I am thrilled to welcome Anne Barwell to the website today. Anne is one of the stalwarts in our genre, someone who not only writes brilliantly, but who supports other writers without stint, not only through helping them promote their books, but by providing reviews and recommendations to help readers find new authors. Hosting Anne here to today to talk about her re-release of Shadowboxing–she’s written a short piece below, which has me smiling in wry amusement as I recognise how my own characters behave!– is a small ‘thank you!’ for everything she has done for her fellow writers.
Echoes Rising, Book 1
Complete their mission or lose everything.
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.
Author’s note: This is the third edition of Shadowboxing. The first and second editions were released by another publishing house. This story has been re-edited, and uses UK spelling to reflect its setting.
Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08LCRT1ZZ
Thanks for hosting me today. I’m excited to be re-releasing this series, and having it back out in the world.
The title of this post is taken from a song title, which is also the title of a mini-series I enjoyed about two musicians during WWII.
Shadowboxing, the first book in my WWII Echoes Rising series, sticks in my mind as one of my earliest stories in which I disagreed with a character as to which way a particular scene should go. As I write a new story or series, I often get to know the characters as the story progresses. While I make notes of their descriptions and backgrounds before I start writing, their personalities are not always how I imagined them. Although I have a bullet pointed storyline in place, I’m also aware of the need for it to be flexible.
I started work on Shadowboxing over ten years ago, and it soon morphed from one book into a three book series, and the characters began to ‘do their own thing.’ I got to a certain crucial part of the storyline and decided one of the character’s next course of action needed to be such and such. Said character wasn’t having a bar of it. I argued and said oh yes he was. Short story is that Shadowboxing came to a grinding halt and no writing was done until I changed my mind grudgingly and wrote the scene the way he wanted it. In hindsight it worked much better the way it was finally written, and meshed much better with his character—not just who he was then, but who he has become over the course of the next two books.
It’s the last time I’ve ever argued with a character. Now I just go with the flow. I’ve had characters not only change short scenes which impact the rest of the story, but totally detour the plot along the way. This series is particularly bad for this kind of thing. At first Kristopher was the culprit, then Michel joined in during Winter Duet—book 2. In Comes a Horseman—book 3—Matt not only derailed the plot but introduced a character who wasn’t in the outline yet ended up playing a crucial part in the rest of the story. Still, it’s better than the 10K detour that took place in Winter Duet. Or perhaps it’s just not quite as obvious.
I get strange looks and comments from non-writers when I mention characters taking over, yet I’ve talked to a lot of writers who have characters who don’t behave either. I’m not sure whether it’s reassuring or not to know I’m not alone in this.
Taking a step back, I think it’s because as I write, the characters become very real. I’ve found when a scene is flowing well, it feels as though I’m taking dictation. I have a habit of speaking aloud what I’m typing as I write, and often when this kind of inspiration hits, I have to type faster to keep up. Perhaps it’s a part of my subconscious exerting its creativity? I kind of like the idea of the characters misbehaving. Or as they put it, they “Ain’t Misbehavin’”.
Apart from a good plot, it is the characters who suck me into a book when I read. One of my favourite things about writing is getting to know the characters who take life through my stories. Occasionally I fool myself into thinking I know them well, and then something will happen in the story that throws me. It’s usually something that makes for a better story too.
This was his chance to put things right, to make sure the project did not go further. He hurriedly shoved the file back into the case and then froze. What exactly was he going to do? Only one complete copy existed as far as he knew, but he wasn’t certain if the Nazis were aware he was capable of replicating the information. He would have to destroy the file, then disappear.
That wasn’t going to be easy. The Nazis had spies everywhere, and he did not know anyone who would help him. He wouldn’t ask Clara, nor would he consider death as an option. He couldn’t do that to her, not after she’d spent so much of her energy taking care of him. Someone had to get the information about this device out to the rest of the world. He had helped to create it. He would make sure the project was only ever used for the benefit of all mankind, but where the hell was he supposed to find the people he needed to ensure that happened? How could he trust anyone now, let alone convince them to trust him?
Kristopher turned. The office door was opening. In one fluid movement he gripped the briefcase firmly beneath one arm and bent to retrieve a piece of broken glass, holding the jagged edge in front of him in a feeble attempt to defend himself.
The newcomer took in the situation at a glance, one eyebrow raised in an unspoken question. His eyes flickered onto what had once been Kluge, then back to Kristopher, and finally came to rest on his precious cargo, the briefcase containing the culmination of a dream now better described as a never-ending nightmare.
Kristopher debated for all of a second the chances of his success if he tackled the man head-on, then decided against it. Apart from the extra height, Schmitz’s uniform probably disguised a well-developed physique. He also had the advantage of military training and the gun he held. Kristopher’s opponent possessed some degree of intelligence. That much was obvious by the inquiring look on his face and the way his eyes seemed to penetrate Kristopher’s, searching for an answer. For an instant, Kristopher was sure he glimpsed a depth to those eyes, and the man behind them. He edged back a step, taking comfort in the solidity of the desk digging into the small of his back, the sensation grounding him while he attempted to place the pieces of the puzzle together.
How much had Schmitz seen? His expression did not reveal anything.
If Kristopher surrendered now, everything would be over, and the Nazis would win. He wouldn’t give up, no matter what the odds. He gripped the glass fragment tightly, ignoring the sharp pain as the rough edges scratched against his palm, the red liquid seeping into his shirt cuff already stained with the blood he’d earlier unsuccessfully attempted to stanch. He took a step closer, trying to look menacing, fully aware that on a scale of one to ten he wasn’t achieving even a one.
They stood staring at each other, or rather Kristopher stood staring. Schmitz leaned back casually against the door without shifting his gaze. After a few moments with Kristopher’s ragged breathing the only audible sound in the room, the Obergefreiter pulled himself to attention and took a step forward. He lowered his gun and placed it in its holster before holding out his hand for Kristopher’s makeshift weapon.
“Herr Dr Lehrer,” he said softly, the tone of his voice low, an expression of disbelief fleeting over his features. “You’re one of the most brilliant minds in this institution, and yet this is the extent of your plan?”
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with Kaylee: a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning.
In 2008, Anne 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. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ.
Anne’s books have received honourable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy, once for Best Historical, and once for All-Time Favourite M/M Author.