What’s a Montana Mom doing writing war stories? (read part 1 here)
The truth is, when I first started writing military fiction my passion for WWII history confused many people. You see, before that I wrote mostly parenting articles. But then everything changed.
In 2000, when I was on vacation, I heard the stories of twenty-three American soldiers liberating Mauthausen and Gusen concentration camps in Austria. The story compelled me so much that I contacted the 11th Armored Division and asked if any of those men were willing to be interviewed. They were! I was invited to attend their annual reunion and I interviewed dozens of men–six who took part of the liberation. I also interviewed many others soldiers who’d arrived with 24-hours. They also helped the former prisoners.
When I started writing about them, these men were thankful that there was someone interested in THEIR stories. I spent five days with them at their reunion, and then I kept in touch with them through letters, phone calls, and email. These men helped me every step of the way. They still do!
I also received help from the archives on their division’s website. You can read more about the history of the 11th Armored Division here: http://www.11tharmoreddivision.com/
In addition to the research from the men and the archives, I read dozens and dozens of books and articles about this time in history. I also read the memoirs that many of the men had written themselves.
After that, I visited Austria the following year and attended the liberation celebration at Mauthausen Concentration Camp, where there were tens of thousands of people in attendance. At the liberation celebration I also interviewed people who’d lived around the camp during the war. I even spoke with survivors.
I’ve continued to keep in contact with the veterans—those who are still around–and I consider them my dear friends. Some of the men have even read my novels prior to publication to make sure I got it right. They were very pleased with the result and heartily endorsed my books!
I went on to write more historical romance novels and with each one I connected with WWII veterans and veterans from The Spanish Civil War. I feel honored to write their stories. And although my characters are fictionalized, many of their experiences are true experiences from the men who served.