Our interview today is with David-Michael Harding the author of How Angels Die (rated 4.6 stars on 34 reviews), a historical fiction novel and thriller. Before the interview a book description: Two sisters take different roads in their work for the French Resistance during World War II. Claire is an active guerrilla fighter while Monique seduces German officers to learn military secrets from bedroom pillows. Love enters in for both as battles rage in their family over the morality of killing vs. sex while, unknown to them all, D-Day rapidly approaches.
How Angels Die is a highly dramatic novel with very strong female protagonists. The story is rife with action, conflict, and intrigue. Through it all, the characters struggle with devotion to family, country, cause, and oneself. The reader is effortlessly drawn along the storyline and feels the impact of the events surrounding the sisters. Compassion for the characters, German as well as French, runs deep and captures the imagination as coastal war-torn France comes alive on the pages. More than a war story, How Angels Die (WGA registered/125K wds) compels its readers to face the decision-making processes that bring us to where we are and who we are. It also asks questions of the mind that expose prejudices and the eventual regret that follows.
“In How Angels Die Harding delivers an edge of the seat read as he skillfully summarizes the events and pain of years of conflict during the Nazi occupation of France into ninety-six gut wrenching, mesmerizing hours.” David Roth, Tampa Writing Examiner: http://www.examiner.com/writing-in-tampa-bay/how-angels-die-review
What was unique about the setting of the book and how did it enhance or take away from the story? There are many layers of complexity available in German occupied France during WW2. The invading gray colors impact the French countryside. Scarred cities and fields provide the backdrop. The damp days of early June 1944 round out the setting.
What specific themes did the author emphasize throughout the novel? What do you think he or she is trying to get across to the reader?
The devastating personal cost and far reaching affect of war. The story strips away any glamour pushes the reader’s face into the reality. The desensitization of modern day long distance war is overcome.
Do the characters seem real and believable? Can you relate to their predicaments? To what extent do they remind you of yourself or someone you know?
The sibling sister protagonists remind anyone with family of both the rivalry and comfortable banter that exists. The descriptions and personalization leads you to feel their pain and pleasure. You see the dilemmas and root for them like you do your own family.
How do characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story? What events trigger such changes?
The sisters’ reaction to the occupation and their work for the Resistance is constant however, events push them to take harsh stances in defense of their different tactics. This increases the chasm that between the two and ultimately their parents. The divide is rooted in love – an odd foundation for the pain that is to come.
In what ways do the events in the books reveal evidence of the author’s world view?
The unseen, unspoken devastation of war.
Did certain parts of the book make you uncomfortable? If so, why did you feel that way? Did this lead to a new understanding or awareness of some aspect of your life you might not have thought about before?
The writing shattered any glamorous notion I had of battle and the medals my family had won.
Was there a basis for your story? A previous experience? Something else?
I recorded conversations with my father and uncles who served in France prior, during, and following the Normandy invasion.
What research did you have to perform to back up your story? Any research which really opened your eyes or gave you new respect for a topic or profession?
The research was as time consuming as the writing. A story such as this must be impeccable in its documentation of the facts and personalities of the time, or it will derail itself. This is the cornerstone of all historical fiction. I was both amazed and heart broken by the toll the women of the French Resistance were willing to pay for liberty.
What is your method for writing a book? A certain amount of hours every day? A certain routine? Are you character/story builder or an outliner or some other method?
With historical fiction – I research the people and period. Then I generate my characters and in my mind’s eye, drop them in the true events of the day. From there, I eavesdrop and write down what they say and do, chronicling their reaction and interaction to the actual events. It is much like writing what you hear and see as though I were watching a film. I write daily as the characters are ‘acting’ in my mind and I have to get their words on paper. J
How do you get past writers block or distractions like the internet?
I learned a trick from Hemingway’s letters. He said to never drain the well entirely. Always leave something. If you end on a thought, phrase, or layer of the story when you know what will come next, you always have a starting point the next day. Also, my style of ‘eavesdropping’ lends itself to dialogue and action as my characters seldom sit still. Again, I place them in the time and place and they react.
Favorite book from childhood.
To Kill a Mockingbird
What’s on your desk? Can you see your desk? Describe what you see when you look around.
I have photographs of John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway among my grandchildren. I often glance up to the crowd and ask if such and such makes sense! I also place several pieces of memorabilia from the period I am writing about on my desk. For HOW ANGELS DIE I had photos of my family in France, pictures of women Resistance fighters, and both Allied and German military artifacts.
Get your copy of How Angels Die on Amazon.