City Of Women was fast pasted thriller set in World War II. A seamless blend of history and fiction, David Gillham’s debut novel takes readers to wartime Berlin where it explores the transformation of a seemingly obedient German soldier’s wife. Sigrid Schröder works as a stenographer and lives with her mother-in-law in a Berlin flat. Outwardly, she leads an ordinary life, coping with the wartime drudgeries and the return of the bombers to her city. But she is trapped in a loveless marriage and secretly rebels when she agrees to help a young woman on her “duty year” who is trying to protect Jewish “U-Boats” in hiding from the Gestapo. In this page-turning novel, David Gillham explores what happens to ordinary people thrust into extraordinary times, and how the choices they make can be the difference between life and death.
This book explored such interesting social and emotional challenges, that I had to know more about what inspired David to write it. I was so pleased when he agreed to answer my questions.
Dana,Thank you so much for you generous comments in your blog. I’m very appreciative!
Thanks, David, Let’s get to the interview!
What inspired you write City of Women?
I wanted to write a story about ordinary people in extraordinary times. And I wanted to explore how we make our moral decisions. Do we make them based on our convictions, or do we stumble into them? When I started writing, I though that we were more likely to stumble into them. But by the time I finished, I realized that its both. There are situations that require us to make a conscious moral decision, just as Sigrid did.
As a man, was it hard to write a novel with a female main character?
No, it wasn’t actually. I dive into the character, male or female. So I thought about what the Sigrid would do rather than what I thought a woman would do.
Of all the challenges the characters faced, which carried the most meaning for you?
That’s a tough one. All of my characters’ challenges carried meaning for me. Not wanting to give away too many surprises, I suppose I would say that Erika’s (rather shocking) decision midway through the book was the most emotional. I had no idea that she was going to do what she did until she was doing it. So it was a shock for me too.
Did you know how the book would end when you started writing it?
I did not. I usually start with a group of characters in a particular setting, all moving in a general direction, and then let the characters guide me.
What message did you hope to send with City of Women?
I talked about this a bit in the essay I wrote on the back of the book. Basically, I wanted readers to think about what THEY would do in such a situation. In a dangerous world, do you protect yourself and those you love, or do you risk everything for the greater good?
Are you working on any future projects? Can you give a hint as to what it is?
I am working on the next book. All I can officially say about it right now is that its set in postwar Amsterdam and 1950’s New York, and that it involves Anne Frank. Also, I’m happy to mention that Stanley Tucci has optioned CITY OF WOMEN. We’ll see what happens!
David R. Gillham’s writing reflects his lifelong love of history. “My connection to history has always been palpable, especially to certain times and places. When I write about a place like Berlin in the 1940′s, I feel like I am walking around its streets. I feel at home there, at least in my head. I think I’m especially drawn to dark periods of the past, when people were forced to make choices about whether or not they would live their lives in fear. And in particular, I write about women in the past. We have all read about how men go to war, for instance, but what about the experience of women? What wars have they fought on a daily basis? That is what lead me to begin City of Women with the character of Sigrid – an ordinary woman forced to make an extraordinary choice – and then not only live with the dangerous consequences, but also rise above them.” Find out what David is up to on his website, http://davidrgillham.com/