Gosia Nealon - Brilliant Details, Profound Characters, and a Unique Plot
While Gosia Nealon is a proud New Yorker, she was born and raised in Poland. Her journey to the Big Apple revealed a wealth of cultural differences, but also the values that connect us all. Like the fierce desire to protect family, find love, and ultimately, discover who we are and why we’re here. Gosia’s award-winning short stories have always delved into life’s biggest questions, but it was the drama, sacrifice, and tragedy of WWII that led her to pen her debut novel, "The Last Sketch." Growing up in Poland, Gosia heard many firsthand accounts of the war, told from a perspective rarely captured in mainstream literature. She was compelled to breathe life into Wanda and Finn, two young people falling in love in the midst of the most terrifying conflict of our time. When Gosia isn’t tapping away at her laptop, she’s often walking the streets of New York. With her husband and two young sons in tow, they search for the most succulent pierogi, transporting them back to the cobbled streets of her childhood. As our Author of the Day, she tells us about her book, The Last Sketch.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Last Sketch is about.
The Last Sketch is a World War II historical fiction novel set in Warsaw and Montauk.
Here is a short description:
Poland, 1944. Wanda Odwaga will never stop resisting. As the Nazis occupy her beloved homeland, the twenty-three-year-old artist vows to do whatever it takes to help the underground movement mobilize against Hitler’s forces. But she’s devastated when the Gestapo storms her house in search of rebel leaders, killing her heroic father and leaving the face of his murderer forever etched in her mind.
New York. Finn Keller longs to balance the scales. Having escaped Germany with his mother as a teen, he’s disgusted his estranged twin brother has become a ruthless Nazi henchman with a vicious reputation. So when a covert government agency approaches him with a dangerous undercover mission, Finn willingly risks his life to play his part in turning the tide of war.
Still grieving her unforgivable loss, Wanda’s thirst for revenge takes an unexpected leap forward when she once again encounters her father’s killer. And as Finn dives deeply into the role of impersonating his cold-hearted sibling, he’s captivated by the beautiful Polish woman frozen in front of him… her eyes blazing with the promise of murder.
Why did you pick 1944 Poland as the backdrop for your story?
I was born and grew up in Poland, so the topic of WW2 has always been closed to me. I learned about it from people who survived it and at school. I still remember reading “Stones for the Rampart” by Aleksander Kamiński and how touched I was by this true story about boys from the resistance who lost their lives fighting for freedom. I think it’s important to talk about it, so the new generations learn from history.
Tell us more about Wanda Odwaga. What makes her tick?
When we look at the black and white pictures from the war, people seem distant. I wanted to show in my book that these were regular people like us who were afraid, sad, happy. They struggled with everyday lives and just tried to survive the darkest times.
That’s why I was far from making Wanda Odwaga perfect. I show her weaknesses and strengths. I show her mistakes, her confusion, her emotions. I show her powerlessness, at the same time, also her ability to keep moving forward doesn’t matter what.
It was very comfortable writing from Wanda’s point of view because she somehow seemed natural to me from the very beginning. She is the backbone of this book.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I like to cook, especially dishes from Polish cuisine.
What did you have the most fun with when writing this story?
It was so much fun writing from Wanda’s point of view. Her decisions came to me naturally, even though sometimes I didn’t agree with them. I also enjoyed mentioning Polish food throughout the book. It was fun having Wanda thinking about her life and going through making pierogi.
Readers say you had them hooked on the story throughout-how did you pull this off?
It’s so amazing and encouraging to hear comments like this. I’m so thankful for every kind word about my book. It’s my debut novel, so I was nervous if anyone would like it. But, I’m so happy to know that there are readers who appreciate my writing and my story.
I wrote this book from my heart, and I’m thrilled readers like it.
Which of your characters was the most challenging to create?
The most challenging was Stefan. He was just evil through and through, and sometimes it was hard to make him react the way he did.
Please tell us more about the cover and how it came about.
One of the scenes in my book happens in the outdoor amphitheater of the Royal Bath Park in Warsaw. I knew I would like it on my cover, but I didn’t know how to go about it. I was lucky to find the Madhat Studios and so talented Shari Ryan, who understood me well and what I had in mind. I loved the cover from the first glance when Shari sent the first version to me. It was just perfect.
What, would you say, is so appealing about enemies-to-lovers romance?
I absolutely enjoy reading good stories with romantic elements, so it was natural that romance is vital for my own book. Enemies-to-lovers romance brings excitement, curiosity, and the needed fire to make us crave more.
What are you working on right now?
I have been working on my second novel set during Warsaw’s Uprising.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I invite you to my website: www.gosianealon.com to learn more about me and my writing. I also have: Facebook page: @GosiaNealonHistoricalFiction; Twitter: @GosiaNealon; Instagram: gosian18