Interview with novelist Madeleine Romeyer Dherbey

Author Madeleine
Romeyer Dherbey
is with me today and we’re talking about her new WWII
historical, The Fortress.

During her virtual book tour, Madeleine will be awarding a $25
Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly
drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free
to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too.
Madeleine Romeyer Dherbey was born in the French
Alps, moved to the United States twenty-five years later, and currently lives
in the mountains of Virginia with her husband, two daughters, and Mikko.
Madeleine. Please share a little bit about your current release.
It is a fiction take on the Resistance in the Vercors, a World War Two story
told from the perspective of common people, whose characters and emotions
create the sense of time and space that brings history to
. One
of them, Alix, is thrust into the world of La Résistance after her father’s
death, and learns that there are no choices ahead of her that don’t mean life
or death. As her country braces for the seismic shock of D-day, Alix faces
unrelenting violence, unforeseen possibilities, and a dangerous leader named
Marc. Marc is a complicated man fighting many inner demons, who doesn’t not
like to share control, and especially not with an eighteen year-old girl. The
story feeds on biographical elements and the political swamp that is France
right before D-Day, an environment I know inside-out, and which I think
contributes to make the tale a true Historical.
What inspired you to write this book?
My own
family history. Three of my uncles were condemned to
death for collaborating with the Vichy government, a puppet of the Nazis. Their
sentences were eventually commuted to national disgrace, and ten years of
forced labor—thanks to my father, who had fought with honor during the war and was able to litigate a lighter sentence
with the subsequent political swamp of the liberation. My uncles had to leave
the area to avoid being murdered, but we stayed. It would be too long to
explain the kind of resentment and mistrust that centuries of hardship and war
can breed in a small community, but to summarize the situation, we were the
children of traitors to the nation, born on the wrong side of glory. I grew up a collaborator’s daughter, a hard

legacy to overcome in a community mauled by four years of occupation and
violence, and seventy years later, my last name remains associated with the
destruction of the C2 Maquis in Malleval.
the whole experience had a strangely strengthening effect on me. It gave me
roots, a documented past, an inheritance of sorts, that made me want to
understand what tears a nation apart, what makes people turn against their
country, their neighbors, and themselves sometimes.

Here is the part where
Alix and Marc, the two protagonists who drive the tension in the story, decide
that a fight is better than the relationship they cannot have.

“Is that mint?” Marc
asked. “At home, we mix it up with heather and those little blue flowers. I
think they were called…”
“I only like mint.”
“Nothing wrong with
mint.” He waited for her to say something else, something that would ease the
tension he felt in the room, but she remained silent. She must be a little
shaken, he thought. That’s understandable. “Were you able to get rid of the
body?” he asked gently.
“Yes. Why are you
He went up to the
little window and lit a cigarette before answering. There was no mistaking the
animosity in her tone. I have to fix her
fuck-up, and she’s angry? At me?
He sucked the smoke deeply into his lungs.
“You know exactly why I’m here. What you did today will impact—and possibly
kill—many people. It will help if we don’t argue about it.”
“You’re the one who’s
mad. I can see it.”
“I’m not very happy,
but that’s not the point.”
 “Don’t you ever sleep at night?”
 “Not much. It’s easier to hike in the dark. You
can’t see the incline, you can always pretend that it’s flat. What about you?
Having nightmares?”
 “Not at all,” she lied. “I would do it again.”
“Ah. The Ice Fairy. I
remember.” He could feel a headache coming. “Next time I have a hit job, I’ll
make sure to ask you first. At least you’re not wasting bullets.” He had gone
to the hidden phone and was checking its functioning as he spoke. “What’s your
next project? Anyone in mind?”
“Maybe,” she shrugged. “Do
you want to know who it is?”
No, not really, he
thought. He couldn’t ease the suspicion that he might be on her revenge list.
She had once said that she didn’t hate him, but who could trust her? Maybe she
had planned something terrible, like cooking him in the sawmill kiln. He almost
made a joke of it, and thought better. She never understood his jokes, anyway. “You
owe me an explanation,” he said instead. “I don’t remember asking you to murder
a Nazi officer. You want to tell me why you didn’t discuss it with me?”
“It happened too fast.
And it couldn’t be helped anyway. Even Rieder knew that, I saw it on his face,
then, when it happened.” She lowered her forehead like a stubborn child ready
to take a beating. “I didn’t go looking for him. He came after me, and as you
know, Nazis don’t give you a lot of room to negotiate.”

exciting story are you working on next?
My agent said I should do a sequel, but I think I’ve said
everything I had to say on the subject, so I am working on the contemporary
tale of a young school teacher who is entrapped in a scheme to cast her as a
terrorist. There are strong political and religious themes, as well as a
romantic element. I guess you could call it a tale of modern resistance.

When did
you first consider yourself a writer?

I don’t identify as a writer. I am a wife, a mother, a teacher. I
am Christian, I am a woman—but not a feminist. In fact, I am nothing that ends
in ist, unless it’s individualist.
Yet I have to admit that writing this book was an amazing experience. I
discovered more about myself and the world than all my years spent in college.
Do you write full-time? If so,
what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do
you find time to write?
I am an English and French teacher, but my call is special
education. My students are non-verbal, a real challenge for someone who lives
to share ideas. The positive side is that I won’t get in trouble with my school
district for jumping on my soap box and voicing politically incorrect ideas. I
like to work, it provides a wealth of details and ideas I can adapt to my stories,
particularly the MS I’m working on now. I am also busy with four acres of
forest to clear, two daughters, two dogs, and a lot of reading. I write here
and there, sometimes just a few lines, sometimes a whole chapter, and never
stress about it. It must always remain a pleasure.
What would
you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m sure it’s visual, although I can’t take any credit for that.
The Vercors mountains are so breathtaking a backdrop, that they would give an
absolute dimension to any story. I see the cliffs first, and they turn into
some sort of secret well in the desert, the fount of all beauty, the
Aristotelian Final Cause of all human
For me, oui?
And that’s what I had to share by the way, a place so unbelievably
beautiful that people from all over Europe decided it was where they would make
their last stand and die to save France from the Nazis.
As a child,
what did you want to be when you grew up?
I had no idea! Growing up in France was not professionally
motivating, given the chronic unemployment rate and the pervasive
de-culturation atmosphere, and all I wanted was to travel anyway. A good thing
since it took me to the United States, a place that happens to be personally
and professionally motivating, and where I found the inspiration to work hard,
study, and write a book, even though I am not a writer, or even a native
English speaker. America is the place where anything is possible, because when
things don’t work out one way, the options are endless.
additional you want to share with the readers?
I put my heart and soul into this book, and I hope you enjoy it
half as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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