Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Johnnie Alexander Donley writes stories of suspense, intrigue, and romance set in World War II. Her debut novel, Where Treasure Hides, won the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis contest for Historical Fiction in 2011. She is a founding member and current president of the ACFW Central Florida chapter. A longtime Florida resident, Johnnie treasures family memories, classic movies, road trips, stacks of books, and her papillon Rugby.
Johnnie, it’s great to have you at Novel PASTimes today. Could you share with us some of the surprises you’ve encountered along the road to publishing?
The Christian writing community, though made up of a large number of people, is actually not that big. I remember being surprised at that. Writers, editors, and agents are amazingly accessible and generous with their time and expertise. For instance, writing conferences are great opportunities (though a little nerve-wracking) for receiving practical advice from publishing professionals. I’ve met terrific people both in person and online at conferences, on blogs, and through organizational loops. It’s a tremendously supportive community.
Please tell us something about your debut novel, Where Treasure Hides.
The novel is about a talented artist, her father’s greatest masterpiece, and the Nazi officer obsessed with having both.
But of course, there’s much more to the story. Alison Schuyler is afraid of falling in love because of her belief in a strange family fate. But when she sees British officer, Ian Devlin, defending a young Kindertransport boy at a London train station, her heart has other plans. When World War II begins, Alison hides precious Dutch art and Jewish children while Ian escapes from a POW camp. They reunite, only to be wrenched apart again by that obsessed Nazi officer.
Through her difficult experiences, Alison learns the truth of Proverbs 31:25, “Strength and honour are her clothings, and she rejoices in the days to come.” She trusts God, not a family superstition, with her uncertain future.
Where Treasure Hides is set during World War II, in Europe. What drew you to write about this time period and the location of your story?
Did you know that German POWs were imprisoned in the United States during World War II?
That bit of trivia, especially finding out that one of those camps was in Florida, drew me into World War II. Later I watched a documentary called The Rape of Europa about the extensive looting of art by Hitler and the Nazis. I was hooked.
Holland has a rich artistic history so it was a logical setting for the novel. But the Dutch also risked their lives to protect Jewish children. I originally expected this to be a major plotline in the story. It turned out not to be, but was part of the reason for Alison’s Dutch heritage.
Have you found that similar themes throughout your writing? Why? Or why not?
I’ve completed one other novel and three rough drafts. My spiritual values are reflected in each one – that’s a given. The other recurring theme is the importance of a family’s legacy. In my family, we often give each other “memories” as gifts because time spent together is more valuable than a tangible object.
My characters may at times feel trapped by their legacies, yet their family heritage is very important to them.
What drew you to writing historical novels?
Others have asked me this question, and I’ve answered that the historical genre chose me. But after digging a little deeper, I wonder if my interest in history has anything to do with my own family tree. We know the names of my mom’s maternal and paternal ancestors, one name after the other, going back to the late 1700s. But most are only names on a chart. I wish I knew more about who they were and how their choices and decisions have affected the generations that came after them.
If you’re anything like I am, one favorite book is hard to pick! Do you have two or three top picks among the historical genre that you would care to recommend?
Susan May Warren’s Sons of Thunder
Anne Perry’s five-book World War I series. The first book is No Graves As Yet
Davis Bunn’s anything (he’s a fave!)
What do you consider the best resources for historical research?
More tomorrow from author Johnnie Alexander Donley. Please leave a comment by
answering the question Johnnie is asking below for a chance to win an ebook
version of her novel, Where Treasure Hides. Remember to include
your email address in the form of name[at]domain[dot]com before 8:30 a.m. EDT
this Friday morning to qualify for the drawing.
Also, that even if you don't own a Kindle, Nook or other e-reader
or tablet, their apps can be downloaded to your computer.
Johnnie's question: What famous piece of art would you like to display in your home?