One of my favorite aspects of writing is actually reading about the time period in which a story is set. By reading I mean “research” or learning as much as I can about whatever I happen to be writing about.
Right now I’m working on a follow up to GHOST SNIPER. That’s my World War II sniper story set around the D Day invasion. Without spoiling the ending, I’ll just say that the story will continue for a final showdown at the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes Forest.
The working title is THE WOLVES OF ARDENNES.
For the research, I’ve been reading several books on the battle, which was Hitler’s last-ditch effort to break out on the Western Front as the Allies began the final push toward Germany. His desperate plan very nearly worked. As battles go it’s interesting on many levels, and turns out to be one of the few major defensive battles that the United States military has fought.
There’s also a great deal of drama involved in the battle that goes beyond the military strategy aspect. Many civilians were caught up in the fighting. I was really saddened by an account of the 16-year-old girl who volunteered in a field hospital, helping wounding Americans and Germans. She was killed when a bomb hit the hospital. Think of the life she might have lived, and might still be living 70 years later, but it was all lost in an instant.
The battle took place during the Christmas season, which always heightens the irony of “peace on Earth, good will toward men.”
I’m learning all this from reading some excellent books, such as the Stephen Sears history of the battle. Also, FATAL CROSSROADS by Danny S. Parker about the Malmedy massacre was a sad but thorough account of how 83 American POWs were machine gunned by SS troops at the Battle of the Bulge. My stack of books about the battle continues to grow.
I’ve never met a map I didn’t like, so any WWII book with a battlefield diagram or map of the Ardennes region is great to look over. Thanks to Google Earth, I can visit the geography of the battlefield on my MacBook.
The sequel to GHOST SNIPER is still in the planning stages, but it is slowly coming together. Something on the scale of the Battle of the Bulge is so huge, but in the novel it will be a far more personal story of a handful of characters caught up in the events of December 1944.
Research has a kind of siren song that can lead a writer astray. My agent once advised me not to spend too much time on research until after the story had mostly been written. “You can always look up later what you don’t know,” he said.
That may be true, but then I’d be missing out on part of what I like so much about writing historical novels!