Today I have award-winning authors L.A. Witt and Aleksandr Voinov joining me to talk about their upcoming release, Broken Blades, out on February 15! Set during World War II, it’s a novel about finding love across enemy lines, as an American soldier and a German officer reunite after one passionate night eight years prior.
They only had one night together—a stolen interlude at the 1936 Olympics. After Mark Driscoll challenged Armin Truchsess von Kardenberg to a good-natured fencing match, there was no resisting each other. Though from different worlds—an Iowa farm boy and a German aristocrat—they were immediately drawn together, and it was an encounter neither has ever forgotten.
Now it’s 1944, and a plane crash in hostile territory throws them back together, but on opposite sides of a seemingly endless war. Facing each other as opponents is one thing. As enemies, another thing entirely. And to make matters worse, Mark is a POW, held in a cold, remote castle in Germany… in a camp run by Armin.
They aren’t the young athletes they were back then. The war has taken wives, limbs, friends, leaving both men gray beyond their years, shell-shocked, and battered. The connection they had back then is still alive and well, though, and from the moment Mark arrives, they’re fencing again—advancing, retreating, testing defenses.
Have they been given a second chance? Or have time and a brutal war broken both men beyond repair?
So, without further ado…
Thank you so much Lori and Aleks for joining us here today!
Lori: Thanks for having us!
You’ve written several books together before, including another book set during WWII. Was there anything different about the writing process for Broken Blades?
Lori: Normally, we co-write in real-time, meaning we’re in a Google Document and switch off every few paragraphs. We share the characters, etc. With Broken Blades, we thought we’d try writing separately — me writing as Mark, Aleks as Armin. It quickly became apparent that we work better in real-time, so after the first few chapters, we went back to our old ways.
Aleks: Yep. So the first few scenes are pure Aleks or pure Lori and it then meshes. Would be fun if people could tell from where we started.Mark and Armin first meet at the Olympics, and bond over their passion for fencing. Did you do any research for this novel by watching Olympic fencing matches, and do you have a favorite Olympic sport to watch on your own?
Lori: Actually, we visited the Olympic park in Berlin where the 1936 Olympics were held, and we both did a lot of research on those Games. We’re both fencers, so we’ve known for a long time we wanted to write about some fencers. As far as Olympic sports to watch, I enjoy fencing (obviously), but you can’t pry me away from the TV during Dressage.
Aleks: I’ve always been fascinated by the event and dug pretty deep –for example, the fact that the various teams had Army chaperones who weren’t Nazis was one of those details I dug up and that fascinated me. I actually found the official “end of games” report as submitted by the Nazis to the Olympic committee, which details everything – painstakingly. How much everything cost, how much food was eaten, etc. One of the details that fascinated me was how popular Jesse Owens was in Germany – one of the first big athletic stars. Many things are pretty counter-intuitive like that. Regarding sports – I don’t think me watching the haka when the All Blacks take the field counts. I might also every now and then watch a football match (especially Germany versus anybody during the Euro or World Cup games), but that’s about it.
I love the ‘enemies to lovers’ trope, and it seems to be something you both enjoy writing. What draws you to writing opposing characters who slowly fall in love?
Lori: I enjoy it because having someone fall in love with an enemy means they have to face down *why* they’re enemies. Are they political differences? Religious ones? etc. So then they have to rethink their differences and decide if those views/beliefs/etc are worth losing the other person, which sometimes means rethinking their entire worldview.
Mark and Armin aren’t really enemies-to-lovers, I think. They start out as lovers (sort of — they have a brief fling at the Olympics), and by the time they cross paths during the war, they’re both completely jaded and battered. Both are fighting because they have to, not because they actually believe in the war (especially Armin), so their attitude is more like “How the hell am I supposed to fight YOU?”
