Shadowboxing with Anne Barwell

She’d win. I’m a complete wuss. I had to resort to underhand methods to get Anne into the hot seat to answer a few questions. Fighting dirty’s the only way.

So over to Anne, to tell us about Shadowboxing.


What inspires you to write?
I get twitchy when I haven’t written for a while. It’s one of the things I find difficult when I have a new book coming out. Although I know promo is necessary, it takes away a big chunk of writing time.

‘What if’ is a question that fuels a lot of my writing.  Often, I’ll see or read something and wonder what would happen if…. Before I know it, characters have shown up and want their story told.  I have more stories to tell and only so much time in which to write so I have a few waiting in line…

I also love exploring characters and their worlds. I love dropping them into situations and finding out how they’ll react. It’s one of the reasons I love fantasy, although what I’m writing at present isn’t fantasy. Although I like to plot out a story, the characters often do their own thing and I find myself going along for the ride. It can be challenging, but also a lot of fun.


Since there is always another story to tell, what are you working on now?
I’m currently working on two stories.

One is Comes A Horseman, book 3 of my WWII Echoes Rising series. While the first two books were set in Germany, most of this one takes place in France so I’m learning a lot more about the country, its history, and language. It’s also the final in the series so I’ll be sad to say goodbye to these characters, although I suspect they might turn up in a free short story here and there.

The other is a contemporary for Dreamspinner Press’s World of Love series. I’m co-writing Sunset at Pencarrow, which is set in Wellington, New Zealand, with Lou Sylvre. Lou and I have written together before—we have a historical with a dash of fantasy set in 1745 in Scotland called The Harp and the Sea we’re part way through. It’s fun writing something set locally, and being able to share a bit of New Zealand through the story.


Which is your favourite character? Who was a joy to write (and why?) and who were you glad to see the back of (and why!)?
It’s difficult to choose a favourite character—it’s like choosing a favourite child. The easiest characters to write in Shadowboxing were Kristopher, the German scientist whose decision triggers a lot of the action in this book, and Matt, the leader of the Allied team sent to retrieve the plans for a device that could change the outcome of the war.

This story is, in a big way, Kristopher’s, and he grows a lot over not just during this book, but the series. I do find, however, he tends to go ‘off script’ at times, but I don’t argue with him. I tried once, and the story ground to a halt until I gave in. While he can be a bit naive at times, and stubborn, he’s trying to do the right thing and that drives a lot of his decisions. Meeting Michel makes him question a lot of things about himself he should have a long time ago. He’s also a musician, and I’ve enjoyed writing that part of him as it’s something we share.

Matt starts off as a bit of a joker, but he’s hiding a lot of pain behind his humour. He’s a strong person, and has had to be. I felt bad for what I put him through in Shadowboxing—he’ll be feeling the repercussions of it for a very long time, if not the rest of his life.

The character I’ll be pleased to see the back of is SS Obersturmführer Reiniger.  Although he’s working for SS Standartenführer Holm, the two men are very different. While Holm is convinced his reasons for tracking down the fugitives are noble, Reiniger just enjoys hurting people. Unfortunately Kristopher and Michel make an enemy of him early on, and it’s something that will come back to bite them later.  Reiniger holds grudges and is really not a nice person. I’ve just written two scenes from his point of view for book 3. I should probably worry about how easy they were to write, but I was glad when they were over. Ugh.


Which secondary character would you like to explore more? Tell me about him or her.
Zhou Liang is not really a secondary character in Shadowboxing as he plays an important part. After his parents died he was raised by his Chinese grandmother. He has PhDs in Physics and Linguists, and his role on the team is to authenticate the plans they are sent to retrieve. As the story, and the series progresses, his character grows a lot, and he also finds love, as often happens in times of war.  He begins as more of a loner but finds, despite himself, that his working relationship with his team grows into a deep friendship. I love his dry humour, and pithy remarks.

I’d love to explore more of his life before Shadowboxing and after the war.  Growing up in Britain during that time as a child of a Chinese father and a British mother wouldn’t have been easy. There’s a story there, as there is for after the series. His experiences have changed him, as has his relationship with someone who wouldn’t be very welcome in post war Britain.


Tell me something about yourself that will surprise me.
Not sure if surprise is the right word, but… there are a few things about me that tend to sneak into my writing.

I’m a huge geek, and as well as reading and watching a lot of SF and fantasy I love graphic novels and manga. I used to be up to date with my anime watching, but over the last few years I’m very far behind, so my favourite shows are older ones. I read a lot of graphic novels, especially DC’s Bat family.  If Nightwing (Dick Grayson), or Robin II(Tim Drake) are in a story, I’ll pick it up to read. I also love Marvel’s “Young Avengers”, and Billy/Teddy AKA Wiccan/Hulking in particular.

I play in an orchestra in my down time, and played piano for church for years. I’ve also been a rehearsal pianist for music theatre and the gang show, and played violin in the band for a couple of shows. I’ve snuck in a few literary, geek, and musical references into my books, and it was fun finding musical and/or poetry to use as code or code phrases in Echoes Rising.


