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Today, I have asked a wonderful new writer to share how she came to write her debut novel, Friends and Enemies. I love this post.
Creating a Family to Be Proud Of By Terri Wangard
A batch of forgotten letters was found in my grandmother’s
house. Written in 1947 and 1948, they came from distant cousins in Germany. My
grandparents and other relatives had been sending them care packages. My
great-great-grandfather immigrated to Wisconsin in the 1870s, as did two
brothers. A fourth brother remained in Germany, and these letters came from his
When I revived a dream to write in 2008, I decided the
family in the letters would be the perfect subject around which to craft a
story. Research revealed life in Nazi Germany as increasingly grim before the
war even started. The letters provide a fascinating glimpse of life in war torn
Germany, but nothing about the war years. How had the family coped? I turned to
the internet and searched the family’s factory name. I found it all right –in a
list of German companies that used slave labor. I wanted my family to be the
good guys, but that hope grew shaky.
Contact had ceased in 1948 after the German currency reform,
and with their silence in the letters, many questions couldn’t be answered. Why
had they refrained from any mention of their thoughts and activities during
Hitler’s regime? Desire to forget? Shame of the vanquished? Concern the
American family wouldn’t help if they knew the truth?
Circumstances of their postwar life offer a few facts. The
family consisted of a brother, his wife, and three young children, as well as a
sister and her husband, and their “old gray mother,” who turned 66 in 1947.
Another brother languished as a prisoner of war in Russia, not returning home
until 1949. I learned this from the German department for the notification of
next of kin. The sister and her bridegroom had lived in Canada for five years,
returning to Germany in 1937 because she was homesick. They were bombed out of
their homes and lived in their former offices, temporarily fixed up as a
residence. Before the war, they employed about one hundred men, but in 1947,
had fewer than forty-five, with no coal, electricity, or raw materials to work
My imagination took over. The family, not the newlyweds,
came to Wisconsin. Because one of my critics scorned someone returning to
Hitler’s Germany due to homesickness, I gave them a more compelling reason when
I rewrote the story. The grandfather had died and the father had to return to
take over the factory, much to the daughters’ dismay, who loved their new life
They did not support Hitler, but because their factory had
to produce armaments and meet quotas imposed on them, they had no choice in
accepting Eastern European forced laborers, Russian POWs, and Italian military
The older daughter (my main character) took pride in
committing acts of passive resistance. Now a war widow, she hid a downed
American airman, an act punishable by execution. When they were betrayed, a
dangerous escape from Germany ensued.
Maybe the family did support Hitler. Many did before
realizing his true colors. My version probably doesn’t come close to the truth,
especially concerning the daughter. The real daughter was twelve years old in
1947. No matter. This is fiction, and this
is a family I can be proud of.
World War II rages across Europe, particularly in Germany,
claiming the life of Heidi Wetzel’s husband. In a bid to escape her grief and
the frequent bombings of German cities, Heidi and her sister flee Hagen to a
farm in the German countryside, where they help care for orphaned children.
While there, Heidi comes across an American airman, Paul, with whom she spent
time when her family was living in Milwaukee during her high school years. When
Paul’s plane is shot down over Germany, his only thought is survival—until he
hears God’s voice guiding him to his late wife’s friend.
Meet the Author:
Terri Wangard’s first Girl Scout
badge was the Writer. These days she is writing historical fiction, and won the
2013 Writers on the Storm contest and 2013 First Impressions, as well as being
a 2012 Genesis finalist. Holder of a bachelor’s degree in history and a
master’s degree in library science, she lives in Wisconsin. Her research
included going for a ride in a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. Classic
Boating Magazine, a family business since 1984, keeps her busy as an
The holidays are over. The
days are growing longer at a snail’s pace and February Blues loom large. How do
you get back in the groove? How do you tap your creative spirit? Where can you
find the secret to renew your energy and interest in those projects you started
Here are a few suggestions.
