World War II is a period that fascinates so many different people for a myriad of different reasons. What is it about this period that fascinates you as a writer?
What interest me the most are the people, specifically the civilians who had to endure the war, navigate all of the various dangers, and make split decisions that were often the difference between life and death. For instance, I was reading an eyewitness account of a solider retreating from Reims. There was an old woman dressed in black just waiting at the fountain with some packages. He asked her if she needed a lift, and she said that her daughter was coming to get her. They got lost then, and ended up returning to the same road an hour later but she was dead from gunshot. Robert Widerman, who later became our Robert Clary of Hogan’s Hero’s, also had just such a moment. He got back up inside the rail car when he was not selected among the men for a work camp. The guard called out to him, and asked him his age. The guard did not believe he was just 16 and told him to get down out of the train and over with all the other men. Even though he went on to survive many close calls, this small moment was a turning point because the rest of his family died at Auschwitz within just days. Then, there is the case of Etta Shiber in Paris. This is a retired grandmother living with her friend, along with three dogs. Hardly the type of people you would think that would draw the eye of the Gestapo. But, they had smuggled 150 airmen through their little apartment by the time of arrest. Etta was traded back to American for a female German spy. Her British friend Kitty said at her trial that she was satisfied to die, because she had given 150 lives back to Britain. Her wish was granted and she was later shot. They were not trained spies, or in connection with the British intelligence. Etta and Kitty were two women in their 60’s, with three dogs, a black Renault, and reckless courage. I find all of these people highly fascinating.
What sort of research did you do for this novel? Do you have any personal connections to WWII that made their way into your novel?
The Siren of Paris became something of a research vortex. All told, I read about 45 various books on this time period to get the details that were used for this story. One of the more important books dealt with the religious, and political ideas of the French during Vichy France. The story also required that I really understood the transpiration challenges of the phony war period. I reached out to the Steamship Historical Society and worked with their library. I spent about two and half days at the Museum of Tolerance in L.A. listening to various survivors of the holocaust. I do have personal connections, and they appear in the book at various points. For instance, in one scene I reference some teenage boys who escape to the woods outside of Buchenwald from being shot. I know one of those boys. My parents are older, and I grew up around a high number of veterans of this war, and survivors. One day, on EBay, I found a huge stash of French newspapers from the war and ended up purchasing them. Among the papers I found both resistance and collaborator newspapers. A very high percentage of the historical facts in the book are taken from everyday observations of people who lived through that period. For instance, the Horse stampede in Orleans on June 13th, 1940 was a small footnote in passing in one of the books. I later tried to confirm this event through the French Historical Society in Orleans. They had no record of it officially, but I decided to work with it, because the time period was so chaotic and crazy, a lot of these minor events don’t make it to official history records years later, but do appear in books published just after the war.
Did you come up with the title of your novel? How did you come up with it?
The original title of this book was Francais Seulement, which means French Only. This was also a slogan on a French paper of the day called Action Francaise, which was one of the most right wing, xenophobic, anti-british and pro-collaboration papers you could read. Action Francais is a toxic paper that appealed to the anti-Semitic scapegoating element of the French public. The title The Siren of Paris came about as I was working through a rough draft. A siren of sorts calls Marc, and he does seem to be drawn to destructive forces. The title just stuck from that point forward.
Your novel is self-published though Amazon. We are seeing more and more authors go this route recently. What decisions went into that choice?
When I started writing The Siren of Paris, it was not clear to me that a self-published author could do as well as a traditionally published author in sales. By the end of 2011, that question was resolved by multiple best selling self-published authors. Keep in mind; I don’t think we have ever seen so many self-published authors do this well before in America.
It boils down to two elements: Time and Money. Traditional publishing takes a huge amount of time, and pays less money per unit sold in E-books, which is the growth segment of book sales today. This is due to multiple layers of overhead that traditional publishing seems attached to and unable to reform. Self-publishing takes far less time and promises to pay better price per unit sold. In the world of business this is know as Average Revenue Per Unit, or ARPU. The ARPU of self-publishing is so much higher than traditional, that the pay off appears to justify the risk. But, self-publishing is not easy by a long shot. There is a huge amount of work involved and everything rests upon the author. Neither path entitles the author to success, but at least one does promise a better chance now than the other.
Unless something changes in traditional publishing to improve their ARPU problem, the trend of self-publishing can only increases with time, most likely exponentially.
Do you have any future writing plans? If so, is there anything you can share with us?
I am done with war for a bit. The next book is nowhere near as epic in scale as The Siren of Paris. The topic is overcoming complex trauma and unworthiness. The story is set in the Chiapas Mountains of Mexico in the towns of San Cristobal de la Casas, and San Juan Chamula in the mid 1990’s after the Zapatista revolution. This book will not be released until 2013 unless of course the Mayans were right.
You can follow David on Twitter @studioleroy, on Facebook, or on his website.
Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court