Today I am very excited to welcome my friend and fellow author, Andie Newton, who is here to talk about her debut novel, The Girl I Left Behind, a taut, pacy, spy thriller set in Nazi Germany. Let’s talk to Andie!
Tell us what inspired you to write THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND? I wrote the first words of my debut novel, The Girl I Left Behind, just over ten years ago. I never thought I’d write a novel. Ever. One day I caught a documentary on the History Channel about Nuremberg’s historic Kunstbunker, a secret art bunker the townsfolk hid from Hitler, and I was instantly intrigued. More so, the documentary talked about the youth resistance. I have a degree in History, so I suppose you can say my thoughts are already in the past. In this case, I set out to learn more about the youth of the German Resistance. I tried to find a novel on the subject and couldn’t find one, and as corny as it sounds, set out to write the novel I wanted to read.
What research did you undertake when writing The Girl I Left Behind?
I read a lot. I read diaries, interviews and news articles about resistance members. I also contacted businesses in Germany and asked questions about their past. Yep. I did that too! One of the most interesting stories that came from these emails involved the Korn und Berg bookstore in Nuremberg. They wrote me a long email relaying a story about when Hitler came into their bookstore and demanded they change the shape of their windows because they weren’t modern enough. Oh, you better believe I wrote that into this book!
What was your favourite scene to write?
My favourite scene to write was the tea scene with Ella’s aunt and her Nazi friends. There’s so much going on here than just a group of gossiping women. I’d read that Hermann Göring’s family was elevated in status after his career in the Reich took off, so I wrote that into the scene with one of the ladies. Also, well… I don’t want to give anything away, but when Ella offers to serve her aunt’s guests…ooh, I love it!
What are you working on now?
My next book will be out this summer, THE GIRL FROM VICHY. It’s about a woman who joins the French Resistance (1942) and spies on her collaborator boyfriend—a gendarme in the Vichy police. This book is about a family that is politically divided, which was really interesting to write. This book, as with THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND, is very fast paced and full of suspense. My third book with Aria Fiction will be released in 2021. This book is still top secret, but what I can tell you is that it’s a WWII female-driven spy novel involving American women, and I absolutely love it.
When did you start writing seriously?
I started writing seriously the day I began my novel, October 3rd 2009. Really. I started with zero experience, armed only with my ideas. I think the number one thing that stops writers who have great ideas is not writing regularly. You don’t need to have years of writing experience or have longed to be an author your whole life. But you do need to sit down and write, AND then work at it every day (and hopefully get better at it). My first pages were awful. AWFUL. I just kept at it.
What do you love most about being an author?
This may shock people, but the part I love the most is also the part I hate the most: Structural edits. These are the changes my editor suggests in the form of an editorial letter. My first letter (for THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND) was 7 pages long, my second letter (for THE GIRL FROM VICHY) was five. I think the biggest misconception is that people think an editor actually changes your manuscript, or the publisher does. Oh no, I’ve written every single word. The edit letter consists of broad suggestions, followed by smaller points. It is up to the writer to figure out how to apply those suggestions to the story.
The reason I love and hate structural edits is simple. I have to write under a deadline, which is stressful, but I love it because I can see the manuscript changing into something wonderful and strong, much stronger than it was originally, and that is why I love it. For me, the last day of edits is usually bittersweet, as it is the last time I’m knee deep in my character’s lives. What follows are the copy edits and proofs, and at this point all story elements are done.
Here’s more about Andie
Andie Newton writes female-driven historical fiction set in WWII. She’s the author of The Girl I Left Behind (Aria 2019) and The Girl from Vichy (Aria 2020). Andie holds a Bachelor degree in History and a Master in Teaching. She would love to say she spends her free time gardening and cooking, but she’s killed everything she’s ever planted and set off more fire alarms than she cares to admit. Andie does, however, love spending time with her family, trail running, and drinking copious amounts of coffee. Her next book, The Girl from Vichy, is coming in August this year.
You can find discussion questions for her novels on her website andienewton.com. And you can follow her on: