Typically I’m not a big fan of doing too much talking about a writing project as I feel it saps the creativity that one needs to actually finish said project. I’ll make an exception here, mainly since I’ve alluded to it in another post which you can find here. In fact, you might want to read that one first as it will give you some historical background. So….here is the plot in a nutshell:
Two men. Two women. One night. Michael, a bomber pilot, proposed to Grace, but now fears leaving her a widow. Grace has a secret past that could change their relationship forever, but she can’t tell him. At least not yet. A thousand miles away in Berlin, Karl, a grizzled veteran of war both war and the fire service, takes responsibility for managing a crew of teenagers, the last line of defense against British bombers. On a routine call, he meets Ursula and falls in love, unaware she holds a deadly secret of her own. In the space of an hour, four lives clash while a city burns. Secrets are exposed and lives change forever.
That’s it, more or less. I’m not very good at writing “blurbs” like this. I’m better at the story itself or at describing it verbally. Research wise, I draw on interviews I conducted in graduate school, a whole host of books (my personal World War 2 collection numbers several hundred volumes), some excellent documentaries, and even some of my own experiences as a firefighter. Obviously when writing any historical piece, be it fiction or non, you owe it to those who lived through the events to get it as “right” as you can. Certain pieces can be dramatized, if you will, but big events have to happen as they really did. You can’t, for example, have Pearl Harbor being bombed on Dec. 12, 1945 unless you are writing an alternate history novel (and there are some great books it that genre out there).
The single night I mention in the blurb above is the night of November 22-23, 1943. This was the heaviest and most damaging raid Berlin had seen up to that point in the war. Bombs fell mostly in the western area of Berlin, in residential areas. Bombs also hit the zoo. The raid left over 175,000 people homeless. In the skies above the city, flak and night fighters claimed 26 British bombers who made the nine hour round trip to Berlin and back. Some flew home badly shot up. Others flew home with dead or seriously wounded crewmen on board. By the end of the war, 45% of all British Bomber Command crews died. Few in 1943 made it to the end of a thirty mission tour.
I’m still teasing out some of the plot elements and will naturally make some changes as I go along, but I do have the bare bones of a halfway decent story. I’ve completed two novels already, neither all that great in my opinion, but I get better with each one I write. Maybe the third time will be the charm. Below is an excerpt:
A young girl sat on a pile of rubble, a teddy bear clutched under one arm and a kitten, eyes wide with terror, under the other. Two teenage Luftshutz boys in blue-gray coveralls stood over two charred bodies, on a baby. Cigarettes dangled from the corners of their mouths as eyes far too old for their young faces stared from under the brim of helmets too big for their heads. A truck arrived, driven by a young woman in a similar uniform. The boys scrape the bodies off the pavement and toss them in the back. A block away, firefighters sprayed a limp stream of water on an enormous pile of brick and concrete. Smoke curled out from amidst the debris, as did the screams of those trapped inside. A small Hitler Youth boy stands in front of the hose stream to wet his clothes before he wormed his way into the collapsed building. He emerged a few minutes later with a child in his arms. Dead. No one took notice of the zebra, freed from his cage by a bomb, as it galloped down the street.