Anne Barwell on The Kiwi Connection.

Anne is a return guest to the blog! Anne last visited in October 2015 when I interviewed her about her vampire novel, Shades of Sepia. This time, Anne’s got a very different story to tell us about–Winter Duet, part two of her WWII series, Echoes Rising.

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The Kiwi Connection

Thanks, Gillian, for hosting me today.

Like Gillian I’m a New Zealander. A while ago she wrote a blog post about how being a Kiwi impacts her writing so this is a kind of follow on from that. It also fits with the release of Winter Duet, book 2 in my WWII Echoes Rising series, as the downed RAF pilot the allied team find in the Black Forest is from Wellington.

Most of the books I read don’t feature New Zealanders, which makes sense as most authors aren’t from here. Also many of the books I find which are set in this country are set in places besides Wellington which is where I’m from. I’m planning to do my bit about changing that, and have already written some stories with Kiwi characters: Jason and Sean from Slow Dreaming, Ben from The Sleepless City, and Nate from the upcoming Sunset at Pencarrow novella which is co-written with Lou Sylvre. I have another novella I’m writing in 2017 set in Wellington, and a series about guys with psi powers I’m planning to write in 2018 which will also take place here.

winterduetfsWhen I started writing Winter Duet, I wanted to introduce a new character for this story. He would shake up the existing mix a little, and it wasn’t long before his fate became intertwined with the other characters. I knew the character would be a downed RAF pilot, and I thought: what about making him a New Zealander? Quite a bit of research later confirmed that New Zealanders did fly for the RAF, and that they would have been a part of the Big Week—a week in February 1944 in which the Allies bombed Germany night and day.

What I didn’t expect was to become attached to Leo so quickly, especially as his personality began to exert itself. He was the favourite character of one of my beta readers, and she still talks about him, so he had quite the impact.

Leo had more of a back story than I thought he would too, and mentions having been in the Wairarapa in the 1942 earthquake. That earthquake was one my dad talked about a lot, and no wonder as it was a 7.2, not quite the same intensity as the 7.8 we had here last month but still sizeable enough to remember. We’re on a fault line here so anyone who has lived here has experienced earthquakes at some time or another.

I must admit to writing a bit of in joke into that part of the story, and a nod to another New Zealand character I’ve written, when Leo mentions a dream he had about chasing sheep on a farm and that the sheep had fangs. It’s also a standing joke here that we have more sheep than people. I’m not sure that’s still the case. After all, I can go days without seeing a single sheep.

In 1944 when Winter Duet was set, a lot of New Zealand idioms were more on par with Britain, and many of the slang words we use today weren’t around back then so I couldn’t use them as Leo needed to be true to his time. Still, his attitude to life is very much that of a New Zealander, and he brings a part of where he’s from to the pages of the book. I enjoyed writing him, and while he isn’t the first Kiwi character I’ve written, he won’t be the last.

Blurb:

Winter Duet

Echoes Rising book 2 – Sequel to Shadowboxing

Germany 1944

Hunted for treason and the information Kristopher carries, he and Michel leave the security of their safe house to journey across Germany toward Switzerland. Caught in a series of Allied bombings, they stop to help civilians and narrowly escape capture by German forces.

While investigating a downed aircraft in the Black Forest, the two men discover an injured RAF pilot. After they are separated, Kristopher and the pilot are discovered by a German officer who claims he is not who he appears to be. Determined to find Michel again, Kristopher has to trust the stranger and hope he is not connected to those searching for him and the information he carries. Meanwhile Michel is intercepted by one of the Allied soldiers he met in Berlin. His help is needed to save one of their own.

Time quickly runs out. Loyalties are tested and betrayed as the Gestapo closes in. Michel can only hope they can reach safety before information is revealed that could compromise not only his and Kristopher’s lives, but those of the remaining members of their team—if it is not already too late.

Buy Winter Duet at Dreamspinner Publications.

Excerpt:

After ten minutes he stopped to catch his breath. His intention to walk slowly hadn’t lasted long, and he’d picked up his pace as soon as he’d gotten past the soldier he’d saluted. It had begun snowing again, and he shivered despite feeling warm from the exercise. At this rate he was never going to make it back to the truck in time. If Liang had any sense, he would be there and getting ready to drive back to the safe house while the Germans were preoccupied searching the forest. Finding one RAF crewman would only serve to make them all the more determined to find the other.

The search seemed to be focused back the way he’d come. He’d heard several voices and sounds of movement, but they’d grown quieter the farther north he’d gone. He took a moment to get his bearings. If he stayed on his planned course, there should be another road about half an hour ahead. His stomach rumbled, a reminder that it had been several hours since breakfast. A check of his watch confirmed it was now early afternoon. Getting back to the safe house from here on foot was still an option, although it would take a while. Once he found the road, he’d follow that but keep to the outskirts of the forest.

He caught movement from the corner of his eye, something up ahead in the distance. Matt stopped and focused, then saw it again, a patch of color that didn’t quite fit the mix of brown and white of the forest. He moved quickly but silently, closing the distance between himself and whatever or whoever it was. As much as he was tempted to give it a wide berth, it might be the pilot he was searching for.

Yes, he’d definitely found the pilot. The man was sitting on the ground, his back against a tree. A quick scan sized up the situation. The pilot appeared to be injured; his leg was wrapped in the remains of his flak jacket. He still wore his goggles and flight helmet, and when he moved, he hissed in pain.

The color Matt had seen was the red strap of the flak jacket lying on the ground. Although the emergency pull release was no longer attached to it, the strap should have been buried or at least tucked out of sight where it couldn’t be seen.

A German soldier, gun in hand, stood over the pilot. The soldier glanced around nervously. He seemed about the same age as Matt, but if his demeanor was anything to go by, he hadn’t seen much in the way of action. The pilot appeared to be much younger than both of them, not much more than a kid. He looked up, and his gaze met Matt’s. His eyes widened.

The soldier spun around quickly, aiming his gun at Matt. His knuckles were white where he gripped it with both hands. He was shaking. “Drop your gun and raise your hands,” he said slowly and clearly.

Matt took a couple of steps toward him. He already had his own gun out and aimed at the German. “Lower your weapon, Gefreiter. You’re pointing it at a superior officer. We’re on the same side.”

Bio:

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.

Anne’s books have received honorable mentions four times and reached the finals three times in the Rainbow Awards.  She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.

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