The First Year: Odin’s Promise Anniversary (and a giveaway)

Since the release of ODIN’S PROMISE just one year ago, the question I’m asked most often is: Why did I write THIS book? Why Norway? Why the occupation years?

The short answer is, I visited Norway.

There, I was both surprised and impressed by the stories I heard from people who actually lived through those times, including their efforts to resist propaganda and control by the Nazis.

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Ytre Arna today

 

I knew I would write some of the stories I heard while there. After countless attempts at a variety of genres I settled on a novel, one that could connect with young readers. I knew I couldn’t write with the authority of having lived through the occupation myself, nor could I simply parrot the experiences of others.Historical fiction it would be.

For several years the pre-internet resources I tracked down surprised and impressed me, but also frustrated me. I read out-of-print books, academic articles, and wrote letters filled with questions. In time, thanks to the internet, more and more materials became available, some even contradicting earlier research. Unfortunately, nothing I found gave me a sense of what it would be like to be a young person during those years, to essentially lose your childhood to the occupation.

folklore fights copyThen I discovered the scholarly work of Kathleen Stoker, Ph.D. In it I finally found a path into my story. FOLKLORE FIGHTS THE NAZIS: HUMOR IN OCCUPIED NORWAY 1940-1945 (University of Wisconsin Press, 1995) included archival images, newspaper excerpts, and documented anecdotes that captured the lively and determined spirits of the friends I met in Ytre Arna who first inspired me to write about this chapter of Norwegian history.

 

Stokker’s work included journal entries written by some who survived those long occupation years. Several examples were from adults, but others were written by young people. They risked terrifying consequences to record and conceal their wartime thoughts and emotions. Their language and perspectives allowed me to shift from the “looking back” point of view in every other resource to an immediately present point of view. Those journal entries allowed me to view my research and stories as current and unfolding, with conclusions not yet determined.NH.preentation

When Odin’s Promise released a year ago I celebrated with a “Birthday Party” at Norway House in Milwaukee. It was a heartwarming evening, one I’ll never forget. At that time only a few who attended had read the book, so their support was as much for me as for the characters or the story.

My editor is sponsoring  a GIVEAWAY to celebrate the one-year-anniversary of the release. If you haven’t read it yet, or would like to win a copy to give as a gift, click here to enter by MAY 17

Since then I’ve visited with people who were drawn to the book for a wide variety of reasons: Norwegian or Scandinavian heritage, interest in World War II, love of dogs (especially Norwegian Elkhounds), working with young readers and writers, and professional organizations. Those who have read the book inevitably ask: When is the sequel coming out?

finaleIn addition, at every gathering one or more people have pulled me aside to recommend a book title, to relate a personal or second-generation story of the occupation, or to offer contact information for a friend or relative with stories to share.

 

I never imagined or intended a sequel, even though my research yielded far more historic details than I could include in ODIN’S PROMISE. To continue the story of Mari and her family would involve additional extensive research, not to mention the challenge of imagining four years of life for all the characters and community involved.

 

The overwhelming concern expressed for Mari’s eventual outcome, especially by young readers, compelled me to do that research, to make those contacts, to follow-up on personal stories, and to imagine life in Ytre Arna during the seemingly endless occupation.

My work on a sequel is advancing well and I’m optimistic that Mari’s story will be told. Woven throughout it are slivers of the various stories and historic details I’ve been privileged to learn. I hope, too, that the courage of those who persisted and resisted and retained their national and cultural identities will resonate through the lives of Mari’s fictional family and community.

If and when a sequel is published, I’ll have an easy answer to the question:

Why did you write THIS book? Why a sequel?

Because readers cared about Mari. They cared enough to ask for more.

lhertzel_1431622675_bcmidwestbaseal2Just in time for this post, I was notified that ODIN’S PROMISE won the 2014 GOLD MEDAL for Children’s Fiction from MIPA, Midwest Independent Publishers Association. Could there have been a better way to wrap up the first year as a debut novelist?

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