LIGHT IN A HOLLOW PLACE is the final book in Vicki Gaia's World War II Trilogy, "Warring Hearts." In a Parisian hospital, Richard Hart fears that his blindness may be permanent, as well as the nightmarish episodes. Faced with his disability and fearing he's losing his grip on his sanity, the last person he wishes to see is his fiancée, Claire O'Neill.***
Claire comes to Paris, convinced her love will lead Richard through this, and resolute about starting their life together after the war. But as Richard's episodes grow worse, he pushes Claire further away. When a dashing stranger shows an interest in Claire, she fears the gulf between her and Richard may be too great to overcome. German Ratlines, puzzle boxes, love triangles, and intrigue lead up to the final conclusion of Warring Hearts.
Tell us what motivated you to write historical fiction.
I've been writing short stories for a couple of years when I decided to attempt a novel-length story. I've always been fascinated with history and enjoyed research. I grew up watching 30s and 40s movies. It seemed like such a romantic time but also a time of harsh realities. I wanted to find out more about World War II and so I sketched out a story based on a woman in her early twenties. The war years would shape her life and her decisions.
From my imagination, Claire O'Neill was born. A woman who grew up without a mother, raised by her famous author father, Jack. A woman who wanted to become an artist. A woman who didn't want to fall in love and get married, afraid it'd stamp out the passion within.
I had to create a strong counterpart to Claire for her romance interest. A man who was as stubborn and would fight for Claire in his own way. I came up with Richard Hart. An intelligence officer who'd been fighting the war since 1939 in Europe. A man who had mental difficulties from being a prisoner of war but strived to overcome them. A man who needed love but didn't deserve love. A man who had to chose duty over all other emotions if he was to live with himself.
From this story, Cradle the Light, first of the "Warring Hearts" trilogy, took life. The final book came out this summer--Light in a Hollow Place--concluding the story of Claire and Richard, and the end of the war.
You can read excerpts for all of my books at my website.
What did you learn from writing a WWII trilogy?
That I didn't know anything about the war! I didn't realize how ignorant I was until I began reading true accounts from this era. I spent a year reading history books and biographies and trying to infuse my story with the realities of war, not just the sentimental journey. The trick was staying true to keeping it a romance.
Each book has the same characters, but each is a stand alone and takes place in a different city. Cradle the Light begins in London during the Blitz and ends in San Francisco at the start of the U.S. entering the war. Fragments of Light is set in New York City during the middle of the war. The subplot touches on the black market of confiscated works of art stolen from the Jews and other 'undesirables' deemed by Hitler's death squads. The final book, Light in a Hollow Place, finds Richard injured and recuperating in a Paris hospital. The story begins after the liberation of Paris. The war is winding down, and 'ratlines' are forming--escape routes for Nazi officers and collaborators who must flee Europe or else face trial. Richard and Claire have a choice, to deepen their love or part ways.
Have you tackled other eras besides the 1940s?
Between writing "Warring Hearts," I'd published Eliza's Hope, a book set in the Edwardian Era in New York City. A very fun book to write! I loved researching Greenwich Village and the bohemians and suffragettes who defied tradition.
My first book published was Long Strange Trip, about a young professor who is about to trip the light fantastic with Rose Red during the Summer of Love in San Francisco. I was born in Northern California, therefore I set many of my stories in San Francisco, a city rich in history.
Now that you finished the final book in your trilogy, what are you working on?
Whew! That book almost did me in. It was very difficult to write and it went through several rewrites before it was completed. My poor critique partner was tearing her hair out as we went through plot change after plot change. Once I handed the final edits to my editor I went into a total writing funk.
I couldn't write a word and didn't want to. I had the summer looming ahead and no stories in the works, no books contracted. My slate was wiped clean but this only made writing more daunting.
Did I even want to write anymore?
