Amy Hopkins chats to the author of historical Auschwitz fiction about her inspirations.
Kristy Cambron is an Indiana based author. Her two historical novels, The Butterfly and the Violin and A Sparrow in Terezin make up the Hidden Masterpiece series, which follows Manhattan art dealers and Auschwitz prisoners across different decades.
What was your inspiration for the Hidden Masterpiece series?
I was a young art student in undergraduate school in early 2004. I remember the distinct moment when our art history professor presented a topic I’d never heard of – the art of the Holocaust – and
I was captured from that moment on. I devoured books on the subject (especially Elie Wiesel’s Night, which I still read every year). I remember hearing that whisper in my soul, that this topic was special. And though it’s a very weighty subject, I wanted to give a voice to these known artists, to help others hear their story. So I stored the idea away hoping that someday I’d know what to do with it.
How much research do you do before starting a novel based in historical fact?
Much of the research for both books in the Hidden Masterpiece series was completed more than a decade ago, for my undergraduate studies in Art History and Research Writing. The concepts of hope through horrific circumstances and the atrocities of the Holocaust never really left my mind.
I spent much time pouring over the finer details of this era – researching maps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, reading Holocaust survivors’ accounts, and viewing video tours of the concentration camps on YouTube. I even spent time reviewing bombing records, city street maps and weather patterns from the early 1940s, so the London Blitz scenes in A Sparrow in Terezin would be authentic.
It’s the small details – the ones you can sometimes pick up in an interview or history book – that work to really breathe life, and immerse the reader into a bygone era.
Whilst you were writing how did you keep your focus?
I’ve found that each author seems to have a method for his or her own
madness for writing. I’m no different. I’m not a plotter; I prefer to write from a place of following where the story leads me. Because of that, I can get hit with a new idea in my head at the most inopportune times and have to grab my cell phone to type the scene… in the grocery store, while waiting in the doctor’s office, in an elevator.
Storytelling for me is really less about focus than it is about feeling the characters’ story whenever it comes. In fact, The Butterly and the Violin was written almost exclusively on my iPhone. Since then, I find that typing chapters on my phone and inserting them into my manuscript is my place of comfort for creating a story. I now write on my phone most of the time.
Do you listen to music whilst you write?
The short answer is – YES. All the time. I listen to movie soundtracks
when I write. My favourites are: Pride and Prejudice, Downton Abbey, Jane Eyre, Cinderella Man, and Schindler’s List. In addition, I must have music that I find lyrical and inspiring when I’m writing some particularly emotional scenes. Violinists Hilary Hahn and Julia Fischer are my go to musicians for this. A new find is Lindsey Stirling. I plan to listen to her while writing my next novel.
I also prefer white noise if I’m really deep into editing. (That’s where focus is essential). I love the Rainy Mood (thunderstorm sounds) and Coffitivity (noisy coffee shop sounds) Apps on my iPhone. They’ve managed to see me through two books so far.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
You have to find the place of passion for a character’s story (and understand the craft of writing) before you can hope to pursue publication. The story has to be there first, and the motivation for your readers with it.
My biggest pieces of advice? Write every single day, pray for your readers, and DO NOT give up. If writing is in your heart, no amount of rejections should hold you back. Continue to learn. Grow in the craft. To fall in love with story. Refuse to see a publishing house’s rejection as a ‘No,’ and instead, see it as a ‘Not yet’ or ‘Not here.’ If you’re in love with writing, then you’ll be able to weather the rejections, and wait for your book to make it to store shelves one day.
Click here for Kristy Cambron’s website
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