Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Author Interview - Dora Lee Thompson

Please welcome Dora Lee Thompson, the author of Pocket of Guilt. I'm was very excited to interview her, as her book is one that is unique to my reading tastes! I'll be reviewing it tomorrow, but today please enjoy reading her interview answers.

1. Jessica:
This book was a new experience for me, in that it discussed how LDS teens were affected by World War II. What inspired you to write about this rather unique subject matter?

Some of the events in Pocket of Guilt were inspired by the true adventures of my friend, Ralph Hechtle, who lived in Mannheim, Germany before and after the war. My husband and Ralph worked the night shift at a utility company in Provo, Utah, in the sixties. To pass the boring night hours, Ralph kept my husband spellbound with his WWII stories about how he survived the bombs and the devastating food shortage following the war. The story makes the reader wonder what he would do under such trying circumstances.
We lost track of Ralph for several years and my husband and I decided to write the story and fictionize the parts we were unsure of. Later, we found Ralph still living in Utah, and he visited us and critiqued the story for two summers in a row. Ralph had some amazing stories to tell. He is probably one of the few persons still alive who actually saw Mannheim Jews being herded into boxcars like animals. We seldom hear stories about the war from the German teen viewpoint.

I knew I was at a disadvantage writing a story with an LDS theme, as far as reaching the mainstream reader was concerned, but I felt compelled to do it anyway with the hope of educating the non-member about our Church doctrine. There are so many misconceptions out there.

2. Jessica:
What kind of research went into developing your characters?

As many authors do, I patterned my characters around persons that I know. My main character, Dieter Schulz, is a composite of Ralph and one of my sons. Ralph told me he was fearless in the wake of bombs and strafing attacks. That seemed unbelievable to me and I didn't portray the character, Dieter, in that light. There was one scene, though, where another character walked calmly while being strafed by an airplane. This was a scene that really happened to Ralph. I wanted to use that scene, so I made it more believable by having the character's mind snap from all the stress of war.
From age ten until the war ended, danger was Ralph's lot in life, so all through his formative years, that's all he knew. Maaybe that would toughen a kid and make him fearless. I don't know. I did give the character Dieter, a stubborn streak. I suspect that caught the essence of Ralph's true personality.

3. Jessica:
Who would you say has been your biggest inspiration while writing?

My seven kids cheered me on, but I would have to say that my husband, Jack, was my biggest inspiration. In the beginning, he and I tried to be co-authors. It didn't work! We kept butting heads about how and what to write. Finally, Jack turned the writing over to me because he said I seemed to be the one most dedicated to it.
He encouraged me to spend as much time writing as possible. He even made doing the laundry his job (he was retired) to free more time for me to write.

4. Jessica:
Is there any advice that you can give to aspiring writers out there?

Go to the library. Use the Internet. Find a good "How to Write" manual. Brush up on your grammar. Research the culture and history connected with your story. Be accurate. Follow a historical timeline, if necessary.
In most cases, it is important to be persistent. If you get a "writing block" set your work aside for a time and then come back to it. It is amazing how you can get new ideas a day or two later. Never give up. It is amazing I know, but it took me over forty years to write Pocket of Guilt. I raised seven kids and cared for a chronically-ill husband part of the time while writing.

5. Jessica:
What was the biggest hurdle you had to face while writing Pocket of Guilt?

I think the biggest hurdle, at least for part of the time, was having to answer the telephone while writing. My son, who has schizophrenia, called me frequently while fighting his demons. Writing saved my sanity, but writing with so many distractions wasn't easy.


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