My friend Anne Barwell had a new book, Shadowboxing, out very recently and today I’m delighted that she’s popping into my blog to chat about it. The book is set in Berlin in 1943 and she tells us about the hard work – and some of the pitfalls! – involved in researching the necessary details from a time and place she’s never been able to visit. Over to you, Anne!
Thanks for hosting me today.
Shadowboxing, the first book in my WWII series Echoes Rising, is set in Berlin, Germany, in 1943. That meant that I not only had to research what was happening at the time, but also be as accurate as I could in portraying the setting.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t in a position to travel to Berlin and explore it that way, although it would have been lovely if I could have! So, I did the next best thing and researched the area using available resources. However, that did come with another complication as the story doesn’t take place in present day. For example one part of the story is set in a park, so I had to find one in the area. Voila, Google search supplied the perfect place. But further reading revealed there had been a railway station there in 1943. So it was back to the drawing board to find somewhere suitable…
Many of the other locations used in the story are also real places, and used to anchor the setting. The Sankt-Michael-Kirche—St Michael’s Church—in Berlin where Michel meets the Allied team was still intact in 1943, although it was damaged later in the war. The Klosterkirche, a nunnery on the site of another church, where Michel and Kristopher take refuge, is also a real place, as is St Gertrud’s convent in Alexanderdorf. I was able to draw on photos for those places to describe them, which was very helpful. Other landmarks included the Brandenburg Tor and the Spree River.
Some of the other settings were not real although I studied maps in order to place them in actual locations, so I could work out what route the characters had to take to reach them. I also used Google maps to figure out long it would take to get between two locations, but had to make some adjustments, given the time period. Cars didn’t travel as fast seventy years ago and this story is set during a war. Google street view was also useful too, keeping in mind the time period.
My fictional locations are based on real places so they sound authentic. It’s the details that throw a reader out of a story, although it’s impossible to get everything right, and sometimes a writer has to take some liberties for the sake of a good story.
Working in a library is great when doing research. I found books of street maps of the area—because sometimes you want something in hardcopy and not flipping back and forth on browser tabs—and firsthand accounts of people living in Berlin at that time. Data bases were very helpful, especially the Times Digital Archive, as they gave more of an insight into life during the war. Travel books like The Lonely Planet Guides were useful too, but again had to be adjusted because they focused on what Berlin is like now, rather than describing the city in 1943. I’d especially like to thank one of my beta readers, and her husband, for all their help. Being from Germany they had insights that I didn’t as someone who had never been there. It was the simple things that were difficult to find the details about. For example I needed to know about telephone jacks in Germany at the time. How exactly were they attached to the wall etc? There is a lot of information about the US online and in books, but trying to find something about Germany? Frustrating. Luckily they were able to ask family and we found the answers we were looking for. The devil is in the details, as the saying goes.
Echoes Rising Book 1
Complete their mission or lose everything.
An encounter with an old friend leaves German physicist Dr Kristopher Lehrer with doubts about his work. But when he confronts his superior, everything goes horribly wrong. Suddenly Kristopher and Michel, a member of the Resistance, are on the run, hunted for treason and a murder they did not commit. If they’re caught, Kristopher’s knowledge could be used to build a terrible weapon that could win the war.
For the team sent by the Allies—led by Captain Bryant, Sergeant Lowe, and Dr Zhou—a simple mission escalates into a deadly game against the Gestapo, with Dr Lehrer as the ultimate prize. But in enemy territory, surviving and completing their mission will test their strengths and loyalties and prove more complex than they ever imagined. Author’s note: This is the third edition of Shadowboxing. The first and second editions were released by another publishing house. This story has been re-edited, and uses UK spelling to reflect its setting.
The book sounds fascinating and if, like me, you’re tempted to get your hands on a copy, you can find it here: SHADOWBOXING BY ANNE BARWELL
Or you can track Anne and all her other books down here:
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