a nation apart, what makes people turn against their country, their neighbors, and themselves sometimes.

Here is the part where Alix and Marc, the two protagonists who drive the tension in the story, decide that a fight is better than the relationship they cannot have.

“Is that mint?” Marc asked. “At home, we mix it up with heather and those little blue flowers. I think they were called…”
“I only like mint.”
“Nothing wrong with mint.” He waited for her to say something else, something that would ease the tension he felt in the room, but she remained silent. She must be a little shaken, he thought. That’s understandable. “Were you able to get rid of the body?” he asked gently.
“Yes. Why are you here?”
He went up to the little window and lit a cigarette before answering. There was no mistaking the animosity in her tone. I have to fix her fuck-up, and she’s angry? At me? He sucked the smoke deeply into his lungs. “You know exactly why I’m here. What you did today will impact—and possibly kill—many people. It will help if we don’t argue about it.”
“You’re the one who’s mad. I can see it.”
“I’m not very happy, but that’s not the point.”
 “Don’t you ever sleep at night?”
 “Not much. It’s easier to hike in the dark. You can’t see the incline, you can always pretend that it’s flat. What about you? Having nightmares?”
 “Not at all,” she lied. “I would do it again.”
“Ah. The Ice Fairy. I remember.” He could feel a headache coming. “Next time I have a hit job, I’ll make sure to ask you first. At least you’re not wasting bullets.” He had gone to the hidden phone and was checking its functioning as he spoke. “What’s your next project? Anyone in mind?”
“Maybe,” she shrugged. “Do you want to know who it is?”
No, not really, he thought. He couldn’t ease the suspicion that he might be on her revenge list. She had once said that she didn’t hate him, but who could trust her? Maybe she had planned something terrible, like cooking him in the sawmill kiln. He almost made a joke of it, and thought better. She never understood his jokes, anyway. “You owe me an explanation,” he said instead. “I don’t remember asking you to murder a Nazi officer. You want to tell me why you didn’t discuss it with me?”
“It happened too fast. And it couldn’t be helped anyway. Even Rieder knew that, I saw it on his face, then, when it happened.” She lowered her forehead like a stubborn child ready to take a beating. “I didn’t go looking for him. He came after me, and as you know, Nazis don’t give you a lot of room to negotiate.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
My agent said I should do a sequel, but I think I’ve said everything I had to say on the subject, so I am working on the contemporary tale of a young school teacher who is entrapped in a scheme to cast her as a terrorist. There are strong political and religious themes, as well as a romantic element. I guess you could call it a tale of modern resistance.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I don’t identify as a writer. I am a wife, a mother, a teacher. I am Christian, I am a woman—but not a feminist. In fact, I am nothing that ends in ist, unless it’s individualist. Yet I have to admit that writing this book was an amazing experience. I discovered more about myself and the world than all my years spent in college.

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 an English and French teacher, but my call is special education. My students are non-verbal, a real challenge for someone who lives to share ideas. The positive side is that I won’t get in trouble with my school district for jumping on my soap box and voicing politically incorrect ideas. I like to work, it provides a wealth of details and ideas I can adapt to my stories, particularly the MS I’m working on now. I am also busy with four acres of forest to clear, two daughters, two dogs, and a lot of reading. I write here and there, sometimes just a few lines, sometimes a whole chapter, and never stress about it. It must always remain a pleasure.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m sure it’s visual, although I can’t take any credit for that. The Vercors mountains are so breathtaking a backdrop, that they would give an absolute dimension to any story. I see the cliffs first, and they turn into some sort of secret well in the desert, the fount of all beauty, the Aristotelian Final Cause of all human experience.

For me, oui?

And that’s what I had to share by the way, a place so unbelievably beautiful that people from all over Europe decided it was where they would make their last stand and die to save France from the Nazis.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I had no idea! Growing up in France was not professionally motivating, given the chronic unemployment rate and the pervasive de-culturation atmosphere, and all I wanted was to travel anyway. A good thing since it took me to the United States, a place that happens to be personally and professionally motivating, and where I found the inspiration to work hard, study, and write a book, even though I am not a writer, or even a native English speaker. America is the place where anything is possible, because when things don’t work out one way, the options are endless.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I put my heart and soul into this book, and I hope you enjoy it half as much as I enjoyed writing it.


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Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Rita Wray said...

Sounds like a good book.

Victoria Alexander said...

Great post, I enjoyed reading it!

Cali W. said...

Thanks for the giveaway; I like the excerpt. :)

Dale Wilken said...

Sounds great.

Nikolina said...

I really enjoyed reading your amazing interview, thank you!

ellen_levickis said...

I wish you success on your tour.

ellen_levickis said...

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

ellen_levickis said...

How many hours a day do you write?