After a month went by, I decided to leave behind my pity party! I gave myself permission to take time off and do what I love--travel, read, review manga, have fun with friends and family. I took two fantastic writing classes from Margie Lawson--Deep Editing and Empowering Character Emotions. This jump-started my creative juices and relit the passion for writing. Writing became fun again.
Now that you're back to writing, what's next?
I needed a challenge. Tired of writing straight historical romances, I wanted to try a new genre. I've always loved ancient history and have visited several ancient sites in my travels--Knossos, Pantheon, Roman Forum, Stonehenge, Carnac, Neolithic 'goddess' sites in Malta. I'm drawn to a good mystery, esoteric philosophy and the goddess religion.
It's recommended when you don't know what you want to do with your life, go back to the things that you love. Combining my love for research with my personal interests, I decided to write an Urban Fantasy set in San Francisco. It's about gods and goddesses and angels. What is very different from my other writings is it's written in first person perspective, from the viewpoint of my female antagonist.
While this isn't a historical fiction, it is based on mythology, and my research is as intensive. I have a thick binder sorted by several categories--gods, goddesses, ancient civilizations, mythical creatures. Writing this book has put fun back into my writing life. I don't have it contracted yet, but I hope to by next year.
Unedited excerpt from WIP, In the Shadow of the Goddess, copyright Vicki Gaia 2008:
Across the bay, the Golden Gate's trestles flickered from behind gray mist. A cold picture of orange-red steel illuminated by the full moon and street lamps. Strange were the black mass of ravens clustered around the bridge struts. I pulled at the collar of my thick wool sweater, a deep black mass of fear overwhelming my confidence.Any final words?
Tendrils of fog rose up the cliffs like clinging ivy. Any moment I'd be shrouded in damp, dreary mist, blotting out the twinkling lights of the city. I prayed this wasn't an omen of things to come. I prayed my courage would be enough. I prayed my secret didn't destroy me.
I prayed but didn't believe.
The overhead branches rustled and the angel stepped out from the shadows. My neck cramped from looking up. Long disheveled hair glittered silver in the moonlight, dusting his shoulders, creating a cobweb of tangles. A face ageless and beautiful, and ravaged by eternity.
"The ravens lining the bridge struts failed to herald your entrance," I said, using my sarcasm to sharpen my wit.
The angel bowed, his arm sweeping in an arch. "Your goddess sends her most trusted servant to meet with me. I'm honored."
"I'm no servant, and you asked for me." I spit out the words through clenched teeth. The angel's terrifying beauty smothered my breath, slowly. "Why did you ask for this meeting?"
"Information, of course."
The angel's insufferable white-toothed smile provoked me. Angels weren't fluffy sweet cherubs strumming their harps in the sky. By nature, they were dangerous and cunning and shrewd.
I have a list of positive affirmations I keep on my desk. It keeps me in the right mind when I begin my day. I've learned this past year, it's the journey that's important, not the destination.
I want to thank all my readers for their support. I love writing a good story and hope to continue in the future.
I have several ways for readers to get in touch with me: my website, MySpace, and blog. If you want to receive my newsletter list, email me and I'll be happy to add you to the list.
"LIGHT IN A HOLLOW PLACE is an emotionally driven story that is loaded with descriptive details of a war-torn France, just barely coming to life again after the war. Exceptional plots and incredible characters weave an exciting tale of one couple who is trying to save their love while still fighting the after effects of the war." -- Wateena, for Coffee Time Romance
"Vicki Gaia does an excellent job guiding readers through this intricate story, introducing us gradually to the large cast of characters. Postwar Paris provides a vivid backdrop, historical details setting the scene yet not detracting from the plot. And what a plot!" -- Kimber, for Fallen Angels
Thanks for joining us, Vicki! She's giving away an e-book copy of the first in the "Warring Hearts" trilogy, Cradle the Light. Tell us if you find any aspect of the WWII era romantic and why, or just leave a comment or question. A winner will be drawn next Sunday.