All the heroes in my historical fiction novels are modeled after the men I interviewed. I took many of their stories, and I used them in my novel. I can literally flip through the chapters and think: This is Pete’s story. This is Charlie’s story … Not only did I use some of their experiences, I also used a lot of their emotions, feelings, thoughts, and internal struggles to make the story as true-to-life as possible. The men I’ve modeled my stories after aren’t well-known, but their stories were important for me to capture.
One cool thing about connecting with real people is the fact they help with everything—even military jargon. I asked the veterans to give me the correct terms of things I was describing throughout the book. For my WWII novels that take place in B-17 bombers and pursuit planes, I had former pilots give me specific details. I find this helps the story ring true!
One of the best things about writing these novels is getting notes from readers who tell me that they better understand history because of my work. It makes me feel like these fiction stories are honoring the men who served! I also love the fact that even though my first WWII novel was published in 2003 people are still reading the books and enjoying them. Just a few months ago I got a note from a woman who read (and loved) From Dust and Ashes. Even though the veterans are passing away I am thrilled their stories live on.
I’m continually getting emails or letters from readers who ask me when my next WWII novel is come out. You’re in luck. The Swiss Courier (co-written with Mike Yorkey) came out last month, and I’m working on ideas for future books.
Lately I’ve seen a lot of historical romance novels in print. I hope the trend will continue to involve WWII. It’s such a fascinating time in history! We need to know these stories. We need to honor the heroes by understand what they lived through, and served for.