What’s your biggest vice – shopping, coffee, shoes?
Books. I can’t resist them and working in a library is like someone with a sweet tooth working in a chocolate factory, but far worse a temptation as I never get sick of books.

If a story looks interesting I’ll read it, although I have a weakness for fantasy, science fiction, and historical in particular. Graphic novels are a big downfall, and so is stationery when it’s on sale. I’m a little addicted to stationery.  It’s not possible to have too many notebooks and pens, right?

I have several overflowing bookcases, and still not enough room. Decluttering doesn’t include books, and after trying that many years ago then discovering the books I’d got rid of, and thought I’d re-read through the library, were no longer available. I learnt my lesson, but I’m trying to behave myself with DVDs.  Not sure it’s working, but my collection of those is only growing slowly compared to the books so…



ShadowboxingFSBerlin, 1943. An encounter with an old friend leaves German physicist Dr.
Kristopher Lehrer with doubts about his work. But when he confronts his superior, everything goes horribly wrong. Suddenly Kristopher and Michel, a member of the Resistance, are on the run, hunted for treason and a murder they did not commit. If they’re caught, Kristopher’s knowledge could be used to build a terrible weapon that could win the war.

For the team sent by the Allies—led by Captain Bryant, Sergeant Lowe, and Dr. Zhou—a simple mission escalates into a deadly game against the Gestapo, with Dr. Lehrer as the ultimate prize. But in enemy territory, surviving and completing their mission will test their strengths and loyalties and prove more complex than they ever imagined.


Series: Echoes Rising: Book One
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publication Date: 31 May
Cover Artist: Reese Dante




Dreamspinner Press




Michel froze when several gunshots pierced the quiet Berlin night. “Kristopher…,” he whispered. No. Please no.

Beside him, Matt’s head jerked up. He swore loudly. A few moments later, another lone shot followed the first couple.

Walker and Palmer skidded to a halt, doubling back from where they’d gone on ahead.

“Elise’s Kaffeehaus.” Walker panted, trying to speak and catch his breath simultaneously. He and Palmer appeared to be much younger than their companions; Michel wouldn’t be surprised if this was their first assignment in the field. “Gestapo….”

“Matt….” Ken’s previous harsh timbre was replaced by something much gentler, but Matt ignored him and shook his head.

“No.” His voice shook, his words partly echoing Michel’s thoughts. “Not Elise. Please, not her, not now.” Matt leaned heavily against a nearby lamppost, his eyes glazed over.

“We don’t know who fired the shots, sir.” Palmer took over the explanation. At least he could pass for German if he stayed quiet and kept his head down. Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that, but there were no guarantees as to which way a particular mission might go. Michel had had that fact reinforced on more occasions than he cared to remember, but too many lives depended on them with this one. It had to succeed. “The Kaffeehaus is swarming with Gestapo, but there is no sign of anyone else.”

“We need to ascertain precisely what has happened before we move in. In order to do that, we will have to get closer.” Ken took charge—although Matt was the ranking officer, he appeared to be in no state to give orders. Whatever his relationship to Elise, this was not the time for him to be dwelling on what might be happening in the Kaffeehaus. Getting Kristopher and the plans to safety was still their priority.

“It’s damn obvious that someone’s been shot.” Matt visibly pulled himself together, although his voice hitched slightly before the word “shot.” “We need to get in there quickly in order to minimize damage. Gabriel, take Walker and Palmer and secure the back entrance. Lowe, Zhou, you’re with me. We’ll secure the front.”

“What if there’s another exit?” asked Liang, disengaging the safety on his handgun.

Matt shook his head, his matter-of-fact tone verifying prior knowledge of both the Kaffeehaus and its owner. “There isn’t. Not unless Elise has done some major renovations, which I doubt.”

“We’re probably more than outnumbered by Holm and his men.” Michel pointed out the inadequacies of the plan. “It would be more sensible to size up the situation first, as Lowe suggested, before we move in. The shot might be merely a warning. We don’t know for certain that someone is injured. If Dr. Lehrer and Elise have been captured, it would pay to wait until….” His voice trailed off, a grotesque image entering his mind—Kristopher lying on the floor of the Kaffeehaus, his fair hair stained red with the blood dripping from a single bullet hole to the temple. Michel quickly pushed it away. Holm needed Kristopher. He wouldn’t risk killing him. Elise could be used to ensure Kristopher’s cooperation. It made more sense that they were both still alive.

“I don’t care.” Matt’s previous calm was replaced by an edge of desperation that made him both unpredictable and dangerous. “I’m not just sitting here and waiting. To hell with procedure.”




Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand.  She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.

Anne’s books have received honorable mentions four times and reached the finals three times in the Rainbow Awards.  She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.

Dreamspinner Press Author Page:
DSP Publications Author Page:



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.