This week we’re welcoming my fellow Midwest Almanac blogger Johnnie Alexander to the story behind the story. She’s written in several different genres, including WWII. Today, she shares the story behind her book Where Treasure Hides. First, a little bit about the book. It’s a bonus for me, because it’s set in the Netherlands!
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?
It’s such a good book, Johnnie. What inspired you to write it?
My fascination with World War II history began with a book.
While browsing through the stacks of my local library, I found an intriguing title: Hitler’s Soldiers in the Sunshine State.
Oh, yes, it’s true.
German POWs were imprisoned in Florida where one intrepid soldier tried to make a pet out of an alligator. He got bit.
Others collected snake skins.
Florida wasn’t the only state where German POWs waited out the war. But as a longtime Florida resident, these were the stories that fascinated me.
My interest in WWII grew. Eventually I came across two documentaries, both available on DVD, that sparked the story line for my debut novel, Where Treasure Hides.
The first documentary, The Rape of Europa, discusses the massive looting of Europe’s art treasures by Hitler and others. After watching it, I read everything I could on this topic, including The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War by noted researcher Lynn H. Nicholas.
I also read The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert Edsel. The similarly named movie, starring Matt Damon, Bill Murray, George Clooney and Cate Blanchett, is based on Mr. Edsel’s book.
The second documentary, produced by PBS, is called The Hidden Child. It primarily tells the story of Maude Peper Dahme who was sheltered during the war by a Dutch Christian. Maude, who was six at the time, and her younger sister are two of the estimated ten percent of Jewish children who survived the Holocaust. (Such a sobering statistic.)
These two major wartime events—the hiding of art treasures and the hiding of children—touched a deep place in my heart. I knew I wanted Alison, the heroine of Where Treasure Hides, to play a part in protecting both.
As the story took on a life of its own, the art took center stage. But Alison managed to smuggle two young children out of Holland, and Ian, the story’s hero, also saved the life of a young Jewish orphan.
I’m still enthralled with WWII history and its aftermath. It’s an era of great pain and even greater courage.
Johnnie Alexander imagines heart-tugging stories in multiple genres whether she’s at home in Florida or Tennessee. Her award-winning debut novel, Where Treasure Hides, is a CBA bestseller which has been translated into Dutch and Norwegian. She’s also the author of the popular Misty Willow Series: Where She Belongs, When Hope Arrives, and What Hope Remembers.
Since talking about writing is so much fun, Johnnie hosts Novelists Unwind, which features videotaped interviews with inspirational authors, and Writers Chat, a weekly online show. She also teaches at writers conferences and for Serious Writer Academy. Johnnie also volunteers as marketing director for the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference.
Thanks for joining us! I couldn’t agree more about it being an era of great pain and even greater courage. Johnnie is giving away a copy of the book. Follow the instructions below to enter.
Thanks so much for joining us, Johnnie!