Aleks: I really think Armin’s main regret was that he didn’t leave Germany when it turned into the Third Reich. He ended up suddenly trapped in a placed he didn’t recognize, doesn’t identify with, and it’s “home” but at the same unspeakably bizarre. Unspeakably – literally. At some point, he realised that he could end up murdered for “treason” or “defeatist talk”. He might joke about Hitler and the Nazis at the beginning of the book, but at the end, that’s the kind of joke that got people killed. Armin’s also what the Nazis would have called “an internationalist” – read, somebody with an understanding and appreciation of countries outside of Germany – or what we’d call a “Weltbuerger” (“world citizen”) – he’s travelled, he speaks English (and French, and probably, given his educational background, Latin and Greek), and that experience and open-mindedness makes him basically unable to subscribe to the Nazi worldview. He’s not even much of a patriot and the Nazis would definitely have considered him a “snobbish degenerate”. On that basis, Armin doesn’t really consider anybody his “enemy”.
All enmity he shows in the book has been “earned”, and doesn’t come from indoctrination. Of course he isn’t a fan of the Royal Air Force or the USAF – they bombed his family. He lost an arm on the Eastern Front and fought desperately to keep men alive in Stalingrad. He really doesn’t like the Nazis but doesn’t fight openly against them – also because he’s desperately outnumbered and every move he makes is treason and would see him either summarily executed or thrown into a concentration camp. So, yeah, Mark is really the least of his problems.
Tell us what you’re reading right now, or what’s on your To Be Read list for February!
Lori: I’m on a non-fiction kick right now, and I’m reading a lot about the history of Spain (especially Cadiz, which is near where I live).
Aleks: I just finished a German historical novel I bought ca 8 years ago, and now getting back into my research for my whaler story. Also reading books on astrology for a different project.
Can you tell us anything about your upcoming releases? Any co-writing planned for the future, or just focusing on solo projects?
Lori: We have a bunch of re-releases this year, but yes, we definitely have some co-written stuff up our sleeves! Real life has kept us from doing much co-writing over the last 18 months or so, but we’re finally catching up!
Aleks: Well, my release schedule is sparse at the moment because of several factors. I didn’t really write anything new in 2015 due to getting too damn close to a fun mix of burnout, depression and some really nasty interpersonal developments towards the end of that year. Then I got a new job too, which, while paid very well, is so intense with long hours that there are whole weeks when I don’t write at all. That said, things have shifted and I’m writing again – the closest to finished is “Risk Return”, a sequel to “Return on Investment”, and I may finally sort out the prequel, too. After some serious soul-searching and planning, I decided I’ll be aiming for one solo release every quarter, so that’s 4. This year, I’ll focus on writing sequels to books as their rights return to me from a publisher I no longer work with. I do hope Lori can find a space in her schedule to fit in a couple new co-projects, too. But we’re meeting next week so we’ll do some planning/plotting then.
Thank you both again for stopping by!
Broken Blades is out on February 15.
Pre-order from Amazon.com or ARe!
You can read my review of Broken Blades here! ()
About Aleksandr Voinov
EPIC Award winner and Lambda Award finalist Aleksandr Voinov is an emigrant German author living near London, where he works as a financial editor. His genres range from science fiction and fantasy to thriller, historical, contemporary, and erotica. His books were/are published by Random House Germany, Samhain Publishing, and others.
If he isn’t writing, he studies sports massage, explores historical sites, and meets other writers. He single-handedly sustains three London bookstores with his ever-changing research projects. His current interests include special forces operations during World War II, the history of chess, european magical traditions, and how to destroy the world and plunge it into a nuclear winter without having the benefit of nuclear weapons.
About L.A. Witt
L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer who has finally been released from the purgatorial corn maze of Omaha, Nebraska, and now spends her time on the southwestern coast of Spain. In between wondering how she didn’t lose her mind in Omaha, she explores the country with her husband, several clairvoyant hamsters, and an ever-growing herd of rabid plot bunnies. She also has substantially more time on her hands these days, as she has recruited a small army of mercenaries to search South America for her nemesis, romance author Lauren Gallagher, but don’t tell Lauren. And definitely don’t tell Lori A. Witt or Ann Gallagher. Neither of those twits can keep their mouths shut…
You can find L.A. (and Lori and Lauren and Ann) at http://www.gallagherwitt.com/ or on Twitter @GallagherWitt.