Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Spinning off characters

Which character would I spin off from my series?

by Rebecca Cantrell

Finally a question that gives historical writers an unfair advantage! I can jump forward in time, so I can spin off even the children. And that’s just whom I would pick.

In A TRACE OF SMOKE, Hannah comes across an orphan 5 year old boy named Anton. Anton’s been raised by a prostitute. The identity of his father is in dispute. And he talks like he’s an Apache brave. I’ve received more fan mail about him than any other character in the book.

I actually did submit a proposal to write a book with a 22 year old Anton as the main character set in Berlin in 1948. The book was to be called IN MY FATHER’S SHADOW.

In 1948 Berlin is in a state of transition. World War II has ended and American, British, French, and Russian troops occupy the city now stranded deep in the Russian zone. Refugees stream in from the Eastern Zone of Germany, Eastern Europe, and concentration camps. Those returning home often find their houses destroyed or usurped by those who stayed behind. On June 24, 1948 the Russians blockade all train and automobile traffic into the city, hoping to force the other allied troops out of Berlin so that they can occupy it.

The Cold War has begun.

A few weeks before, Nazi doctors were hung in Nuremberg. Attacks on American troops and military bases still occur, although with far less frequency than in the first two years after the war. Fluent in the German language, Anton is still unprepared for the cultural changes wrought by the Nazis, the war, and the Occupation. He works in the Berlin Airlift, where American forces will fly in all the supplies for a city of two million people for almost a year.

Anton’s mother spent her life trying to rescue Jews from Hitler, but the man Anton thinks might be his father helped put Hitler in power and set up the first concentration camps. Nothing is as he expected as he struggles to understand what it means to be German at heart but American in loyalty.

When I sold A TRACE OF SMOKE, they requested a two book deal and both had to have Hannah Vogel as the main character, so I went back to the drawing board and came up with A NIGHT OF LONG KNIVES (June 2010), set during the purge of the same name (because who doesn’t want to write a book that starts with a zeppelin jacking?). I still think someday I might write the book of Anton’s coming of age, but now that I’ve sold books 3 & 4 with Hannah (A GAME OF LIES (June 2011), set during the Berlin Olympics, and A NIGHT OF BROKEN GLASS (June 2012), set during Kristallnacht), I don’t know when I’ll find time.

If you ever read it, you’ll know why I had to make that disclaimer.
I did use a similar character, a young American soldier coming back into Berlin during the airlift, in my short story COFFEE in the anthology MISSING from Echelon Press. But let me say right here that he is NOT Anton and his mother is NOT Hannah.

I’d also like to tell Dracula from Mina’s point of view, not quite a spinoff, but a new tale nevertheless…more details on that very, very soon…


Jen Forbus said...

I, for one, will wait around for IN MY FATHER'S SHADOW, Rebecca! It sounds like a great plot. And you still have plenty of time to write it...unless, of course, you're planning a "quadrology" and retire! :)

Rebecca Cantrell said...

I am going for that google-ology. ;) or at least
as many as they let me...

I have ideas for two more 1941 and 1945) for Hannah
and then I think Anton could take over for a while. And then I have some ideas for Anton's son in the 1980s...

But then I have these other ideas...so I don't know what's next after A CITY OF BROKEN GLASS.

Jen Forbus said...

Having many ideas is a very good thing!!

Ha! I love it! "google-ology" That's awesome! :)

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Thanks, Jen! A lot of ideas is a good thing, but had I but world enough and time....

Sophie Littlefield said...

Becky you are so.....erudite. I'm kind of so in awe of you at this moment that i can't think of anything snarky to say.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

OK, whoever took over Sopie's body, give it back AT ONCE, do you hear me? I mean, thanks, Sophie!

(you didn't know I had it in me, did you?)

Sophie Littlefield said...

no seriously, people who know their history really intimidate me!

My daughter was just telling me that no one ever "likes" her facebook status and I told her I think it's because no one ever *gets* her facebook status. For instance right now it's "ok, so england may have the metric system and euros, but at least america has the good musical notation. i mean, what's easier- 64th note or hemisemidemiquaver?"

Y'all smart girls have it tough, I guess.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

You're a smart girl too, Soph!

Your daughter sounds like a hoot. I love that FB status line. I don't get it completely, but it's still funny.

If she just hangs in a few more years, she can find people who get it.