“Where did you get the idea to write…?” This is a common question I receive from my readers. So I thought I’d share the genesis of a book I wrote that is very near and dear to my heart. Notes of Love and War was inspired by, though most definitely is not the story of, my parents’ courtship correspondence before, during, and after World War Two. Let me explain.
After my father died in December 2011, my grief and sorrow lingered for years. He was one of my champions and best friend all of my life. Six years passed before I could bring myself to go through his accumulated letters and papers. Part of my reluctance stemmed from knowing that those letters included dozens if not hundreds that were exchanged between my mother and father before they married. My oldest sister had forewarned me they were somewhat “racy” but what exactly did that mean? Just how personal were the contents?
I sorted them out by year, then by month and day. And there are a lot of letters! Then I read them. One by one, with growing interest as the insights into my parents when they were young (early to mid-twenties) played out in my hands. The jokes, the concerns, the sharing about their daily struggles with finances and family matters. The songs and books they enjoyed. Hints of intrigue and private moments shared and cherished. The resulting overarching concept of how they grew to love each other through their letters became an idea I wanted to explore in a fictional setting. I wanted to replicate the intimacy evoked through their words but also through the handling of a piece of paper that could physically, tangibly transmit those thoughts into the hands of another. The sense of intimacy coming from holding the same piece of paper as your lover which leant a shared moment of contact over long distances.
My mother’s letters proved far more enlightening to me than my father’s. Why? You’d think I’d have been more keenly aware of my mother’s attitudes and desires, one woman to another. To an extent I had spoken with my mother about her life as a young woman, just not nearly as much as I wish had in my later years. I knew, for example, that she’d been engaged to another man during the war but that they’d ended their engagement and he went on to New York to become a lawyer. But…what I didn’t know, what Mom had never told me, was that the man’s mother had something to do with them breaking up. Mom hinted about it in one of her letters to Dad, but never disclosed what exactly. Talk about getting my imagination spinning! What would a mother have to do to break up an engagement? Perhaps I don’t really want to know.
Dad, likewise, had frequently and at some length talked to me about his life and the decisions he made, including those related to moving from Miami, Florida, to Baltimore, Maryland, in order to marry my mother. His comment to me, which is echoed and substantiated within the letters, was that his job in Miami fell through and he knew that Mom wouldn’t be happy in the hotter climate and so far from her family. (An aside: my mother’s side of the family has lived in Maryland for many generations. I was also born and raised in that beautiful state.) So he decided to move north to make her happy. This self-sacrifice for the woman he loved with all his heart resonated with me, as both his daughter and an author of romantic fiction.
So the initial kernel of interest in writing what has evolved into Notes of Love and War came from wanting to recreate that intimacy developing through letters. Of getting to know one another through what they shared about themselves on paper. Of course, that’s not enough of a premise to build a novel-length story, but it’s a strong foundation.
Over the coming weeks, I’ll share other elements that I’ve woven together to create the framework for the story. Elements such as spies and journalism and music, each based in the actual history of Baltimore and Maryland during the 1940s. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about my journey through my hometown history as imagined in my novel.
P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!
Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.
Now available for preorder! Notes of Love and War will release on July 28, 2020, in honor of my dad’s 100th birthday!
Audrey Harper needs more than home and hearth to satisfy her self-worth despite being raised with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Working as a music critic for the city newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, during the Second World War, she’s enjoyed both financial freedom and personal satisfaction in a job well done. When she uncovers evidence of German spies working to sabotage a secret bomber plane being manufactured in her beloved city, she must choose between her sense of duty to protect her city and the urgings of her boss, her family, and her fiancé to turn over her evidence to the authorities. But when her choices lead her and her sister into danger, she is forced to risk life and limb to save her sister and bring the spies to justice.
Set against the backdrop of the flourishing musical community during the 1940s in Baltimore, Notes of Love and War weaves together the pleasure of musical performance with the dangers of espionage and spying.