Friday, July 29, 2016

Love's Harvest: A WWII Love Story by Linda Shenton Matchett

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Love's Harvest by self-professed "history junkie" Linda Shenton Matchett, one of our own blog members! Her novella is a part of the Stitches thru Time novella collection. It's my pleasure to interview Linda today! Enjoy!

Welcome, Linda! Tell us a little about yourself, your family, and how you started writing? I started writing as a child. I still remember the first notebook my folks gave me. It was a yellow lined tablet with images of giant red, blue and yellow pencils on the cover. We took a lot of car trips visiting family and taking vacations while I was growing up, and writing stories was how I passed the time. When I was around ten years old, I created a newspaper called The Good Times. I made up all the news, and including an editorial column and weather report. It only last a few issues. But that gave me the writing bug.

Love’s Harvest is a sweet story that I enjoyed reading. Tell us how you came up with the idea for your novella.
I’m glad you enjoyed it. Many years ago, I read Francine River’s Redeeming Love, a fictionalization of the book of Hosea set during the old West. It was an amazing book I have read several times. Since then I’ve wanted to use the same concept and toyed with idea of doing a fictionalization about Priscilla and Aquila, but the story never solidified. I was studying the book of Ruth when members of my group blog suggested we create a collection of novellas. I immediately knew Ruth was my story, and that the WWII era would be the perfect time period in which to set it. After that, the other plot pieces came together quickly.

What audience are you targeting with your book?
Most women would enjoy Love’s Harvest, but it may resonate more strongly with women in their forties or older

The characters in your book are very strong women. What type of characters do you most enjoy reading about?
I write about strong women, because that’s who I like to read about. I love Scarlett O’Hara. Although not always likeable, she is strong willed and doesn’t let life mow her down. My kind of gal!

If you could spend an evening with one historical person, who would it be and why?
Tough question. I’m a “history junkie,” so there are lots of women from the past I’d like to meet. But if I can only pick one, I’d have to say Priscilla from the Bible. I did a lot of research while I was considering writing about her. She was a leader in the church during a time and in a culture when women were generally property, to be seen and not heard. If you’ll notice, she is generally mentioned first in passages of scripture that talk about Priscilla and her husband. Some of my research indicates that is because she was a woman of wealth, perhaps more so than Aquila. I’d like to talk about how she balanced her work, home, and church lives. She was close to Paul. I’d love her opinion on him!

What kind of research went into writing Love’s Harvest?
I already knew a lot of generalities about the British home front, but needed to dig deeper into the Women’s Land Army. What was the procedure to join the organization? What were the responsibilities? How did someone get assigned to a particular location? What were their wages? Was lodging included? Uniforms, etc. I watched many interviews with former Land Army Girls on and read several memoirs. In the Bible story, Naomi and her husband end up in Moab because of a famine, so I had to find a famine to start my story. It took a bit of time, but I finally discovered an extended drought that resulted in a famine in the Volga region of Russia during the 1920s. I researched about famine in general and that one in particular. Interestingly, it affected a large number of Germans who had settled there under Catherine the Great. As a result of the famine, they left the area, and many of the emigrated to the U.S.

What have you learned from having your first book published that you could pass on to those just beginning to write?
I learned so much during this process, but the most important thing was the importance of the writing community – for encouragement, camaraderie, feedback, and assistance. Writers I barely knew readily jumped in to offer help with the process. Others volunteered to be beta readers or early reviewers. And of course my critique group helped me write the best possible book because of their spot-on feedback. A crucial part of any writer’s life should be a critique group. Find one or start one as soon as possible – whether online or face to face. I am a better writer than I could ever be without my critique group.

What do you want your readers to gain by reading your book?
Forgiveness and God’s plans for our lives are themes that appear regularly in my stories. I hope to encourage readers that no situation is too big or too small for God. I think sometimes people feel like they are bothering God with stuff they think is too petty for his attention. He wants to be involved in every area of our life.

How did you weave a spiritual thread through Love’s Harvest without being preachy?
I used internal and external dialogue to exemplify my characters’ dealing with spiritual issues, so that readers could watch the thought processes unfold as each of the people in the story dealt with their particular circumstances.

Please share a favorite scene from Love’s Harvest with us.
The platform vibrated beneath Noreen’s feet as the train rumbled into Berlin Station. Hordes of people shoved their way toward the iron behemoth. Babies wailed. Parents barked orders at their children to stay close. The smell of unwashed bodies mixed with the coal dust in the air.

