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Monday 27 August 2018

ℚ♫ The Fortress - Madeleine Romeyer Dherbey

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about The Fortress (, Freedom Forge Press, 420 pages), a WWII Historical Novel.

“A sensational page-turner of a tale told with all the passion of a novelist and all the sensitivity of an historian, honor bound to do justice to the conflicting truths of men, women, families, rivals, religions, collaborators, communists, nationalists and simple French patriots during the Nazi occupation of the author’s beloved mountains in southeast France.

The Fortress is a beautifully written “For Whom the Bell Tolls” love story set in pre-D-Day 1944 and a gripping tale of friends and rivals in combat.

For those of us who know little or nothing about the resistance battles preceding the “second” invasion of France , the novel also beautifully and painlessly allows the occupied, their German (and, arguably French) occupiers, collaborators , and hard-pressed guerrilla resistance in impossible mountain terrain to speak for themselves.”

|| Synopsis || Teaser: KCR Preview || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||

A very warm welcome to Madeleine Romeyer Dherbey; thank you for joining us on BooksChatter!

Here at BooksChatter we love music; do you have a music playlist that you used in The Fortress, or which inspired you whilst you were writing it?

"The list below is only a sample. I listen to any melodic death/life metal, as long as the lyrics are not satanic or insulting to any religion. That’s in part where I get the determination, not just to keep writing, but to keep going. God and my family driving the balance."
What was the inspiration for The Fortress ?
"First of all, the Vercors Mountains. Breathtakingly beautiful, dangerous, a natural playground for all extreme sport lovers. Rock climbing, canyoning, spelunking, skiing, it’s all there. But for me, it’s home. It’s where my ancestors have lived and are buried, under those same cliffs.

Then, the history. The Vercors is a dream of freedom, a heroic battle, a military disaster, but also redemptive last stand. Many military and history books have been written on the subject, but no fiction accounts, and in fact, I was frustrated by the dryness of the accounts which I felt did not reflect the human dimension of that battle.

Finally, my own family history. Three of my uncles were condemned to death for collaborating with the Vichy government and betraying C2, a Resistance camp, to the Nazis. Their sentences were later commuted to forced labor, but the national disgrace verdict stood, and they had to leave the area to avoid being murdered. Despite the death threats, my father— who had fought with honor during the war—decided to stay. The legacy was hard to overcome in a community mauled by four years of occupation and violence, and seventy years later, my last name remains associated with the destruction of the Maquis of Malleval.

There are also small things, like a Sten machine gun I found in the mud of a summer creek, with this inscription, Pour ma Suzon Cherie, June 12, 1944; or the story of a fifteen-year old boy, a resistant fighter whose name is forgotten, who was tortured and murdered by the Nazis in the summer of 1944.

And finally, Russel Crowe, naturally."
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
"I just received an email from a childhood friend confessing to a conversation he had with one of our dear neighbors who is still perpetuating the lie that my father was a collaborator. My father was twice decorated for bravery during WWII, which is more than many of these people can say for themselves.

My uncles’ betrayal continues to affect the relationships I have back home, but the book is textured with every memory that means something to me. As I said earlier, the man who falls off the cliff is my own grandfather, a man of almost mythical influence in the family, and whom I finally got to meet as I wrote that first scene. In fact, most of the characters are people I have known—yes, even the Slovenian warrior with the rabbit—in other times and contexts, and whose personal issues, relationships, and conflicts created easy background for the plot."
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover. Can you tell us about your cover for The Fortress - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"The painting is an original from Anne Lane, an artist currently living in Louisiana.

It represents a view from the height of the Gorges du Nan in the Vercors, the very place where my grandfather fell to his death in the opening scene of The Fortress.

I have walked up that road dozens of times, up to the village of Malleval which was partly destroyed by the Nazi in January 1944. I grew up just a few miles away, with the story woven in the tapestry of my childhood.

The girl sitting on the edge is Alix, but it’s anyone who, coming of age, has to make decisions that will change the future. You don’t have to grow up under occupation to be faced with hard choices, right?"
Why should we read The Fortress and what sets it apart from the rest? What makes your book unique?
"This will be a short entry. Many books have been written on the French Resistance, and I will confess I read none that were written by people who have no personal connection to the French resistance.

