The final book of Rose of Anzio will be released this week. I cannot believe it is all coming to an end. I’ve never been one to make new year’s resolutions, but this year, I think I have completed a personal goal for 2016. The Rose of Anzio will be finished and published.
As we come to the end, I want to share with you some of my experience behind the scene.
For those of you who are Candy Candy fans, you know that Rose of Anzio was inspired by that story. I had set out to write a romance tale because the characters Anthony and Tessa had come to dwell in my head and would not leave until their story was told. Based on the timeline of the Candy Candy Final Story, which ended in the mid-1920s, Rose of Anzio had to have taken place during the 1940s, in the midst of a war.
Writing a love story in and of itself was not difficult. Taking on the historical aspects, the military setting, and writing battle scenes, however, presented a huge challenge. Of the three, the historical aspect was, relatively speaking, the easiest. It required many hours of research, but could be done by anyone who set her mind to it. I must say that it was a very enriching experience to learn about Chicago’s deep and fascinating past. It also prompted me to visit Chicago to see all the places I had written about, and I had a very good time touring the city. (See the Rose of Anzio Chicago Tour Album.)
The military setting was harder. I personally didn’t know anyone in the military when I began writing this story. I researched as best as I could, and occasionally lurked in the Reddit military forums to get a feel for what life in the military is like. Still, it was not possible for me to capture fully the army culture as an outsider. Mistakes were unavoidable even when I had done the research due to my lack of familiarity with the subject and the organization. The task of taking the mountain of historical, military, and war information, and adapting and fictionalizing them into the story, was overwhelming.
Writing battle scenes was by far the toughest–nearly insurmountable. I write love stories. Writing fictional accounts of war and battles was not something I had ever done. In Rose of Anzio, I had to decide whether to write a wartime story without battles, or to dive in and tackle the subject head on. I chose the latter because I believed the story would be weak otherwise. I’d rather try and give it my best. I’d rather be criticized for writing bad battle scenes, than to skip what is difficult and create an inferior story that lacks the punch. I will not lie though. For me, writing battle scenes was miserable. I found it very difficult because I have no first-hand experience. Fortunately, I met online a military historian, Geoff Byers, who generously advised me and helped me plotted the scenes. I could not thank him enough. For Books 3 and 4, I also decided to go the extra mile and hired a second editor, Aaron Sikes, who is a US army veteran. Aaron helped me review my battle scenes, corrected details and terminologies, and to make sure that most of what I had written were at least plausible. His help was invaluable in revising the actions scenes in Book 4.
On the other hand, Rose of Anzio was never meant to be a true-grit war novel. It is also not a thought-provoking story about deeper issues in the same light as many WWII novels that are better written for that purpose. Rose of Anzio is a fictional adventure more suited for pop-corn entertainment than a retrospection on wartime atrocities. Its characters are, to a certain extent, idealized because it is in large part a romance. Without that idealization, the romance would diminish. My hope is that the readers who do enjoy this kind of stories will be carried away to Tessa and Anthony’s world for a short while, and feel what it is like to fall in love.
Writing Anthony was another challenge for all four books. The character Anthony was a tribute to another fictional character with the same name in Candy Candy. My character Anthony thus retained some core traits of that other character. Having to maintain these traits constrained me in many ways in developing Anthony’s character. Anthony was constantly on the verge of being overshadowed by somebody else in my story. First, it was Jack, and then later, Jesse. Jesse, in particular, stole the hearts of many readers right away. All year long during the revision process, it was a never-ending problem to have to figure out how to make Anthony’s story arcs more compelling. On top of that, Anthony had all the war and battle scenes, which made writing him that much harder. Sometimes, I dreaded writing his scenes. Thanks to my main editor, Kristen Tate, we were able to work through all the issues and bring Anthony’s story line to a satisfactory level. I hope that in the end, I had done a fair enough job and justice in telling his hero’s journey.
Now that this story is over, I hope I will have time to blog more often and share many interesting historical tidbits that I had adapted into Rose of Anzio. I am also considering writing Rose of Anzio spin-off novels based on several minor characters from that story, as well as some other unrelated new stories. Hopefully, the muse will stay with me, and I will be able to bring those stories to light.
I would love to have more feedback from readers. If you enjoyed reading the Rose of Anzio, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. It would help me greatly to know what worked, and how you think I can improve on what didn’t.
Lastly, if you wish to remain in the Rose of Anzio world a little while longer, then don’t forget to download the free short story It Had to Be You, to find out what happened to Jack.
You can also read more about Jesse before he went to war, in the short story “Christmas Eve in the City of Dreams”, which is part of the anthology Pearl Harbor and More: WWII Stories – December 1941. This anthology is a collaboration among eight authors to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. It will be released on Nov. 1 on Amazon, Apple iBook, Kobo, and B&N Nook for 99 cents.