I have several manuscripts that I have worked on from time to time. My problem as a writer is that I can’t really keep on writing if I simply don’t have the same passion for the project as I did in the beginning. I have to write what I feel.
Sometimes it’s my quirky Murray books. He’s an airhead. In a way, he’s a lot like me, but I have to be in Murray mode to be able to write from his perspective. I have to get in character as a goat. You can’t just make that up! I do of course, but Murray is in his own realm.
A lot of writers I know focus on one manuscript from beginning to end, while researching some on the side. My style, and probably because of the way my mind works, I simply can’t focus on just one, unless that is all that is filling my head, then I obsess over it. THEN and only then I HAVE to write it from beginning to end with no stopping, including putting other projects on hold for it.
Running to Never is that kind of a project for me. It started a while back, oddly enough while I was standing in the kitchen eating a sausage link off of my fork. (My attempt to avoid doing dishes) and my husband was sitting at the computer. All of the sudden from out of nowhere, I had this entire book written and inside of my head. My husband knows my “I have an idea and need to write it down this instant or else I will forget it all in a split second” look and had my paper and pen ready. He knows I have the attention span of a fruit fly.
Over the last little while, I have been immersing myself into this other universe where horror stories were written in real life, and not just from someones head. My idea for Running to Never began with just an idea, but knowing human nature, I knew it could work and that it would be a compelling story. My job as a writer is to bring that to life. To breathe life into this fictional story…yet a story that could have really happened. To bring to you a beautiful love story. A story that begins essentially in hell.
In poring over holocaust museums and encyclopedias, I am touched by many stories that mirror my Josef. He is a General, a top ranking SS. He can’t be soft, he can’t let his emotions override his orders…neither can some of these high ranking officers mentioned in the encyclopedia. One such true account from a survivor was that an officer spots a young girl who left the ghetto to gather two single eggs for her entire family. She is captured, but instead of being shot on sight as was ordered for anyone leaving the ghetto, she is tossed back inside the walls of the ghetto and admonished not to come out again.
Yet another, a girl is determined to commit suicide via the electric fence. A guard seeing her intentions runs to her, grabs her away from the fence and rather than doing her more harm, as is the standing order for those who would try to escape or suicide, he just sits down and spanks her. Of course it hurt not only her backside, but her dignity… but he saved her life. He never hurt her other than that (in her own words), but his “punishment” saved her life, and potentially his.
In creating Josef, I had to find a man that can’t just walk away from his life and orders, he also can’t save lives as he would like. He is torn apart, but with a little tact and the respect of a few fellow soldiers that quietly look the other way, even if they don’t agree with him at all- he can help in a single small way here and there. Like these men in real life did.
In listening to these voices, many of whom were children and young adults, tell of these terrible atrocities there are real human stories in there. The SS soldier who grabbed a young boy out of the line and brought him home to live with his family instead. The UK guard who saw the hidden child but pretended he didn’t.
While listening to all of these stories, I am saddened. My heart hurts for them, it cries for them…yet my heart also see’s what maybe others d0n’t. While the holocaust was happening there were people of all races, nationalities and identities who were real heros. Some were unlikely, and decidedly quite rare, ie. the SS guard saving Jewish lives. But they happened. At each of these stories, I felt Josef grow as a person. Josef is LIKE that. Josef would help, even if it was to ‘fake’ a punishment in order to save a little girl.
As I begin to write, I can feel what kind of things Josef might feel. Horror, of course. Shame, obviously…and maybe a little bit of pride for pulling one over on everyone else. Yes, I think Josef is a great guy caught in a terrible dilemma. Some of the things Josef does are things his insignia won’t let him escape from, but I know he will be heartsick over it. There is a little bit of Josef in every one of us; from small seemingly inconsequential events to large scale personal sacrifice in order to save the lives of friends, comrades and even perfect strangers.
I’m not out to sensationalize anything, but it was real, it happened…and that real human drama DID happen in countless other ways. I am honored to “help” Josef along the way as he first hides and then plans to rescue Hanna and Eva. I hope to tell a story that we can all look back on and know, that sometimes love really can conquer all. Believing in yourself and standing on the side of right is never wrong, even if you are the only one standing there. Josef is one such man, and I am truly happy to bring him to life for you.