Lisa's Thoughts on Birch Blackguards
My fiction writing projects up until November 2013 had been a series of ten medieval young-adult romance novels. I enjoy writing those immensely, to bring a world of gentle heroes and compassionate heroines to this audience. Then, in November, a number of people encouraged me to give National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) a try. This is a fun project where you begin on November 1st, end on November 30th, and create a book within that time period. Those who encouraged me to try NaNoWriMo suggested I do another genre for my project. That way it was a "real challenge" and not me simply writing book 11 in a style I knew quite well. I gave that some thought and agreed, deciding on doing a modern murder mystery. I did it in a chapter-a-day style where the locations were ones I visited, to keep them fresh and vibrant.
That book, Aspen Allegations, earned a gold medal from the IPPY awards.
I was honored and humbled by this award. I decided I should do a sequel. Rather than just write about November again, which I had covered quite thoroughly, I decided to move the storyline to another season - August. This way I could showcase another aspect of Sutton's beauty. At the time, I had also become quite intrigued by the decaying Sutton drive-in. The drive-in had shut down back in 1996 and had been slowly falling apart ever since. It seemed the perfect location to find a dead body. I then investigated when the drive-in opened, to see what might have been playing at the time.
The more I got into the movies of the time - Crossfire and A Gentleman's Agreement with their strong messages of anti-semetism - the more I knew I wanted to address this. Especially when my research into the Jewish population and related issues in the Worcester area revealed that a person currently living in Sutton had been sentenced to deportation due to issues tracing back to a Nazi concentration camp.
This connected to my own history. My mother's side of the family is from Ukraine. During World War II the Germans rounded up anybody they could in order to put them to work - Jews, Catholics, anybody. While my family was Catholic, they were taken with the rest. My mother's uncle, Vasil, was sent to work in the coal mines. He tried to escape, was captured, and was sent to the concentration camps. My grandmother, Eva, remembers having nightmares about the horrors he was suffering. Then, one night, she felt the ghost of Vasil came to her. He apologized, saying he just couldn't last any longer - that he had starved to death. Shortly after that Eva received news that her younger brother had indeed died.
As recently as February, 2104, art works stolen by the Nazis were being recovered. So even now there are repercussions of actions done in the Nazi era which resonate and impact those who were traumatized by those days. These are not issues of the "distant past" like the Civil War. They are our near-history, and the actions of those people still are felt by those whose family members survived or perished in those years.
I wanted my story to reflect how these kinds of prejudices can impact lives.
Feel free to ask me if you have any questions about the locations or storyline.
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