Romeo Spies Project from the Cold War is mentioned in the podcast that I listen to covering Occupied- the Original Netflix Series. It has me intrigued, I set off to the Internet to find out more information and come across an article in The Guardian which unfolds the typical scenario of the Stasi Spy from an East Germany project. The basic idea is that a Stasi Spy romances a woman that might work in a high up office within the American Embassy and he plies her for information that will help the communist cause. Just such a situation played itself out in real life between Gabriele Kliem and Frank Dietzel. They were engaged for 7 years; in 1991 she was arrested for espionage. Only then did she learn that her fiancé was already married and was an East German spy not the physicist he had claimed to be.
It occurs to me reading this article that this is likely the basis behind a character and relationship development I follow on the fictional serial: The Americans on FX.
And it excites me. This idea of taking viable scenarios from real history and folding them into my own novel. My five year project is in full swing. I suggest five years to take off the pressure. After all, this is my first novel. I was originally saying 1-3 years. And, that grew to 5 recently as I read articles about first time novelists and all the work that goes into the process. And, as I experience that process first hand.
So many layers of my novel require a ton of research, for which I am completely energized. I want to get my hands on as much material as I can to flesh out the various paths, characters and goals.
There is the main character that grows up on a farm in Southern Norway that raises the special Spaelsau Sheep. My character matures and ends up moving to the big city as she follows a blossoming romance with a genius violinist. This guy is narcissistic and temperamental, but my character does not see or acknowledge this through her rose colored glasses. And, in the end, she marries him. In the big city, she works at a Tapestry Factory. All of this occurs just before the Nazi occupation which begins around April 1940. Pursuant to the occupation, my main character becomes involved in the underground, without her husband’s knowledge. He in the meantime becomes involved in the Quisling Regime, unbeknownst to her- at least initially. So much to research. Farms. Sheep. Woolen Mills. Fiber. Tapestry. Oslo, Norway during the 1930s and 1940s. Classical music, particularly Scandinavian and European composers. Professional orchestras in Norway, their schedule and how they are affected during the war. The violin. The occupation and WW II history in general. The Quisling Regime. The underground movement in Norway.
I gather ideas, materials, research. I develop characters based on my findings. It’s a huge project and one that occupies my mind most days. It’s an exciting wave and a dream. And I relish each moment.
On this day, I write from my balcony at Secrets Maroma on the Riviera Maya of Mexico. It’s a work trip that includes visits to 16 resorts and destination training at three select resorts. In my down time, I catch golden moments when I can sit down with a coffee made in my room (nespresso, anyone?) and write!
I finished NaNoWriMo 2015 with 51650 words. And in that run to the finish, the result is: I have finished a first draft, and it is truly a draft, of my first novel… my first official novel. Just writing that fills me with a wave of inspiration. Allowing my fingers to venture out into the world of my true calling means that what I just did is more than just write a first draft. I crossed the line from dreamer to doer. And this cross-over into novel writing brings me to a place of peace. A peace that I have been questing after for years, which in big part I find within my faith in God. But now, I find that has now moved me into my passion. And in many ways, I feel this is my calling. What God intended all along. He is bringing me into my passion. Others may balk at this expression and throw jabs in an effort to squelch any gratitude that I feel is owed to the Great Almighty. But I know better. Because it is peace I have prayed for and he has nudged me, ever so gently, into the path that otherwise would not be there- or better still, for which my eyes may have been blinded. He has offered some doors and windows for me to seriously consider. He has placed opportunities in my path and He has urged me to take hold of a future He has for me. And now, having barely pushed that window open, for the first time, I can actually see the view unobstructed. No more serious barriers, no more blockage. Thank you God… for never leaving me, nor forsaking me. And thank you for the caws and the whistles I am hearing above my head coming from the gracklings and the crows that have decided that this paradise place I occupy at this moment, is their paradise as well.
My novel started one way then it took an interesting turn. It started as romance and then ended up being more in line with historical fiction. The premise is a love story set in Norway during World War II… it starts with the lead up to the Nazi occupation and lasts through and beyond it. The time line spans 1938 to around 1948. The characters all come from my imagination, you know- any resemblance to real persons is merely a coincidence. The love story is dosed in reality rather than lathered in romance. Doubts, disappointment and events of real life alter my heroin’s trajectory from home and family life to an arena of murder, espionage, and involvement in efforts of a group focused primarily on sabotage of the Reich’s efforts. This leads to deception within families, and a journey for Nina from farm girl to an underground courier for a movement that would help thwart Quisling’s reach.
It’s amazing to me how developed the piece already is… even as I look at this early draft. There is so much to edit and rewrite but this NaNoWriMo 2015 contest helped me to get words on a page, to have a starting point. I have great source in the country of Norway who was old enough to witness it all first hand. Ration cards, having to wear mandatory dog tags for identity, curfews, air raids and receiving donation boxes from Sweden while Sweden was sourcing the Nazi’s iron ore from Kiruna. So many details that the average person is unaware of – there has been so little focus on the Scandinvian countries realities during the war, both the neutral countries like Sweden, and the occupied ones like Norway and Denmark. My mother’s best friend is married to a man in Norway whose mother hid people, and had the forbidden radio that now sits in a museum in Oslo. He offers lectures and material for cultural museums in Norway who are seeking to fill out their exhibits in preparation for the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Norway as a result of the victory over the Third Reich. All of this provides fodder for a marvelous passion. Thank you God for helping me tell their stories and it is my hope that I honor the experiences of the many who lived through occupation. While Norway faired so much better than many countries which had harsh and barbaric circumstances; still, Norway suffered in their own way. So I now pray for God’s help in allowing me to write this different layer of the war experience.