We Shall Not Shatter
(Book #1 of the Resilient Women of WWII Trilogy)
By Elaine Stock
Publication Date: 15th May 2022
Publisher: Amsterdam Publishers
Page Length: 332 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Holocaust Fiction
An unforgettable story of friendship, family and hope as two courageous young women face one of history’s most horrific tragedies.
Brzeziny, Poland, 1939 Zofia’s comfortable-lifestyle overturns when her husband, Jabez, who monitors Nazi activity, has gone missing. Rather than fleeing the country with her young son, as she had promised Jabez who is fearing retaliation, she decides to stay. She cannot possibly leave her friend, Aanya. Since their childhood they have amazed fellow Brzeziners that it does not matter that Aanya is Jewish and deaf, and that Zofia is Catholic and hearing. Now, more than ever with war looming, Zofia will do whatever is necessary to protect her family and Aanya.
As both love and war approach their Polish town, Zofia and Aanya must make choices that will change the meaning of family, home, and their precious friendship. The journey, decisions and the no-going-back consequences the women face will either help them to survive—or not—as Hitler’s Third Reich revs up its control of the world.
Inspired by the author’s paternal heritage from Brzeziny, this is a heartbreaking yet beautiful story of two women who are determined to remain united in friendship and to live freely despite the odds.
Mary Anne: A huge congratulations on your upcoming new release, We Shall Not Shatter, Book #1 of the Resilient Women of WWII Trilogy. Could you tell us a little about your series and what inspired you to write it?
Elaine: Thank you for your kind and encouraging words! We Shall Not Shatter begins in the winter of 1939, nearing the Eve of the Nazi invasion of Poland. As both love and war approach their beloved town, Brzeziny, two friends, Zofia and Aanya, close as sisters, face decisions and journeys never imagined. From early in their shared childhood days, Zofia and Aanya overlooked societal judgements of their friendship because of their perceived differences—Zofia is Catholic and Aanya is Jewish and deaf. When Zofia’s husband seemingly disappears and Aanya falls in love with a former Nazi-on-the-run, daily life, needs, and desires are tested and they are more determined to love their family and neighbors as always: fiercely and wholeheartedly. Yet, they are catapulted to the day they’ve dreaded—they must separate not by mere kilometers but an ocean apart. Book #2 (releasing September 2022), Our Daughters’ Last Hope, is the story of one of the characters, Herta, that Zofia meets en route to New York and about her life in the Netherlands during the war. Book #3 (as of now, untitled and releasing in 2023) is about what happens to Herta’s missing daughter and who she meets as she lives in disguise in Nazi Germany.
I grew up in the shadows of my grandfather’s absence—he had passed away two months before my father was born. Whenever I visited my grandmother and asked about her wedding photograph on her bedroom dresser, she wouldn’t reveal a word about my grandfather, her life with him, or for that matter, anything about my heritage from Brzeziny, Poland where my grandfather left at the age of 7, with his family, for America. From the little my father knew, he’d told me that his father was hearing-abled while he had several siblings who were born deaf, as well as a sister (the oldest child who was a teen when the family emigrated) who was left behind because she was deaf and wouldn’t have passed through the Ellis Island medical inspections (the other children were too young to have a telling-say during the exams). I was intrigued by these relatives and the mystery behind them, especially about this great aunt who remained in Brzeziny, one no one sadly seems to know about but who had perished in the Holocaust. A few years after I married, I got to meet the last two surviving brothers of my grandfather. Although they were deaf, we communicated fine enough and I did learn a few more facts about my paternal side of the family… but still did not know enough. To say that my desire to know more about Brzeziny blossomed as the years ticked by is an understatement. Having reached a juncture in my writing that I desired to change genres to Historical Fiction, I began to research Brzeziny and Poland’s incredible history and the horridness of World War II. And there was my story—one I couldn’t stop writing. The funny thing was that a relative—my father’s cousin—that I hadn’t heard from contacted me by phone (after hearing from my father that I was writing a novel about Brzeziny) and then sent me—drum roll—a Family Tree of my paternal side of the family that he had just completed.
I have no grudges against my grandmother. A widow with two children that she brought up on welfare, she did the best she could with what she had available. I truly believe that she clutched the stories of what her husband must have confided with her to her heart in an attempt to not only survive but to be strong for her daughter and son.
Mary Anne: We Shall Not Shatter is a novel set during the German occupation of Poland. What were the challenges you faced in researching this period of history and were there any unexpected surprises?
Elaine: Although I grew up devouring historical fiction as a child and young adult, I kept away from it writing-wise, ironically, because I was intimated by research. Mistake! I discovered I absolutely love researching—though one challenge was to resist falling into one rabbit-hole after another since I certainly couldn’t use each fact in a novel, let alone want to spend my lifetime on one book as much as I loved writing this one. Another major—and emotional—challenge was learning in detail about what life in Brzeziny used to be like—it was once the tailor-industry’s center of Europe—and what atrocities the Nazis brought to this town and all of Poland, which was heartbreaking to absorb.
Mary Anne: Why do you think this period in history is still really popular with readers?
Elaine: This time period in history is a showcase of how the will of human survival can endure and how people can help and love each other despite what destruction and evil lurks about. It’s truly inspiring to today’s readers who are also tested for many reasons.
Mary Anne: What do you think is the most challenging aspect of writing Historical Fiction?
Elaine: Interesting question! I mentioned above about the trap of too much research, and of course the opposite—too little. However, I think the biggest challenge in writing historical fiction is to make sure it doesn’t read as a text-book. I kept having to remind myself to emphasize the emotions and personal dilemmas of what the characters experience.
Mary Anne: What advice do you have for aspiring Historical Fiction authors?
Elaine: My advice is to write bravely, to have the courageousness to write the story that you, as a reader, would like to read. But then as an author, to remember to insert in plot surprises that will hopefully please your reader.
You can Pre-Order your copy HERE!
Publication Date: 15th May 2022
Elaine’s grandparents, on both sides of her family, narrowly escaped World War II by immigrating from Poland and Austria to the US. Fascinated by the strong will of people to overcome the horrors from this era, she wrote We Shall Not Shatter, Book 1 of the Resilient Women of WWII Series, inspired by her deaf great aunt who was left behind as a teenager in Brzeziny, Poland and perished in the Holocaust, while her other deaf siblings were permitted to enter the US when their young ages helped them to circumvent medically-revealing exams. Other extended family members also remained in Poland to lose their lives in the Holocaust.
Although multi-published in award-winning Inspirational Fiction, and a past blogger and online magazine contributor, Elaine now pens novels for the General reading audience. She is a member of Women’s Fiction Writers Association and The Historical Novel Society. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she has been living in upstate, rural New York with her husband for more years than her stint as a city gal. She enjoys long walks down country roads, visiting New England towns, and of course, a good book.
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