Friday, March 02, 2007


Tricia Goyer’s newest novel, set during the Spanish Civil War, just prior to World War II, premieres a series of three. In my recent interview with Tricia, here’s what she told me about her book and her writing:

1) When and how did you know you were/wanted to be a writer?

I first started writing in 1993, when I was pregnant with my third child. A friend at church was writing a novel and something clicked when she told me about it. (Cindy Martinusen now as five novels published!)

Looking back, I realized I had the heart of a writer before that. I LOVED to read. I made up all types of stories in my head. I won a few essay contests in high school, but it took a friend’s encouragement to “click.”

2) Why historical fiction?

I never planned on writing historical fiction. I wanted to write contemporary romances. Then in 2000, I was with Cindy and another writer friend, Anne de Graaf in Austria. They were researching books, and I was along for the ride. BUT I was the one who got a novel idea, after talking to an Austrian historian. The historian’s true stories about the liberation of Gusen and Mauthausen concentration camps sparked my novel idea. The idea led to attending two WWII reunions and interviewing veterans. The veterans’ stories led to more novels. The rest, as they say, is history!

3) What triggered your interest in the Spanish Civil War?

When I was researching for my novel, Arms of Deliverance, one of the autobiographies I read was from a man who was a B-17 bomber pilot over Europe--but before that, he was an American volunteer for The Spanish Civil War. I had never heard of this war before, which happened right before WWII in Spain. I started researching, and I was soon fascinated. Some people call it "the first battle of WWII," because it's where that Nazis first tried their hand at modern warfare.

4) Where do you begin when you plan a new novel or series?

I start by researching the time in history, briefly; and then I start thinking of unique characters that had an impact during that time. For example, characters from my novels have been medics, war correspondents, artists, prisoners, etc. It's the people that make the story (and history) come alive. I research the real people first, and then the plot for my novel builds. Soon, I have to make myself stop researching to start writing. Research can be addictive!

5) Does the plot come first and drive the character development? Or vice versa?

Oh, it's a mix! I do a little plot, a little character development, back and forth. But . . . now that I'm currently writing my seventh novel, I'm spending more and more time up front with the characters. The plot seems to work itself out (or at least my plots do!), but boring characters will make readers put the book down and care less.

6) How do you want to affect your readers? What are your messages, themes, or purposes in writing your books?

I love sharing the true events of WWII in story form that will make history come alive to readers. I love when readers tell me, "I never knew that about WWII." All my themes seem to be similar, and they are woven externally through the plot, internally through the characters, and spiritually, too. They are Liberation, Destiny (in terms of God's calling on our lives), Promise, and Adoption. All my novels have some twist of these themes--which are themes in my own life!

7) What future projects do you believe the Lord has in mind for you? How do you see Him using you as a writer further down the road?

It's funny you should ask, because I'm asking the same thing right now! I'm currently getting together more WWII fiction ideas. I'm drawn over and over again to that period in history. I'm just praying that the messages of my heart will continue to connect with editors and readers. What more could a novelist want?

The Story Behind the Novel:

A few years ago when I was researching for my fourth World War II novel, Arms of Deliverance, I came across a unique autobiography. One B-17 crewmember I read about claimed to make it out of German-occupied Belgium after a plane crash due, in part, to his skills he picked up as a veteran of The Spanish Civil War. Reading that bit of information, I had to scratch my head. First of all, I had never heard of the war. And second, what was an American doing fighting in Spain in the late 1930s? Before I knew it, I uncovered a fascinating time in history—one that I soon discovered many people know little about.

This is what I learned:
Nazi tanks rolled across the hillsides and German bombers roared overhead, dropping bombs on helpless citizens. Italian troops fought alongside the Germans, and their opponents attempted to stand strong—Americans, British, Irishmen, and others—in unison with other volunteers from many countries. And their battleground? The beautiful Spanish countryside. From July 17, 1936-April 1, 1939, well before America was involved in World War II, another battle was fought on the hillsides of Spain.

On one side were the Spanish Republicans, joined by the Soviet Union and The International Brigade—men and women from all over the world who have volunteered to fight Fascism. Opposing them, Franco and his Fascist military leaders, supported with troops, machinery, and weapons from Hitler and Mussolini. The Spanish Civil War, considered the “training ground” for the war to come, boasted of thousands of American volunteers who joined to fight on the Republican side, half of which never returned home. Unlike World War II, there is no clear line between white and black, good and evil. Both sides committed atrocities. Both sides had deep convictions they felt worth fighting and dying for.

Loyalists—also know as the Republicans were aided by the Soviet Union, the Communist movement, and the International Brigades. If not for the weapons and volunteers from these sources their fight would have ended in weeks rather than years. While many men fought side by side, their political views included that of liberal democracy, communism and socialism. The Catholic Basque Country also sided with the Republic, mainly because it sought independence from the central government and was promised this by Republican leaders in Madrid.

Nationalists—or Francoists were aided mainly by Germany and Italy. The Nationalist opposed an independent Basque state. Their main supporters were those who believed in a monarchist state and fascist interests. The Nationalist wished for Spain to continue on as it had for years, with rich landowners, the military, and the church running the country. Most of the Roman Catholic clergy supported the Nationalists, except those in the Basque region.
During the Spanish Civil war, terror tactics against civilians were common. And while history books discuss the estimated one million people who lost their lives during the conflict, we must not forget that each of those who fought, who died, had their own tales. From visitors to Spain who found themselves caught in the conflict, to the communist supporters, Basque priests, and Nazi airmen . . . each saw this war in a different light. These are the stories behind A Valley of Betrayal.

Tricia Goyer, October 2006
Coming Fall 2007 -- Book 2: A Shadow of Treason
To win your copy of A Valley of Betrayal, comment on this Sky-High View blog on any post. Your comment must be dated March 4 through March 25, midnight, after which the winner will be drawn. You MUST leave contact information in your comment, such as your email address, blog address, or website.