Saturday, June 11, 2016

LIttle Known World War II Story

Liz, I'm so glad to welcome you to The Diamond Mine. Your World War II sagas are definitely gems, and Remember the Lillies goes to the heart of deprivation and sheer survival.

Readers, pull up a chair while Liz shares about the origin of this novel and some of her historical research. And if you'd like to qualify for her giveaway of the novel, please leave a comment and your e-mail address. I'll contact the winner by June 19. (Minimum of five commenters required.)

Please tell us about the conception of this story.

The idea for Remember the Lilies originally came from my son. I was putting together a proposal for my WWII Women of Courage series. I had an idea for one book set in the Netherlands and another set in Germany. As I told them about this, my son, a huge WWII Pacific theater enthusiast, told me I needed one set in that part of the world. I remembered a segment I saw on Ken Burns’s documentary War about a civilian POW camp in Manila. And the story was born.

Many people don’t know about this part of the war. When the Japanese invaded the Philippines in December 1941, they rounded up all the Westerners living there. As the Philippines was a U.S. possession at the time, there were many. They were herded into POW camps where they spent the duration of the war. One of the camps was established on the grounds of Santo Tomas University. Anywhere between 3200 and 4000 people lived in the camp at any given time. At the start of the war, there were a total of 100 toilets. As the war progressed, the command of the camp passed from civilians to the military. Conditions deteriorated. Diseases such as dysentery and beriberi were common. Forced to live on rations of 700 calories per day, starvation was becoming an increasing problem in the closing months of their captivity.

Rumors reached General MacArthur that the Japanese planned to massacre everyone at the camp before the Americans could liberate it. Knowing this, MacArthur told his troops to head straight for Manila, doing everything they could to evade the enemy. As soon as they reached the city, they were to free everyone at Santo Tomas. The first American tanks crashed through the gates on the evening of February 3, 1945. According to some sources, the massacre was set for the next day.

What part of your research stands out to you? I had the privilege of spending several hours on the phone with Sascha Jansen, who survived the camp. Speaking with those who lived these events if one of my favorite parts of writing WWII. It was her interview on the documentary that sparked my interest in writing this story. 

I'm glad you pursued that interview and wrote this novel. Thanks so much, Liz, for joining us here.

Liz Tolsma’s debut novella, Under His Wings, appeared in the New York Times bestselling collection, A Log Cabin Christmas. Her first novel, Snow on the Tulips, released in August of 2013 and was a 2014 Selah Award finalist and a 2014 Carol Award finalist. Daisies Are Forever released in May 2014 and Remember the Lilies in February 2015. Her next novella, World’s Greatest Love, appears in the collection Rails to Love in October 2016. She is a popular speaker on such varied topics as writing, marriage, family, and adoption, and living with courage. She is also an editor and the owner of the Write Direction Editing. She enjoys mentoring clients and watching them learn and grow as writers. She has lived in Wisconsin most of her life, and she now resides next to a farm field with her husband and their two daughters. Her son proudly serves as a U.S. Marine. They adopted all of their children internationally, and one has special needs. When not busy putting words to paper, she enjoys reading, walking, working in her large perennial garden, kayaking, and camping with her family. Please visit her blog, The Story behind the Story, at and follow her on Facebook, Twitter (@LizTolsma), and LinkedIn. She is also a regular contributor to the Pencildancer blog. 


Kathy Anderson said...

Thank you for sharing this interview. I like hearing the story behind the story. There is a movie classic with Claudette Colbert in which she plays a POW in the Philippines. I can't remember the name of it though.

I was privileged to speak to a Battle Of The Bulge survivor at Saint Louis, Missouri in 2003. I was so intriqued listening to his first hand account of the weather conditions and the battle. He said most of the casualties occurred when the artillery shells would strike one of the trees and the soldiers below would be buried in so much snow that they suffocated before they were dug out.

Liz is a new to me Author. I will be looking for her books at my local library. If they are not there, I will request them.

Kathy Anderson
phoneticpanda at gmail dot com

Gail Kittleson said...

Liz, thanks for being here on The Diamond Mine, and for writing your wonderful historicals.

Robin Bunting said...

Loved the interview. Had no idea about the prison camp. Thank you for sharing. rebunting(at)yahoo(dot)com

KayM said...

Remember the Lilies sounds like an intriguing story. What a wonderful research opportunity to talk to someone who actually survived the camp! Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of Liz's book.

Gail Kittleson said...

Thank you, Robin and Kay. Seems there are still so many untold WWII stories!

Caroline said...

WWII is my favorite era! :) Wonderful post.

Gail Kittleson said...

Mine too, Caroline. I can't research this era enough, or ever learn all there is to know about it.