If there is one thing you will experience with my book, is that it is authentic. You may like it or not, but you will get the insight of a French person whose family was really involved with the Resistance and the Vichy government. The emotions are real, the blood was spilled. It’s a heart and soul message, not a commercial project."
Can you tell us something quirky about The Fortress, its story and characters?
"I was hoping you’d ask me that. Mikko, Alix’s dog is the impersonation of my life-long passion for Finland. I will probably never go there, which makes and keeps the passion alive and strong.

I love Finnish death metal, Finnish vodka, Finnish literature, Finnish history and culture.
Väinö Linna is my favorite author. The work that made him famous is Under the Northern star, a story of hard work, loyalty, forgiveness, and amazing courage during the ferocious civil war in Finland. Read it. Akseli Koskela will show you what a real man looks like.

I considered learning Finnish, but sadly, it was too hard. I learned German instead."
Who would you recommend The Fortress to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"People who enjoy the working of history should like this book. It weaves a precise picture of a very complex political and military situation into the fabric of people’s lives, their urges, instincts and emotions, and how they can affect the bigger picture.

People who enjoy a powerful love story should also be happy, for in the middle of my noble historical mission, a love story was born, and once it took roots, it drove the narrative. Marc has pledged his life to defend the Vercors, and he is a man of his word. It is with genuine distress that he discovers his attraction to Alix, and he fights it. The tension that builds between them, driven by irrepressible attraction and conflict, is shaped not by the violence that unfolds around them, rather than superficial sexual drama."
If you could / wished to turn The Fortress into a movie, who would be your dream team?
"Okay, I’m not very good with movies. I don’t even have Netflix. Two of my favorite movies are Braveheart and Gladiator, but I’ll go with Mel Gibson for the director, since the story is reflective of the Christian values that shaped French society at the time.

Russel Crowe is now too old for the lead role, but he was always the face of Marc. Who’s manly enough nowadays? Chris Pratt!

As to the setting, pictures speak louder than words."
Combe Laval, Vercors Massif, France
What do you like to write and read about? Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?
"I like to have an authentic connection with my topic, not so much for the reader’s, but my own sake: it makes it more emotionally intense for me, therefore more rewarding. That’s why I don’t do sequels. They feel diluted, scripted, devoid of their original intensity of feelings. Commercially-purposed, in short, and no longer an expression of artistic creativity.

After a Historical, a contemporary fiction, I think I need something different. What, I have no clue yet, but something will happen in due time. I’ve learned that ideas always come if you don’t force the process."
What is your writing process?
"It takes me forever. I set no deadlines, no word-count goals, lest it become a chore.

I either get a beer, put on some Finnish Death metal, Insomnium, for example, and settle somewhere where I am not alone in the house, or I go for a long walk on the Appalachian trail—which is barely two miles away—with my dog, Mikko, which helps me put things together.

I used to have to be absolutely alone to draft, but not anymore. First, I like the kids’ chatter, the disruptions, and I like taking my time. Writing is part of life, not a substitute.

My favorite bands are Ghost Brigade, Insomnium, Wolfheart, and Swallow The sun. It’s as vast and brilliant as a Beethoven Symphony, thunderous but melodic, the perfect emotional outlet. And then, frozen expanses, Nordic lakes, white forests, it’s land’s end, after all.

I hand-write, then I type."
What is in store next?
"A novel centered around the federal entrapment of a young teacher. I have been teaching for 13 years, and have a deep emotional connection with my special education students.

And it’s political! Expressing political opinion in school is forbidden—really forbidden. Besides, the likes of me are pretty much underground. We recognize each other like Christians in Rome, with a glance and a rolling of the eyes. So being able to write the ins and outs of oppression in the public schools world, coupled with the building of a fake terror plot by a branch of the federal government no one in their right mind should trust, was a bit of a catharsis for me.

You will love it or hate it, depending on your allegiances, and who cares? It’s not meant to be commercial."
Madeline, thank you for sharing so much with us!

From now on, every decision Alix makes will mean life or death.

The Fortress
Available NOW!

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