Monique Roy - Writing About the Resilience of the Human Spirit
Since her parents bought her her first journal, Monique Roy discovered that she had a passion for writing. Roy's grandparents were European Jews who fled their home as Hitler rose to power and their story inspired her to write Across Great Divides. She was pleasantly surprised when the book sold over 2,400 copies and got great reviews. As our author of the day, Roy chats about her research for the book, how much of it is fiction and gives a sneak peek into what she is working on now.
Please give us a short introduction to what Across Great Divides is about.
Across Great Divides is a timeless story of the upheavals of war, the power of family, and the resiliency of human spirit, centered in one of the darkest periods in history. When Hitler came to power in 1933, one Jewish family refuses to be destroyed and defies the Nazis only to come up against another struggle—confronting apartheid in South Africa.
As Jews, life becomes increasingly difficult for identical twin sisters Eva and Inge under the oppressive and anti-Semitic laws of Nazi Germany. After witnessing the horrors of Kristallnacht, they flee their beloved homeland, finally finding a new home for themselves in the beautiful country of South Africa. However, just as things begin to feel safe, their new home becomes caught up in its own battles of bigotry and hate under the National Party’s demand for apartheid. Across Great Divides is a tale of one family’s struggle to survive in a world tainted with hate, and the power of love that held them all together.
What inspired you to write a World War II story?
My grandparents were European Jews who fled their home as Hitler rose to power. It’s their story that inspired me to write Across Great Divides, my second book.
How much of your book is based on real events and how much is fiction?
Most of Across Great Divides is fictional. My grandfather left us a 10-page document that retold how they fled Europe over the Pyrenees Mountains. Only two small parts of my book mimic what my grandparents experienced and the rest is all fictional.
How was the reception of Across Great Divides? Was it anything you expected?
I’ve sold more than 2,400 copies and have received some wonderful reviews. I am grateful for the good reception and hope to get more fans! When you put your book out into the world, it is both a scary and exciting moment. You never know how it will be received. I never expected 200 people to read my book, let alone 2,000.
In 2008 you were chosen to travel to Berlin on the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, to explore German and Israeli relations. What was the experience like?
I was fortunate to have been chosen to participate in the AJC ACCESS Berlin, Germany trip in November 2008. I have heartfelt memories of that trip. Sitting in one of the restored synagogues that was among the many damaged during Kristallnacht was a moving experience. It showed me that there is hope for the future, that we can learn from the past and create a better future for ongoing generations. My belief is that with a little knowledge and understanding, these kinds of events can be prevented in the course of time. I learned from that experience that Germany has come to terms with its tainted and poisoned past. German society is fueled with newfound hope and courage to create stronger solidarity and national purpose.
As a Jew, who lost family in the Holocaust, being in Berlin brought on mixed emotions. As I walked the streets of Berlin, I could not help to wonder who the old man was who walked passed me. It is still impossible to comprehend how the annihilation of the Jews even happened. The shadows of an old Germany is still very much there, but I believe the Germany of today will not forget the Holocaust anytime soon.
Tell us a bit about your journey as an author. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
As a young girl, my parents gave me a journal. I would sit in my room and create stories, writing them in my journal. So my love for writing began at a young age. I graduated with a journalism degree from SMU and so writing has always been a keen interest.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I took private art classes for 12 years as a kid until college and was pretty good at painting! But I have not picked up a paint brush in a long time. I hope to again one day. I also can play a fine game of tennis, which is another passion of mine.
How much research did this book require from you?
When I place history into my writing, I want it to be accurate and interesting to my readers. I spent endless hours researching, discovering for historical gems, and finding a unique way to add it to my story where it adds value, either to dialogue, backstory, plot, character development, etc. I am unable to measure exactly how much research I did (hours upon hours), but the history is almost always intriguing and it sucks me in every time.
Tell us about your writing habits - favorite writing spot, pen or laptop, morning or evening, plotter or pantser?
I mostly write curled up in bed with my laptop at the end of a long day. I work full-time so writing actually helps me relax and let’s my mind wander, transporting me to the past and enabling me to explore the present. Sometimes I write with a good old pen and shut down my laptop. This helps me be more creative and sometimes I find some great nuggets of writing to insert into my novel. I am both a plotter and pantser. I believe you should plot out the main storyline and then sometimes the story unravels itself as your writing progresses.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on another historical fiction novel that is set in Germany during WWII and in present-day London and Oxford. In a nutshell: When an Oxford student inherits her grandfather’s art gallery, she unravels the harrowing struggle that befell her grandparents in Nazi Germany and must recover a looted van Gogh painting, only to discover a dark history haunts the present.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Readers can learn more about me and my books at www.monique-roy.com. They can also follow me on social media. Find me on Twitter @MonWriter1. Or follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AcrossGreatDivides/.