First, I’d love to have you introduce yourself to my readers, in case someone isn’t familiar with your work. How long have you been writing and what books have been published so far?
I first started writing in 1993, when I was pregnant with my third child. A friend at church was writing a novel and something clicked when she told me about it. (Cindy Martinusen now as five novels published!)
Looking back, I realized I had the heart of a writer before that. I LOVED to read. I made up all types of stories in my head. I won a few essay contests in high school, but it took a friend’s encouragement to “click.”
I was at Mt. Hermon my first time in 1994. I was 22-years-old and pregnant with my 3rd child. I had some “articles” I wrote. Amazingly, I submitted them, and Light and Life bought one of my articles! I had to do some rewriting, but they bought it. So, basically I sold the very first thing I ever submitted . . . but I didn’t sell anything else for 2 1/2 years. I think that was just God’s way of telling me I was on the right track!
I never planned on writing historical fiction. I wanted to write contemporary romances. Then in 2000, I was with Cindy and another writer friend, Anne de Graaf in Austria. They were researching books, and I was along for the ride. BUT I was the one who got a novel idea, after talking to an Austrian historian. The historian’s true stories about the liberation of Gusen and Mauthausen concentration camps sparked my novel idea. The idea led to attending two WWII reunions and interviewing veterans. The veterans’ stories led to more novels. The rest, as they say, is history!
2007) My Life, Unscripted
(2007) A Valley of Betrayal
(2007) A Shadow of Treason
(2006) Generation NeXt Parenting
(2006) Arms of Deliverance
(2005) Dawn of a Thousand Nights
(2004) Night Song
(2004) Life Interrupted
(2004) 10 Minutes to Showtime
(2003) From Dust and Ashes
(2000) Mealtime Moments
Your current book, Valley of Betrayal, is set in pre-WWII Spain. What triggered the desire to write about Spain’s history, and did you get to go ‘on site’ to do any research?
When I was researching for my novel, Arms of Deliverance, one of the autobiographies I read was from a man who was a B-17 bomber pilot over Europe–but before that he was an American volunteer for The Spanish Civil War. I had never heard of this war before, which happened right before WWII in Spain. I started researching and I was soon fascinated. Some people call it “the first battle of WWII” because it’s where that Nazis first tried their hand at modern warfare.
I started by researching this time in history, briefly, then I started thinking of unique characters that had an impact during that time. For example, characters from my other novels have been medics, war correspondents, artists, prisoners, etc. To me it’s the people that makes the story (and history) come alive. For this series I dove into the lives of an American artist, a few International volunteers, a Basque priest, and a German pilot. I research the real people first, and then the plot for my novel builds. Soon, I have to make myself stop researching to start writing. Research can be addictive!
Amazingly, I WAS able to interview veterans from The Spanish Civil War. They are in their 90s! I mostly communicated with them through email, since many of them live overseas. One man, who was very helpful, passed away while I was writing A Valley of Betrayal. Yet, he was very excited that I was writing about his experiences.I also received help from many researchers and historians, and I bought up every book I can find on The Spanish Civil War.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to travel to Spain for my research…someday! Instead I dove into the books. I was also blessed to interview men who were there, and get the help/insight from a missionary friend who currently lives in Spain. …
What was your favorite thing about writing this book? Any unusual experiences during your research or writing, that you’d care to share?
This book was very challenging because I knew nothing about The Spanish Civil War before I started. Yet, I felt sure that God was leading me to write these books, and God (again) taught me to trust Him. When He gives me an idea for a novel it is so BIG. I mean there is so much to pull together. Yet, God has shown me time and time again that He is faithful. He gives me ideas, leads me to the right research books, and even brings people into my life to help me!
One example with this book is that God brought someone also to help. A man named Norm Goyer contacted me because his was working on his family tree and he wanted to know if we were related. We weren’t related, but Norm ended up being a airplane expert and consultant for movies. Norm ended up helping me with research on my German pilot in Spain. I think it was an awesome gift from God!
This again shows me that what ever God brings before me, He also has the power to help me succeed.
I see this is the first book in a series called Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War. Can you give us a peek into the sequel and any idea when it might release?
Sure I can! A Valley of Betrayal will be followed by A Shadow of Treason and A Whisper of Freedom. Both books follow the same characters and the same storyline. In fact, book two begins the SAME DAY as book one leaves off! The plot thickens, of course, and the stakes get higher with each book. I’d loved to be able write more stories in series in the future, I had a blast!
A Shadow of Treason will be out September 1, 2007 and A Whisper of Freedom in February of 2008!
If you had to compare your writing to two or three other Christian writers who deal with historical fiction, which would they be? Particularly any that the avid Christian fiction reader might recognize?
Well, it’s scary to compare … because I’m a little biased 🙂 But if I had to I’d say Bodie Thoene (I hear this a lot!), Jack Cavanaugh, and B.J. Hoff. We have the same well-researched, well-written style … or so I’d like to think!
What do you feel sets your writing apart from other current writers of historical fiction?
Often, I have reviewers state that I write about the “lesser known” aspects of WWII. For example, I rarely have a major battle, instead I focus on people or events that few have heard about.
Which character did you most enjoy writing in Valley of Betrayal and why? Which one did you have the hardest time writing and why?
Wow. That’s a hard question. Hmmm … I think it was Father Manuel–mainly because he was SO different from any other character I’ve ever written. He is a Basque priest who is seeing his country in war yet sees little transformation in the spiritual condition of the people he served. He was VERY interesting to me.
One of my characters, Deion, is part of the Communist party. Today’s reader has one view of what that means, but in the 1930s there was hope found there. In a country that was still segregated, the idea of “equality of men” was a huge draw, especially for African Americans.
Do any of the characters reflect you in any way?
Definitely Mary in Arms of Deliverance. Mary was born to a single mom. She later met her dad who was the editor of a major NY newspaper. After that Mary tried to earn her dad’s love/attention by taking on dangerous, overseas assignments during WWII. I had the same type of experience (except for the dangerous assignment parts). Only a few people know about my biological dad (until now!), but having them read that novel was like giving them a glimpse into my secret diary–the emotions were THAT real.
Can you share your long term plans for your fiction career? Any more series in the works?
Currently, I have (let me see) five historical fiction ideas that will soon be on the desk of my editors. I have many, many more historical fiction ideas than I have time to write, so I cast my ideas out there and see which will sprout! My plan is to write at least one historical fiction novel a year. I hope my editors agree!