It is with the greatest of pleasure that I welcome historical fiction author, John Anthony Miller, on to the blog today. John is going to share with us his inspirations behind his latest book…
When Darkness Comes
Three lives intertwined in Nazi-occupied Paris: Paul, a brooding banker whose family was killed by the Gestapo, Rachel, a teenage Jew who leads her family's escape from the Germans, Claire, a demure bookstore owner who finds courage and conviction - all confronted by an infamous Nazi collaborator. In the sprawling network of catacombs underneath the Left Bank of Paris, they hide thousands of Jewish refugees, giving them new identities and leading them to safety. Together they move forward, outsmarting a ruthless enemy, overcoming obstacles, defying danger, moving farther and faster, almost invincible – until an innocent bystander notices something amiss and their entire world collapses around them.
I like to write about ordinary people who are compelled to do extraordinary things, driven by events or tumultuous times. My first four books are about WWII, but not generals or admirals or politicians, but a reporter, a history teacher, a banker, a violinist. They become heroes, just as many other ordinary people became heroes during the global conflict.
One of my favorite websites to research personal accounts is the BBC, who have assembled a database for both the First and Second World War. There are many heroes referenced in their collection who were actually ordinary people, just like you and me. Some of their stories are riveting, difficult to imagine in a world that is now so different, but in some ways, still the same.
I like using the Second World War as a backdrop because it’s a conflict where good and evil are easily defined. My readers can envision the tragedies, easily choosing sides, knowing that the war was waged to preserve the freedom of mankind. That in itself, tends to be a powerful message
I also like to use the location of the novel as a character, often exotic, richly described, a place where people have either been or might someday like to go. My first three books were set in Singapore, Berlin, and Lisbon. For my novel When Darkness Comes, I chose Paris, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and a personal favorite of mine.
The ordinary people featured in When Darkness Comes lose loved ones or personal freedoms and converge to fight the Nazis. They use the only tools they have, given their limited military skills, and decide to rescue Jews from the Germans. I think that the Holocaust, and all the evils it contains, is a story that deserves to be continually told, lest we forget its victims and survivors, or how horrific it actually was, so that it never, in any shape or form, can or will be repeated.
When I first started When Darkness Comes, I wanted to write about a man who gave up everything to save others – his wealth, his reputation, his family, his future – for no reward or recognition. I wanted to develop a character whose life becomes self-sacrifice, simply to serve mankind, a concept that is pure and holistic, but sometimes difficult to imagine. I created a character named Julian Junot, who poses as a Nazi collaborator, while risking fame and fortune to create a network that rescues the Jews. But often when a novel is written, the other characters the author invents refuse to accept the secondary role intended. And such was the case with When Darkness Comes.
While researching the book I created Paul, Claire, and Rachel, those that operate the network required to rescue the Jews, from fragments of sentences I found in historical records. Each described tragedies endured by those in the French Resistance – a man who lost his wife and daughter, a young woman killed by the Germans, a teenage Jew who defied the Nazis. I thought they deserved more than a few words in a forgotten WWII journal and felt compelled to tell their stories, even if fueled by my imagination.
I also read about a French homeowner forced to board a German officer, a very polite man who replaced a wine glass broken accidentally. From this brief paragraph, General Berg emerged – an enemy who doesn’t quite fit the profile. A devout churchgoer who doted on his granddaughters, he loses his life not because of who he was, but because of what he represented. Just like so many millions of others in the Second World War.
Lastly, the book contains horrific tragedies. Although not based on anything specific, each can be traced to thousands of similar events that actually occurred, spawned by a global catastrophe that should never be forgotten.
I hope your followers enjoy reading When Darkness Comes as much as I enjoyed writing it.
All the best,
John Anthony Miller
Links for Purchase
About the author
John Anthony Miller was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to a father of English ancestry and a second-generation Italian mother. Motivated by a life-long love of travel and history, he normally sets his novels in exotic locations during eras of global conflict. Characters must cope and combat, overcoming their own weaknesses as well as the external influences spawned by tumultuous times. He’s the author of the historical thrillers, To Parts Unknown, In Satan’s Shadow, When Darkness Comes, and All the King's Soldiers. He lives in southern New Jersey with his family.