Please give a warm Coffee Pot welcome to historical fiction author. Laura Libricz. Laura is going to share her inspirations behind her fabulous new book…
The Soldier’s Return
(Heaven’s Pond Trilogy, Book 2)
The year is 1626. A senseless war rips through parts of Germany. Ongoing animosity between the Catholics and the Protestants has turned into an excuse to destroy much of the landscape situated between France, Italy and Denmark. But religion only plays a minor role in this lucrative business of war. The young Dutchman, Pieter van Diemen, returns to Amsterdam in chains after a period of imprisonment in the Spice Islands. He manages to escape but must leave Amsterdam in a hurry. Soldiers are in demand in Germany and he decides to travel with a regiment until he can desert. His hope of survival is to reach Sichardtshof, the farm in Franconia, Germany; the farm he left ten years ago. His desire to seek refuge with them lies in his fond memories of the maid Katarina and her master, the humanist patrician Herr Tucher. But ten years is a long time and the farm has changed. Franconia is not only torn by war but falling victim to a church-driven witch hunt. The Jesuit priest, Ralf, has his sights set on Sichardtshof as well. Ralf believes that ridding the area of evil will be his saving grace. Can Pieter, Katarina and Herr Tucher unite to fight against a senseless war out of control?
European history during the 17th century is, in my opinion, the most exciting but sadly underrated period in historical fiction. The Age of Discovery was well underway. The printing press had been in use for over one hundred years and the implications this had on the swift spread of knowledge was incredible. This helped publicize Luther’s attempt to reform the Catholic church. There was a working European postal system. Enlightenment, science, mobility, globalization—the world was evolving and more people were finding out about it.
Sadly underrated, yes, and somewhat overlooked by historical novelists and readers alike, this time period has its fans. I happen to be one. If I had found more novels set in Germany in the Early Modern Period, written in English, I may not have started this journey! This was one of the main reasons I began research and work on the Heaven’s Pond Trilogy. When I finished The Master and the Maid, the first book in the series, I was so lucky to discuss my initial inspirations with Mary Anne. You can read more here.
In the second book, The Soldier’s Return, I took the opportunity to deepen my understanding of three diverse characters from the first book, giving all three of them equal voice. One is the character of Katarina, the master’s maid and guardian of the child, Isabeau. Creating a female character in historical fiction is a topic of discussion these days. How should we portray them? Were women subservient? If they were, dare we write them like that? Readers may not want to experience their women characters in such a role, no matter how true to historical research this may be. They may want their heroines to be sword wielding wild warriors.
Katarina is not a weak woman. She is true to her character: she loves, she laughs, she weeps and she suffers just like we do. She makes certain sacrifices for the child she cares for and tries to survive a particularly violent, well-documented period in German history. She is blessed with intelligence, she battles with certain human weaknesses, one of them being her love of a married man.
A character who has moved to the forefront is the Dutchman Pieter van Diemen, now 26 years old and the returning soldier. Here again, writing from the viewpoint of Pieter had its challenges. Soldiers were known to be brutal during the Thirty Years War. Should I hire a sensitivity reader? I again tried to be true to Pieter’s character as he spoke to me and I listened to what he would have done in his circumstances. Soldiers did unsavory things and it was important to me to be as realistic as possible. I handled the scenes in a non-graphic manner but I wanted to underscore the severity of the stakes in order to illustrate the choices Pieter had to make.
The third character I was allowed to flesh out is the Jesuit priest, Ralf. He is the antagonist in the first book and the second. During the early 1600’s, Franconia, Germany was the scene of massive witch hunts, involving the persecution and execution of men, women and children in the thousands. These innocent people became the church’s scapegoats, receiving the blame for bad weather and the devastating troop movement and fighting of the Thirty Years War. Investigating such a horrible situation from Ralf’s viewpoint was important to the story I was trying to tell.
Because the Heaven’s Pond Trilogy began with the fairy tale about the child, Isabeau, this series is actually about her life. Here’s a little teaser: the child Isabeau gets her spotlight in the third book!
Links for Purchase
About the author
Pennsylvania native Laura Libricz earned a BA in German at The College of New Paltz, NY in 1991 and moved to Germany, where she resides today. When she isn’t writing she can be found sifting through city archives, picking through castle ruins or aiding the steady flood of musical instruments into the world market. A fascination with the country’s history has led her to recreate the 17th century for English speaking readers in the historical novel series Heaven’s Pond. The Master and the Maid is the first book in the series. The Soldier’s Return is the second.