Every author has one book of their own work which is their favorite. This week I’ve offered the blog to Anne Barwell to talk a little about her favorite book. ~B
Berlin, 1943. An encounter with an old friend leaves German physicist Dr. Kristopher Lehrer with doubts about his work. But when he confronts his superior, everything goes horribly wrong. Suddenly Kristopher and Michel, a member of the Resistance, are on the run, hunted for treason and a murder they did not commit. If they’re caught, Kristopher’s knowledge could be used to build a terrible weapon that could win the war.
When Michel contacts the Allies, hoping they can work together, it isn’t long before the so-called “simple” mission becomes anything but. With both men realizing they can no longer ignore their growing feelings for each other, Kristopher and Michel must fight—not just for a chance of a future together, but for their very survival.
The writing motivation:
I’ve always been fascinated by the world wars so when I decided I wanted to write a novel with plenty of action/drama, hurt/comfort, conspiracy, and high stakes, WWII was the perfect backdrop. Shadowboxing has given me the opportunity to create characters who have to react to extraordinary circumstances that bring to the fore their hidden strengths and fears. Although it is really Kit and Michel’s story, it’s given me the opportunity to explore the flip side of several coins. Even the so called villains of the piece have their own motivations and back story. To me character is all about shades of grey with both sides motivated by what is perceived to be the right thing. War brings out the best and worst in people, often in unexpected ways.
Kit has led a privileged and very sheltered life. He’s a musician but has turned his back on that side of himself, instead focusing on a career as a physicist and burying himself in his work. This story is his journey to move closer to being true to himself. When a close friend disappears, the facade Kit has built up around himself begins to crumble. David is not only Jewish, but the man for whom Kit once had romantic and sexual feelings toward. He is in no position to judge anyone as ‘other’ because he is ‘other’ himself.
Michel is a spy. He comes across as very cool, calm and capable but underneath he’s fighting his own demons having lost people he cares about in the fight against the German Gestapo. He has a gift for blending in and becoming someone he isn’t, but at what cost? His so called simple mission becomes anything but when he falls for the man he’s supposed to be watching. I love the scene in which Kit walks in on Michel in his underwear, his reaction, and Michel being totally oblivious to it. As the story progresses, Michel’s mask begins to crumble and Kit gets more than a glimpse of the passionate, caring man who would do whatever it takes to protect the person he loves.
Reasons it’s the favorite:
One of the things I love about this story is the romance between these two men. Despite the odds against them, their love for each other does not waver. If their enemy discovers the truth about their relationship it wouldn’t just be used as a weapon against them to ensure Kit’s cooperation to reveal the plans he carries but another reason to ensure neither of them survive the war. Yet, in the midst of the drama they still manage to find a few quiet moments together. Both men carry within them an inner strength and a determination to survive. I love writing about characters such as these two, humans who aren’t perfect but who grow as the story progresses and work together against a common foe.
War is hell especially when you are considered to be ‘other.’ There is a famous holocaust poem that in part inspired the idea at the heart of this story. It’s called ‘First They Came for the Jews’ by Martin Niemöller, and begins with the lines: “First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew.” Kit has ignored everything going around him, burying himself in his work in the hope it will all go away but it doesn’t. They’ve now come for him.
The other thing that I love about this series is the opportunity to play out their story against a backdrop of history. I’ve learnt a lot about the time period but I don’t see the point in writing about it if I don’t take the time to ensure it’s as realistic as I can make it. I’ve always enjoyed a story which involves a mix of drama, action, and hurt/comfort, and this has it in spades. It’s darker and grittier than the other novels I’ve written but it needs to be.
I can’t do anything about history but at least I can give these two the chance of a happy ending and a future together.
And that’s what counts in the end, isn’t it? Even if it’s just in the pages of a favorite book.
If you are a LGBTQ author, musician, or filmmaker and would like to chat, please feel free to contact me.