Special Guest: Anne Barwell – Echoes of War

A big thank you to Charlie for hosting me, and giving me the opportunity to share with you today.

In debating what to write about for the topic of writing historical fiction, I noticed–and it’s been noticed by others–that in my writing I keep coming back to the time periods around the two world wars.  The Echoes series, of which Shadowboxing is book 1, is set during WW2, and other characters I’m writing, or planning to write have their origins just before, during or after either this war or WW1.

Coincidence? I’ve never believed in such things.

About thirty years ago my father became caretaker of his father’s and great-grandfather’s war medals, and with his own passing a few weeks ago these medals have come into my care in turn. I suspect that is, in part, some of the reason for what made me ponder my choice of topic today.  These medals are so much more than pieces of metal on faded ribbons; they are a reminder of men who fought for their country and what they believed in. They have their own stories to tell as do others who were a part of those periods of history.

Wars bring out the best and the worst in people. They make us reconsider what is important, worth fighting for, and often dying for. Friends and lovers meet, and/or are separated, sacrifices are made, and decisions taken, not always for the right reasons or with the expected consequences.

For me writing, and reading, is very character driven. I want to get to know my characters, to put them into different situations to see how they will react, and interact with others. Kristopher, one of the characters in Shadowboxing, begins the story as a German scientist from a very privileged background. He’s buried himself in his work, and brushed off a lot of the stories he’s heard of what is going on around him. Work is a great escape. But, when an old friend–the person who is responsible for Kristopher realising he is attracted to other men–warns him that reality is closing in, he’s forced to re-examine not only his conscience, but who he is. He’s never thought of himself as someone who judges anyone, but that’s the thing with social ideologies; they’re insidious like to the point you don’t realise you’re doing it until it hits you between the eyes. Kristopher himself is in no position to judge what might be perceived as ‘other’. As a homosexual man in Germany in 1943, he is ‘other’.

After meeting Michel, Kristopher can no longer deny that side of himself. He also questions everything he’s held to be true.  In his own words: “I don’t see how the love you and I feel for each other can be [wrong]. It’s beautiful and feels so good.”

This is just the beginning of his journey through this series. He’ll not only find love in the arms of Michel, but also rediscover a side of himself he thought long gone.

Echoes is a story about love, friendship and family, and how all of those things drive people to reassess what they consider right and wrong. War places people in situations they’d normally not find themselves in, and they’re forced to make decisions that will impact not only their life, but that of others.

“There’s always a choice,” Kristopher insisted. “If you kill someone it makes you no better than they are.”

“In an ideal world, maybe, but we’re not in an ideal world.”

“I’m sorry but I’m not a killer.  I couldn’t shoot a man in cold blood.”

“No one is until they have to be.”

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