As part of the Battle Hymns Blog Tour I was able to ask the author Cara Langston a few questions about the novel, what's next in the pipeline and her favourite novel of the year so far. Read on to find out more!Q. This seems to be a pretty timeless love story. What made you choose this particular war for the setting?
A. The people who lived through World War II sacrificed so much for the cause, whether they supported it from home or fought on the front lines. The U.S. has been a wartime nation for most of my adulthood, and yet as a civilian, it doesn't affect my everyday life the way it affected Charlotte's in 1943. We no longer have conscription and rationing. The "total war" sacrifice is unique in that way. It's what has always drawn me to this time period and one of the main reasons I wanted to tell this story.
Q. Which came first - the story or the time period?
A. When I start brainstorming a new story, I generally begin with the time period or setting. In the case of Battle Hymns, I chose the 1940s after listening to a lot of classic Christmas music during the holiday season. It’s the only time of the year you can hear Bing Crosby, Irving Berlin, Judy Garland, and Lena Horne on the radio! The story blossomed from there.
Q. Did you do a lot of research to get the feel of the time spot on? Did that research unearth anything interesting?
A. I certainly did a lot of research. My Google search history over the past five years is probably quite a sight. Thankfully we live in an era where so much useful information is posted online. You have to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, but it’s an invaluable resource. I was able to read love letters from soldiers, view photos of the Army Medical Center in 1942, and study digitized non-fiction books that delved into certain WWII battles.
I came across a fascinating story while I was researching the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943. There was an operation called Mincemeat in which the British planted false top secret documents on a corpse that washed up on a Spanish beach. Hitler believed the intelligence and prepared for the Allies to invade Sardinia and Greece instead of Sicily. A year later, the Germans found real intelligence, detailing planned military targets, on an abandoned boat in Normandy. But Hitler didn’t want to be duped again so he disregarded it. Imagine how circumstances could’ve changed with two different decisions!
Q. Charlotte is very free but she knows she'll be a wife/homemaker in the long run. I'm a bit of a feminist myself so I found this aspect of the novel particularly intriguing. Did you find this an interesting element to write about?
A. If you do any cursory research into the WWII home front, the newfound roles for women is a well-discussed topic. Women took men’s places in factories, restaurants, offices, professional baseball leagues, etc. It was a pivotal moment in feminist history. Following the war, though, many women were expected to leave those jobs and return to their homes/families. Charlotte would’ve been susceptible to the same expectations. It was interesting to write about because it’s still so relevant in 2014.
Q. What's your next project? Can we expect another war novel or will you move onto other things?
A. For now, I’m moving onto another setting. My next novel is called The Glassmaker’s Wife, a historical romance set in Chicago in 1925. It’s an interesting time period, chock-full of ideas. Prohibition led to a massive rise in organized crime, women only recently won the right to vote, and flappers were cutting off their hair and showing their knees. The Glassmaker’s Wife concerns Eva Berger, a rather conservative young woman who’s forced into the world of speakeasies and gangsters because of her husband’s bottle manufacturing business. Most of my research so far has been on women’s rights, the effects of 20th century immigration on American culture, and bootlegging! You can find the full synopsis on my website or Goodreads.
Q. And finally, what has been your favourite book of the year so far?
A. I wish you’d asked me this last year! I’ve read several books so far this year, but none that I wholeheartedly loved. Since you’re asking, though, two books come to mind. I thought Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things was a rather interesting premise. I was also pulled into the Outlander series this year, and though it has its faults, the third book, Voyager, was so enthralling I couldn’t put it down.
Thanks so much to Cara for answering my questions! For more information about the novel and my review of Battle Hymns go here, and for the blog tour schedule visit the HFVBT website.