Tuesday, August 4, 2015

"Inspired by History" by Johnnie Alexander

Six wartime years.

Four European countries.

Several historical events.

One novel.

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.

One novel.

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:
Barnes & Noble
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.

Follow Johnnie through any of the following links:
Facebook Author Page
RSS Feed

Sneak peek at the cover of Johnnie's next novel: 


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?


  1. A bit of intrigue, a bit of romance, sounds good to me! Can't wait to see how Ian and ALison's story turns out.


  2. Hey, all. Sorry I missed getting on here yesterday. (Life!) But I'm so excited to be here, and I always love talking about World War II history. Thank you, Natalie, for having me as your guest.

  3. Hi, Patty. Be prepared for a few "Oh no's!" and perhaps a few tears, too. (I cried!) LOL. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. This is definitely one of my favorite times in history to read about. I'm looking forward to Johnnie's next book, as well.

    tlhcoupon (at) hotmail (dot) com

  5. Johnnie is a new-to-me author and this story including the history with art and the Nazi's sounds really intriguing. I am adding this book to my TBR list. Thanks for the historical background and giveaway!


  6. The history of World War II has always fascinated me.....the quest of the Underground to save the Jews & the reprecussions to those who sought to help them if they were discovered; the whole mystery of Hitler's obsession with valuable art pieces, whether any survived the Nazi regime & the search for those hidden treasures past & present; the concentration camps, etc.....so many interesting twists & heart-breaking stories. Johnnie's background of "Where Treasures Hides" was captivating! I can't wait to read this book & follow Ian & Alison's story! Thanks so much for this interview & the chance to win this book! ~Alison Boss nj(dot)bossman(at)gmail(dot)com

  7. Hey, everyone. Thanks so much for participating in the giveaway. I'm excited to share the novel with new readers and I'm honored (tears in my eyes) to have my story put on people's TBR lists. You all are great!

    There were so many historical details I wanted to include in the story that just didn't "fit" with what the characters decided to do (LOL). I still find it amazing how cavalier Hitler and Goering were about the art they coveted for themselves.

    Again, thanks to everyone for commenting. It's so fun to meet you all.

  8. Hi, Patty M! The premise sure gets one's curiosity up, doesn't it? Sounds like a real page turner! Thanks for coming by and commenting! I've got you entered in the giveaway!

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Hi, LORAINE! So good to see you here! I'm so tickled you've found a new author to try here! Best wishes in the giveaway!

  11. Hi, ALISON! How true--I can see the fascinating and harrowing events of WWII are a treasure trove for authors. So much emotion, so much intrigue, so many varied examples of the human condition. And fuel for story conflict is everywhere you look. And with all the diligent research Johnnie as done, this book is sure to be a winner! Thanks for coming by, and best wishes in the giveaway!

  12. Hi, TROSADO! Thanks for coming by! Best wishes in the giveaway!

  13. So, so interesting! I would love to read your story ~ print copy ~ amazing how a story begins one way and your characters take you another. So exciting! Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House lanehillhouse[at]centurylink[dot]net

  14. Hi, Kathleen. The characters truly take over, and it amazes me how that happens. It's one of the best things about being a writer. LOL Thanks for stopping by.

  15. It is here to imagine all of the atrocities that occurred during this time period and I am glad that Johnnie has chosen to spotlight this part of history. We learn from the past and hopefully, never repeat the mistakes.
    Thank you for this interview and giveaway.
    cps1950 (at) gmail (dot) com

  16. As a leader in a Christian book club, they love reading historical books. If I win the book, I will ask them if they would like to read it.
    It sounds good.
    Thank you for the opportunity to read it.

  17. Hi, Connie. Your observation about learning from our mistakes is spot on. Thanks for your comment.

  18. Barbara, please let me know if you club decides to read Where Treasure Hides. If there's a way for me to do an online chat with you all--well, I'd love that! Thanks.

  19. Connie, welcome to the Sweet South Blog! Thank you for your comment! Best wishes in the giveaway!

  20. Barbara, thanks so much for coming by! I've got you entered in the giveaway!

  21. Sounds good. I look forward to reading it!

  22. I find myself appreciating history through the pages of a good book, and this one sounds quite fascinating. Certainly I would love to learn more about Alison and Ian! rmaney@firstarpchurch.org

  23. Looks so good! I'd love to win a copy. I love to, share my best reads with as many as possible. I am a pastor's wife and sometimes a book is an open door to ministering to another. Cool cover, too!

  24. I do not read electronic books so I'm very happy to know that this is now in print. One of my favorite eras is WWII so I'm sure this novel will be one that I'll enjoy.
    Thanks for the chance to win a copy of Where Treasure Hides


  25. Hi, Kristine! Thanks so much for coming by!

  26. Hi, Rebecca! Welcome to the Sweet South Blog! Such an interesting premise, right? I've got you entered in the giveaway. Thanks for coming by!

  27. This is definitely a book I would love to read! Thanks for the chance to win! grandmama_brenda(at)yahoo(dot)com

  28. Hey there, MomofTwoPotters! How true! Sharing books are a very gentle and even entertaining way to minister to others! Best wishes in the giveaway!

  29. Cindi A! So good to see you again! :) So glad you can read this in print now! I love my paperbacks! I've got you entered in the giveaway!

  30. Hello, Johnnie. So excited to see a new title by you. Thanks for the opportunity for a giveaway.

  31. How thrilling!!Your book sounds wonderful, Johnnie! I read so much that everyone always ask me what I'm reading and now I write reviews & share them with my friends. Thank you for the lovely giveaway! - Blessings, Julianna. emeraldelena[at]hotmail[dot]com

  32. Hi Johnnie,

    I can tell by your enthusiasm in researching this book, it's one I'd want to read. That cover grabbed my attention immediately. So gorgeous. Wish hats were still in style.

  33. This comment has been removed by the author.

  34. This book sounds (and looks!) fantastic--thanks for the introduction to a new to me author, and for the giveaway! Danandlyndaedwards (at) msn (dot) com.

  35. This book sounds (and looks!) fantastic--thanks for the introduction to a new to me author, and for the giveaway! Danandlyndaedwards (at) msn (dot) com.

  36. This books sounds like such a great read and so interesting! I love books set during WWII! :) Would love to read it!

    amyputney89 [at] gmail [dot] com

  37. Good morning, everybody. I haven't been on my laptop much the past couple of days because I'm visiting my grandboys! But I'm so grateful for all the encouragement and interest in Where Treasure Hides. Thank you (a million times)!


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