I’m thrilled to welcome Stephanie Baumgartner to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate her latest novel, Love Song (Liebeslied) — the first book in the Captive Heart Trilogy — which I will be reviewing this summer. I’ve been a fan of Stephanie’s since she contacted me to review her Sophia’s War series (stay tuned for my reviews of the last few installments, coming soon!), and I’ve enjoyed chatting with her via email and Facebook as we share a fascination with all things World War II.
Virginia, 1944: The world is at war and America braces itself for the imminent Allied invasion that will liberate Europe from its Nazi captors. Ignored by her father, bullied by her mother, overshadowed by her brother, sixteen-year-old Cassie Wyndham yearns to do her part for the war effort. But after years of feeling forgotten and neglected, Cassie doubts she has anything of value to offer, especially when her pastor requests volunteers for a new ministry program at the local POW camp. Risking the ire of her mother, Cassie signs up, despite her fear of the infamous Germans. There, she meets Friedrich Naumann. Funny and kind, she is drawn to him right away. As their friendship blossoms into something more, Cassie and Friedrich struggle to keep their feelings from the rest of the world. But time is running out, and it won’t be long before the war ends and they have to say goodbye… If their secret relationship isn’t discovered first. An inspiring, emotionally-charged historical romance, Love Song (Liebeslied) is a novel about love that has the power to change and overcome, and the sacrifices it sometimes requires.
Please welcome Stephanie as she shares her inspiration for Love Song (Liebeslied) and graciously offers a giveaway to my readers.
The idea for Love Song came to me while I was researching POW camps in America during World War II for my Sophia’s War series. I began reading Nazi POWs of War in America by Arnold Kramer to get a general idea of what the POW camps here in America were like. Kramer is so detailed, however — down to what the prisoners ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner — that I found a story unfolding inside my head.
Like most things I research about the war, I found myself asking, “How do more people not know about this?!” German POWs were offered educational courses that were counted as college credits once the war was over and they returned home to Germany. The prisoners far outnumbered the American guards 3 to 1, but they were generally so compliant that only one guard was required to monitor an entire group of prisoners while they worked on local farms or performed other public, manual labor jobs. In some cases, the lone American guard would allow a German prisoner to dismantle and reassemble his own rifle to clean it for him. (That thought alone was just incredible to me). There were many factors that contributed to such a harmonious rapport between the German POWs and their American captors. Firstly, the majority of captured Germans were just ready for the war to be over; some of them had been fighting for five years already by this point. Secondly, the distance one would have to travel and the number of obstacles to be sidestepped made a covert escape back home almost impossible.
Many top secret programs were developed at this time to reintroduce these prisoners to democracy. The American government didn’t want word getting back to Germany that attempts were being made to sway German POWs’ ideologies, risking the indoctrination of American POWs with Nazism overseas in retaliation.
One such classified program commissioned volunteers from local churches to talk to the prisoners about Christianity. As a Christian, I found this quite interesting because I had never heard about this. There wasn’t much I could find on these groups specifically. (This is probably because it was such a small, rare group that it was just one of those details that sort of got lost over time.) What also appealed to me, as an author, is that there are already few novels that give us an inside look of a German POW’s experiences in an American POW camp. So, I chose this as my setting; what about my characters?
Usually, I wait for my character names to come to me, but I chose these names outright. I’ve always LOVED the name “Cassie” because of a character on a soap opera I used to watch with my granny after school (Guiding Light, anyone?) and was determined to use it. At the time I was coming up with this idea, I was going to dental assisting school in Tampa and passed a Wyndham hotel everyday. Without knowing what it meant, it was one of those names that just felt right. (Come to find out, it’s an English name meaning, “home of Winda.”) So my protagonist’s name became Cassandra “Cassie” Wyndham.
Friedrich’s name came just as easily to me. My obsession with World War II began early, with The Sound of Music being my favorite movie for years while growing up. As such, in any of my novels with a prominent German character, I try to use a name from The Sound of Music. (I’m an INFJ personality type, which means I’m obsessed with finding and/or creating patterns and connections in life and art). It’s sort of my way of paying tribute to a story that has always meant so much to me. In my Sophia’s War series, I had a character named “Liesel” and another named “Rolf,” so in this trilogy, I decided to name the hero, “Friedrich.” For his last name, I chose “Naumann.” Literally translated, it means, “new man,” which is exactly what Friedrich becomes after meeting Cassie.
Now that that was settled, I had to explore what I wanted the point of this romance to be — what I wanted this novel to accomplish and what I wanted readers to walk away with. Just prior to the idea coming to me, I’d finished reading Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge. I was still stewing in all the concepts of this book. It changed my life, and I’d discovered so much about myself and the heart of women in general while reading it. There are so many core hurts and wounds that every single woman since the dawn of time has endured; lies about our bodies, our hearts, our minds. It’s a trap we fall into, perpetuated by our mothers, by ourselves, infecting our own daughters. It’s a vicious cycle of self-doubt, of distrusting the men in our lives, of comparing ourselves to the perfect images other women project of themselves. We push onward with untended wounds, believing it’s normal to be unseen, unknown, or unappreciated.
Well, it’s not normal. And that is not at all the role God intended for us.
I wanted Cassie to be the embodiment of a young girl’s (and later in the trilogy, a woman’s) struggles through life, and to allow her to be an example to young girls. This novel could be the only thing in someone’s life that tells them they are not alone in what they are feeling; that they are strong enough to rise above what’s happened to them. They’re strong enough to overcome their pain and those who seek to demean them. If there is anything I hope readers walk away with after reading Love Song (Liebeslied), I hope it’s that.
Equally, I read Wild at Heart by John Eldredge (the men’s equivalent to Captivating) to help develop Friedrich’s character. Believe it or not, there are certain damaging words and events that occur in every young man’s life that can wreck his self-esteem, his outlook on life, and/or how he treats women. For whatever reason, we don’t bring as much attention to the brokenness of men as we do women. Friedrich was additionally conflicted because he has grown up under the influence of a fascist government and is reckoning with that and how to become the person he wants to be.
I hope you find Love Song as informing and inspiring as I did while writing it. Most importantly, I hope you finish this book with the knowledge that you aren’t alone; that your experiences in this life matter, that your thoughts and ideas are important; that sometimes, the way people treat you is a reflection of the state of their own hearts, not yours.
Lastly, I hope it makes you believe in love; the empowering kind of love that allows you to love and be loved just as you are.
Happy reading, Friends.
Stephanie is kindly offering 2 ebooks versions of Love Song (Liebeslied) to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and let me know why you really want to read the book. The giveaway will close on Sunday, June 5. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post.
Stephanie Baumgartner has been a writer and has had an intense fascination with World War II since childhood. She has completed two novel series based on a World War II setting and one contemporary novel. She has a profound passion for storytelling and a sincere desire to encourage others to pursue their dreams. She lives in the beautiful rolling hills of Tennessee with her loving husband, her beautiful daughter, and one silly yet adorable dog. She hates snakes and loves peanut butter, which have absolutely nothing to do with being an author. To learn more about Stephanie, please visit: stephaniebaumgartner.com and facebook.com/smbaumgartner.
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