Perspiration trickled down Noreen’s face, and she scraped a damp strand of hair behind her ear. The satchel on her back threatened to tumble to the ground, so she hitched her shoulder to settle luggage back into place. The bulging bag that had traveled with her from London to Berlin so many years ago would now make the return trip.

She gripped her bulky, brown suitcase tighter and braced herself against the tide of humanity. Not ready to get swept into the train, she hunched closer to the wall. Odelia and Rosa stood sentry at her side.

Noreen glanced at Odelia’s face, whiter than usual. As the departure day approached, the young woman had become quiet and withdrawn. More than once this morning, Noreen found her frozen in place, lips moving in silent prayer. When questioned, her daughter-in-law claimed she was simply petitioning for safe travel.

The loudspeaker crackled with static.

The mob quieted. A child cried out then fell silent.

Achtung! There will be a slight delay due to mechanical difficulties.”

A moan rose from the crowd.

“Please move back from the train. We will announce when it is time to board. Thank you for your cooperation.”

“I can’t do this.” Odelia sobbed into her crumpled handkerchief. “I’m sorry, Mutti. Don’t hate me, but I cannot go with you to England. I’m not brave enough.”

Noreen pulled Odelia into her arms. “Hush, child. I could never hate you. You have to do what is right for you. You should stay and make your life here.”

Several people stared at the trio as the young woman continued to cry. Rosa stroked her sister-in-law’s back. “Where will you go? Your family is gone.”

Odelia sniffed and wiped her face with the damp cloth. “I have a second cousin who lives in Hamburg. After Manfred died, she said she would take me in.” She patted her handbag. “I received a letter from her last week renewing the invitation. She owns a dress shop and said I could work with her doing alterations.”

Noreen opened her bag and reached inside. She withdrew several Deutschmarks and thrust them into Odelia’s palm. “You will need these until you receive your first paycheck.”
“No, I’ve taken enough from you.”

“Nonsense. I insist you take them. And before you leave the station be sure to get your ticket refunded.”

Rosa unwrapped the blue scarf from around her neck. She draped it across Odelia’s shoulders. “It’s not much, but it will keep you warm during cold nights.”

Odelia’s lip trembled. “Thank you. I will miss you both."

The women clung to each other while Noreen prayed.

“Your attention, please. We will now begin boarding the train to Brussels. Please proceed in an orderly fashion.”

The buzz of voices filled the station as the people jostled each other. Odelia gave Noreen and Rosa a gentle push forward. “Go. Don’t miss your train. I’ll be fine.” She held up a scrap of paper then handed it to Noreen. “This is my cousin’s address. You can write to me there. We’ll stay in touch.”

Noreen stuffed the paper into her purse and nodded. She brushed Odelia’s damp cheek. “Blessings on you, child.” She turned to Rosa. “This is your chance. You can remain in Germany, too. I don’t have another son or a brother who can marry you.”

Rosa shook her head. “Please, don’t try convincing me to leave you. If you’re going, I will go, too. If you stayed, I would stay. You are my family, and even your God has become mine.”

Book Blurb:
Noreen Hirsch loses everything including her husband and two sons. Then her adopted country goes to war with her homeland. Has God abandoned her?

Rosa Hirsch barely adjusts to being a bride before she is widowed. She gives up her citizenship to accompany her mother-in-law to her home country. Can Rosa find acceptance among strangers who hate her belligerent nation?

Basil Quincey is rich beyond his wildest dreams, but loneliness stalks him. Can he find a woman who loves him and not his money?

Three people. One God who can raise hope from the ashes of despair.

About the author:
A freelance writer for over ten years, Linda Shenton Matchett has had a wide and varied career that includes stints as a Human Resources professional, youth center director, B&B owner, and dining services manager. She loves history of all kinds, and serves as a volunteer docent at the Wright Museum of WWII. A member of Sisters in Crime and ACFW, Linda writes World War II and mystery fiction. She was a semi-finalist in ACFW’s 2013 and 2015 Genesis contests. She makes her home in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region with her husband Wes and fur-baby, Ben.

Connect with Linda:

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  1. Sounds like a wonderful, inspiring story. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for the interview, Norma and Linda. I love WWII books.

  3. I love history too. There would be a lot of people I'd like to meet.

  4. I am a fan of historical fiction. Thanks for sharing!