Seek Out an Interesting Conversation…or at Least an
Do you know someone with an interesting hobby or
profession? Someone who holds a different perspective on life? Strike up a
conversation with someone older than you…or younger. Spend some time with
someone from a different cultural perspective. You can share your views, but
your real job here is to listen.
recently had a conversation with a seven-year-old. He told me that when he
grows up he wants to have a farm where he and his wife will live. His brother
and his wife will live in a house on the same farm and so will his sister and
her husband.His mother is expecting a
baby in August so Jeremiah has also planned for his newest sibling to have a
home on the farm. “I’m going to build a big house in the middle with four or
five bedrooms and a kitchen so when we have company, they can stay there,” he
told me. Seven years old and he’s building a family compound in his head.
How does this help me as a writer? After that particular conversation, I began thinking
about what a family compound might look like if I designed one for my children
and grandchildren. My compound had a golf course, hiking and biking trails, a
swimming pool, craft room, and a chapel. It was self-supporting with roles for
all members of my family. My creative juices were flowing. The mental exercise
was refreshing. I may never use the setting in a book, but then again, I may.
I’ll know who receives credit in the acknowledgement section.
Pick the Brains of an “Expert.” Learn Well
I’m not necessarily talking about a professional, but
someone who has mastered a particular skill or has become well versed in a
subject. Recently, my toilet continued to run. (Stay with me here.) Water
wasn’t leaking onto the floor so I knew something was wrong inside the tank. My
first thought was to consult my good friend, Google, for advice. I watched a
few YouTube videos on toilet repair. None of them looked much like the plumbing
in my house. I turned the water off going into the tank and went to bed. The
next day, I called a good friend who, though not a plumber, is a pretty good
handyman. Like Tom, he isn’t afraid to tackle any problem. I described the
problem and Bob came over with a little red rubber ring in hand. Here is the
best part. He didn’t’ fix the toilet for me. He stood there and talked me
through the process. I fixed the toilet!
How does this help me as a writer? I felt empowered. I walked around all day with that
sort of“if I can do this, I can do
anything” feeling. Furthermore, I’m convinced the more I know and understand
how the world works, the better I can address any issue arising in my book.
Connect with an Old Friend
can do this…and I’m not talking about Facebook here! Call a friend and have
lunch or a cup of coffee. Spend time catching up on each other’s lives. Reminisce
and revive old dreams. You have a history with this person. You can be
yourself. You don’t need to run every idea through a filter or explain where
you are coming from in your thinking.
How does this help me as a writer? My friends will often ask me to tell them about my
latest project. I try desperately to not bore them. Yet I find that even by
offering a quick version of what I’m writing, talking about it renews my
interest in it.
Find Your Theme Song
last week I dug up an old CD: Greatest Hits of the 70’s. It was fun and
energizing. I don’t want to scare you, but yes, I danced around the kitchen
singing along into my wooden spoon “microphone.”November 29, 2014, a writer friend posted the original Simon and
Garfunkel Bridge Over Troubled Water
on Facebook and dedicated it to me. He had no way of knowing that song was in
my wedding. I clicked on the YouTube site and turned the volume up full blast.
How does this help me as a writer? Music touches every creative fiber of our being. It
clears my thinking. I happen to like all kinds of music so different genres
inspire me in different ways. I’ve considered several songs to claim as my
theme song. Those have changed over time with new life experiences, but each
book I write seems to have a song of its own. What is your theme song?
Rise to the Challenge
year I’ve been challenged to
·Read a book a week
·Write a thousand words a day as part of the 365K Club
·Walk 10,000 steps a day
Yep, there are challenges out
there. Challenges to read, write, lose weight, meet new people, try new foods,
travel more, or join a club. You name it. The challenges are there. The key is
to not say yes to everything but yes to one or two challenges. I decided to
accept the read a book a week and walk 10,000 steps a day. I’ve also decided to
write a review for each book I read.
How does this help me as a writer?I did not sign
up for the 365K Club challenge. That may surprise you. It may appear as the
most obvious for a writer. Taking challenges outside of my writing world
stretches me. And walking clears my head, gets me away from the computer
screen, and gives me time to think through the plot or characters or rehearse
the dialogue I’m about to write.
What Else? Where do you go to drink in a little