|Michael Kenneth Smith|
As a young teenager I became infatuated with the Civil War. Thanks to Bruce Catton, who wrote wonderful, colorful, nonfictional accounts of the war, I was inspired to read everything I could get my hands on. As time went by, I graduated to more and more sophisticated Civil War authors such as Shelby Foote and James McPherson, which lead to a deeper
understanding of that time in our history.
When I decided to try my hand at writing an historical novel, it seemed natural to pick a subject I knew something about. My first two novels, Home Again and Scarred have deep roots in the Civil War and I am proud of the reviews that lauded their historical accuracy. Kirkus Reviews raved about Scarred “the author knows the Civil War in his bones.”
These two novels gave me a background upon which to base my fictional stories, but the Civil War platform can be somewhat limiting. I view writing as a learning experience. Learning about the historical elements is, of course, very important, but writing about the human experience of war is far more compelling to me.
|Scarred by Michael Kenneth Smith|
My third book, which is currently occupying most of my time is about World War II. I chose this topic because WWII offers more variety in the human experience. For instance, the role of women was more prominent. They were a key part in the resistance and many were imprisoned, tortured and shot. While prejudices are manifest in all wars, the German mindset that generated biases against Jews and others is rife with complex challenges in character development. The shear drama of a Gestapo agent asking for the identification papers of a British spy can be riveting if written properly.
I want to research and explore why the Gestapo agent hated Jews. Why the female resistance member risked her life to save a British flyer’s life. How a young Belgium woman could outfox the Nazi’s time and time again. Why hundreds and hundreds of French housed people who were being desperately sought by the Gestapo.
World War II also offers more opportunity for romance. The happily married British housewife, whose husband is off fighting the war, has a romantic interlude (or several) with others. Why? What happens during a war that changes a character’s values. I want to write about that.
|Home Again by Michael Kenneth Smith|
The bottom line is, for me, writing is a progression—a progression of learning and development. I want to be out of my comfort zone and reach for something higher. I want to write a difficult scene, sit back and read it, and then say, “Damn, that’s pretty good!”