Friday 8 May 2020

Hidden In The Shadows by Imogen Matthews BLOG TOUR @ImogenMatthews3 @AmsterdamPB #HiddenInTheShadows #RandomThingsTours

September 1944: The hidden village is in ruins. Stormed by the Nazis. Several are dead and dozens flee for their lives. Instead of leading survivors to safety, Wouter panics and abandons Laura, the love of his life. He has no choice but to keep running from the enemy who want to hunt him down. Laura must also stay hidden as she is Jewish. Moving from one safe house to another, she is concealed in attics and cellars. The threat of discovery is always close at hand. On the run with no end in sight, the two young people despair of ever seeing each other again. As cold sweeps in signaling the start of the Hunger Winter, time is running out. Wouter’s search now becomes a battle for survival. Where can Laura be? Will they ever be reunited?  
Hidden in the Shadows is an unforgettable story of bravery and love, inspired by historical events.

Hidden In The Shadows by Imogen Matthews was published by Amsterdam Publishers in December last year.

As part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I am delighted to welcome the author here today for a special Question and Answer feature.

What gave you the idea to start writing about WW2?

As a child, I used to listen to stories about the war from my Dutch mother, who frequently recalled her life as a young woman living under the German occupation. I was captivated by her stories of bravery and adventure, but it wasn’t until I was a lot older that I understood the dangers she and her family faced, and also their desperate efforts to survive the terrible Dutch Hunger Winter of 1944-45.

When my mother was in her late 80s, I persuaded her to write her stories down, which I transcribed into a booklet for the family. I’m not sure if the younger members ever read it, but I was glad to record her memories, knowing they would fade after she passed away.

At the time, I was writing contemporary fiction and had no intention of writing a WW2 novel. All this changed one holiday, when I discovered a place hidden deep in the Dutch Veluwe woods where persecuted Jews had been given a safe haven from the Nazis.

How did you come across the existence of the hidden village?

Together with my family, I’ve enjoyed many Dutch cycling holidays in Nunspeet on the edge of the Veluwe woods. I’d never heard about the hidden village, until one day I spotted a large hewn stone bearing a plaque at the side of the cycle path. In all the years we’d cycled along this route, I’d never noticed it. It was a memorial to the lives of the local people who helped shelter dozens of Jews in a purpose-built village of huts.

I ventured into the woods and found three huts dug out of the ground, a testament to the cramped conditions the persecuted people had lived in. I stooped to enter the low door into the gloomy interior and tried to imagine what it must have been like for these people living in fear of their lives. The thought of months hiding out in the woods, far from civilisation and loved ones, was chilling.

How come I never knew about this place, I thought, before realising that many others wouldn’t have either. This is what gave me the idea of writing a fictional story based on the lives of real people who had survived persecution. I also wanted to show the other side and how local people also put themselves at risk to save their fellow human beings from the atrocities being committed in the name of the “Fatherland”.

After writing The Hidden Village, why did you decide to write a sequel?

The Hidden Village was published in 2017 by Amsterdam Publishers and rapidly rose up the Amazon bestseller charts. I hadn’t considered writing a sequel at the time, but was inspired by the hundreds of positive reviews and reader requests to find out what happened next.

Hidden in the Shadows continues the dramatic story of the discovery of the village and the struggles of two of its young fugitives who must avoid capture against all odds. Although a sequel, it can be read as a standalone book.

Will there be any other books in the series?

Both books are part of the “Untold WW Stories” series. There is a third novel in the pipeline, a new unrelated story to the first two, and based on one of the little known concentration camps in the Netherlands.

How do you explain the success of your books?

I was completely taken by surprise by the massive response to my novel, The Hidden Village. I believe that so many have been drawn to my books because they feel a connection to stories from WW2, as they may have known people or had family members who themselves suffered at the hands of the Nazis.

This May is an important date as it’s the 75th anniversary since the end of hostilities and the liberation of Holland by the Allies. It was my intention to get down my stories to ensure that they are never forgotten.  

What authors do you enjoy reading?

I love reading and at the moment I’m fascinated by new novels about the Holocaust and WW2. Some do not make easy reading but I’m always heartened by books that show the other side to the horror and how people put themselves as risk to save their fellow human beings. These include The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris and View Across the Rooftops by Suzanne Kelman.

And books you would take along to read on holiday?

I adore the American author, Anita Shreve, and often take one of her books away with me. Most recently, I’ve enjoyed The Stars are Fire and The Lives of Stella Bains.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

Write every day, even if it’s only a few words. It’s surprising how quickly the word count builds. It’s also the best way of keeping the characters and plot in your head so when you pick up the story the following day you can get straight on with it.  

Imogen Matthews is English and lives in the beautiful University town of Oxford. Before she wrote The Hidden Village, she published two romantic fiction e-novels under her pen name, Alex Johnson. The Hidden Village is published by Amsterdam Publishers, based in the Netherlands.
Imogen has strong connections with the Netherlands. Born in Rijswijk to a Dutch mother and English father, the family moved to England when Imogen was very young.
Every year since 1990, Imogen has been on family holidays to Nunspeet on the edge of the Veluwe woods.
It was here that she discovered the story of the hidden village, and together with her mother’s vivid stories of life in WW2 Holland, she was inspired to write her novel.
You can follow Imogen on Twitter @ImogenMatthews3, and find her on Facebook and Goodreads. Imogen also has a lovely website.

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