Six wartime years.
Four European countries.
Several historical events.
When I first imagined the story that became Where Treasure Hides, I already knew a little bit about my hero’s history.
British officer Ian Devlin and his mischievous hazel eyes came to life in an earlier manuscript when, as a major secondary character, he worked with an American actress to provide false intelligence to the Nazis.
That story established Ian’s capture at the Battle of Dunkirk and his escape from a prisoner-of-war camp.
But why those two facts?
I believe it all started with a trip to the library.
On those shelves, I found a thick book called Colditz Castle: The Untold Story of World War II’s Great Escapes by Henry Chancellor. Since The Great Escape, the classic movie starring James Garner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and several other well-known actors, was an all-time favorite, I had to, literally, check out Chancellor’s book.
In fact, I checked it out multiple times. And took pages of notes.
When the time came to write about Ian’s escape from this infamous prison stronghold, I used actual escapes as a template.
Now let’s back up a bit.
For Ian to escape from a POW camp, he first had to be captured. Enter the historic Battle of Dunkirk, renowned for the massive evacuation of Allied soldiers by a mixed flotilla that included battle destroyers but also fishing boats and lifeboats. Over 800 assorted sea crafts rescued over 330,000 soldiers in just a few days.
The internet helped me here, providing articles and even a couple of videos about the evacuation. I learned that the smoke from burning oil tanks polluted the air, and the stench of diesel fuel from the boats mixed with the odors of the English Channel and the smell of death.
Captured soldiers were forced to march for several days through Belgium and into Germany.
Eventually they arrived at a collecting point where they were divided by nationality then taken by trucks or barges to different Oflags or POW camps.
Ian follows this same journey and is first imprisoned in a castle near the Austrian border before being transferred to Colditz.
Thankfully, not all my research involved events such as the Battle of Dunkirk or POW camps.
I also delved into art.
This trip into the past started with a DVD. While reading just about everything I could find about WWII, I stumbled across a documentary called The Rape of Europa which led me to a similarly titled book by Lynn H. Nicholas, The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War.
What I learned from watching the DVD and reading Ms. Nicholas’ book was jaw-dropping. Countless pieces of art stolen, hidden, destroyed, and lost.
I felt that familiar heart-tug and knew this was it: the massive art theft by the Nazis would be the centerpiece of my novel.
One resource led to another and another. I was researching and writing, writing and researching, rewriting and, yes, still researching almost to the day I submitted the final manuscript to Tyndale’s acquisition editor.
The story took directions I never intended or imagined as Ian and the woman he loves, a Dutch-American artist whose family owns a Rotterdam art gallery targeted by one of Hitler’s inner circle, courageously meet the challenges of war.
Six wartime years.
The story begins in August 1939 at Waterloo Station when an official tries to confiscate a violin from a young Kindertransport boy. The child plays the British national anthem for the other travelers, and the official is forced to let him keep the instrument. This true event, fictionalized a bit for my story, is what brings Ian and Alison together.
The story ends in May 1945. Or does it?!
Four European countries.
From London, England, to Rotterdam, Holland. To the shores of France and the prison camps of Germany. And actually a few other surprise stops, too.
Several historical events.
The war’s historical events provided a framework for the novel’s timeline. The Dunkirk evacuation and Rotterdam bombing play important roles in the story.
Near the end of the war, when Hitler realized his dreams of a Third Reich were crumbling, he issued an order to destroy the caches of invaluable art and cultural treasures he’d hidden. This order drives the story to its climax.
Writing this post has been its own little trip into the past.
Tyndale released the ebook edition in 2013. The print edition has just released. (Yes, that’s me, squealing with delight.)
As I read my copy, certain scenes took me back to the places where I imagined and wrote them—in a corner of my leather couch, on a stool at the kitchen counter, on the screened porch of my cousin’s Ohio farmhouse, at Panera’s with my daughter who was working on her own manuscript.
Somehow, the memories mingle with Alison and Ian’s story to create an even deeper significance.
Artist Alison Schuyler spends her time working in her family’s renowned art gallery, determined to avoid the curse that has followed the Schuyler clan from the Netherlands to America and back again. She’s certain that true love will only lead to tragedy—that is, until a chance meeting at Waterloo station brings Ian Devlin into her life.
Drawn to the bold and compassionate British Army captain, Alison begins to question her fear of love as World War II breaks out, separating the two and drawing each into their own battles. While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. But safety is a luxury war does not allow.
As time, war, and human will struggle to keep them apart, will Alison and Ian have the faith to fight for their love, or is it their fate to be separated forever?
You can buy the book on:Amazon
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Christian Book Distributors
Johnnie Alexander writes inspiring stories that linger in the heart. Where Treasure Hides, her debut novel, won the ACFW Genesis Contest (2011) and Golden Leaf Award (2014). Her first contemporary romance, Where She Belongs (Misty Willow Series; Revell), and her first novella, “The Healing Promise” (Courageous Bride Collection; Barbour), release in 2016.
She also has won Best Novel and Best Writer awards (Florida Christian Writers Conferences), and Bronze Medalist (My Book Therapy Frasier Contest). She volunteers as a category coordinator for the ACFW Genesis Contest, judges various contests, and serves as marketing director for the MidSouth Christian Writers Conference.
A graduate of Rollins College (Orlando) with a Master of Liberal Studies degree, Johnnie treasures family memories, classic movies, road trips, and stacks of books. She lives in the Memphis area with a small herd of alpacas and Rugby, the princely papillon who trees raccoons.
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Johnnie is generously offering a giveaway copy of Where Treasure Hides, winners choice in the US, Ebook otherwise. Comment with your email address to enter. Giveaway ends August 17th at 12 a.m.
Who else can't wait to see how Alison and Ian's story turns out?