Friday, May 6, 2016

DUNKIRK---The Incredible Answer to So Many Prayers

Maggie Bright, my most intriguing 2016 read, is the fruit of novelist Tracy Groot's diligent labor. I'm delighted to interview Tracy this week, so everyone can learn more about her and this powerful, touching WWII miracle story. 
Did you get that? This novel is about a true historical MIRACLE!!!

Welcome, Tracy. Please tell us how the idea for this plot developed. 
While researching for Flame of Resistance, I’d read enough about the Dunkirk event of 1940 to get me interested. Once I knew the full story, I was shocked that more people didn’t know—it was such an incredible story of God’s deliverance, and I thought, “Well, no wonder the full story didn’t really make the history books—God intervened, so that alone keeps the story at arm’s length.” (Even Churchill, who didn’t consider himself a religious man, said that what happened at Dunkirk was a miracle.) 

And the fact that the King of England called his nation to a day of prayer—an event that both predicated the miracle and was something unprecedented in England’s history—made me want to tell the story all the more. And I wanted to tell it from all sides—England, France and what happened literally in between—so I developed a story that could allow me to do that. Telling the story from all sides meant a large cast, and I dearly love a broad palette of characters. This kind of story was right up my alley. 

How did writing Maggie Bright compare with the other books you've written?
I like to get inside a historical event and tell the story through plausible viewpoints. I create characters who are relevant to the event, but I enjoy working with historical characters as well. This is how I like to operate with all my books. I think it’s a combo of personal style and favored genre. But genre aside, it’s how I like to tell stories—I take a historical event that fascinates me, and tell it from the inside out. 

I enjoyed the secondary characters so much, especially Mrs.Shrewsbury, who irritated the heroine at the beginning of the story.  How did you develop her into a well-rounded character so we end up respecting and wanting to know her? (at least I do - and feel she's representative of many WWII British women.)
Ah! You’ve hit on one of my own favorite characters! I have a few British women friends, and I believe the Shrew is a composite of them. I wanted a character to represent that implacable do-or-die “Dunkirk spirit”, as it was referred to many years after the war, and the Shrew came out of that. She’s compassionate, fierce, whimsical, and above all, loyal. That loyalty, and all that comes from it, is something I felt represented a group of folk backed into an impossible corner. They were loyal to King and Country, and it showed up through all they did. It wasn’t just England’s military that did astonishing things—it was the citizens, deeply devoted to their military.

You must've spent some time on the English Channel to write this. Is that true, and could you tell us about the experience? If it's not true, then HOW were you able to make the sea scenes so real?
I went to England and France for research on this book, and did spend some time at and on the English Channel so that I could get my bearings for the story. I’ve also done some sailing, so I know what it feels like to be close to the water. I’m a big fan of site research whenever possible. It is able to fill in cracks that imagination sometimes cannot. Having said that, I’m a big fan of Michael Ondaatje’s mantra: “Imagination can do wonders with scant information.” If I don’t have the time or money to go somewhere, I use whatever resources I have at hand to aid my imagination. 

Some aspects of the ending surprised me. I won't say what, lest I spoil it for someone else. But did you conceive those twists from the beginning, or did they evolve as you wrote? 
Some aspects of the ending surprised me too. :)  I’m a big fan of finding things out as I go. I usually have a “dead reckoning” aim for where I’m heading (that’s sailor speak for “head that way”, without using graphs and charts), and this allows me freedom to figure things out on the way. It’s a trust thing, really; I’m trusting the general framework I’ve set up for my plot, I’m trusting my eyes to see that shore where I’m heading, while allowing for characters and story to “live and move and have their being” to get me there the way they would. The result, I believe, is a far more believable story, with characters acting like they should, and the story acting like it should—plausibly, and yet sometimes with complete surprise. And I think I know one particular aspect you’re talking about—yeah, I didn’t see that coming. :)

Thanks so much, Tracy. Now, please feel free to let loose and share whatever you'd like with us - we're all ears! (Including what you have up your sleeve next.) 
Well, I’m laying my pen aside for a time. There’s a time and season for everything, and now is the time for me to let the ground lay fallow for a while. Meantime, I’ll keep reading, reading, reading, and that does nothing but feed the fallow ground. When I do take up my pen again, I plan to finish my novel about Jonah—actually, it’s a novel about the men he sailed with. I keep jotting down notes, so that makes me sure I will return to finish the book. I wrote 3 historical novels in three and half years, and that was a good but crazy time—I look forward to writing a book without a deadline, this time. 

Thanks, Gail, for your interest!


Thanks to you,Tracy. I learned so much through reading Maggie's story, and through this interview, as well. 

Everyone, please leave a comment for Tracy to qualify for her giveaway of a hardback copy of Maggie Bright. And when you start reading this story, beware . . . it's VERY tough to put down. 


Trixi said...

I love learning history through fiction! And it sounds like you've done plenty of research for this book. I've never heard of the Dunkirk event, but then I'm sure you're not surprised about that! Probably like you said, nobody really has either. This sounds like an intriguing read and one I'd enjoy very much. Thanks for the author chat & giveaway chance! I've also shared this post on FB :-)

P.S. I also love a story that's hard to put down once you start it!
teamob4 (at) gmail (dot) com

Sarah Richmond said...

I find this story inspirational. The courage of the British people sustained them all through the war. What greater call to God's grace than to risk one's life for another.

Gail Kittleson said...

Trixi, I hear you - I found Maggie Bright SO hard to put down, and thanks a lot for your share!

Gail Kittleson said...

Sarah, I learned so much from Maggie Bright. We don't hear enough about how prayer works, or the individual sacrifices, imho!

Bonnie Engstrom said...

Fascinating interview. I wasn't born then, but I do remember my mother, grandmother and aunt dancing around the kitchen when the war was declared over. I would love to win the book.

Bonnie in AZ

Ann Ellison said...

Really enjoyed the interview and the book sounds like a really good one. My dad was a WWII vet and I am a big fan of WWII historical fiction.

Gail Kittleson said...

Thanks Ann - has your dad's story ever been used in a novel?

Gail Kittleson said...

Bonnie, what a great memory!! After all those folks went through, it's hard to imagine the depth of their relief to have it all over. Right now, I'm getting into research on the Europeans, who still had SO much suffering to go through even after the surrenders. Their strength amazes me.

Tracy Groot said...

Hi all! Just want to say it was fun to answer Gail's questions, and I appreciate the chance to get this book out there.'s in hardcover, not paperback, so I'm pleased to be able to offer that for the giveaway. What's not to love about holding a hardcover, I ask you? :D

Happy reading all...and the Miracle of Dunkirk happened at the end of this month, so perfect timing!

God bless,
Tracy Groot

P.S. LOVE the image of family dancing around the kitchen! If that doesn't conjure a tear or two!