Thursday, February 22, 2018

~ Friday Fiction Feature: Author Shawn Pollock & 'The Road to Freedom' ~

-- Author Interview with Shawn Pollock,
Book Spotlight & US Giveaway for his debut novel,
'The Road to Freedom' --

Shawn Pollock grew up in Cache Valley, Utah, and graduated from Utah State University with degrees in Professional Writing and Instructional Technology. He works as an instructional designer in the software industry. His short story, "Hats," won first place in The New Era magazine's fiction contest. Any time not devoted to work and family goes to cooking, reading about history, and participating in the League of Utah Writers. The Road to Freedom is his first novel.


June: Welcome to 'Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic', Shawn. Tell us a little about yourself. How did your education and/or previous job and life experiences impact your road to publication?

Shawn: I am a native of Utah and went to school at USU (Go Aggies!). My parents are both big readers and so I grew up seeing that and having lots of books around the house. My education from high school onward has always leaned heavily toward writing in various forms. I majored in English at USU, so I took a lot of writing classes and spent a lot of time around other people who liked to read and write.

June:  One of my favorite topics of conversation is books!
June: Your book is set during World War II. Did any of your family members or friends serve in the military during this war? Did they share their experiences with you?

Shawn: Both of my grandfathers served in WWII. One served in Europe, in the Third Army under General George Patton, and then as part of the occupation of Japan. My other grandfather served in the Navy, on the USS Ordronaux.

I never heard much about their experiences from either of them firsthand. My sister wrote a history of my grandfather that delved a little into his time in the Army. Not long before he died, my grandfather told my dad a lot of things he had never talked about before and so I heard more about his experiences in a secondhand way.

June:  What a small world . . . One of my uncles served in the Army under General Patton in Europe, too.

June: How did their experiences influence your story? 

Shawn: A few of the things my grandfather experienced in Europe influenced my story.

He was a big guy and lost a lot of weight from the bad food and endless walking, and he always felt hungry. This made its way directly into the story through the character of Hans Kohler.

He had a couple of experiences with Germans that didn't actually go into my story but helped me picture how people on opposing sides of a war could still relate to each other as human beings. Since all of my main characters are German, this helped me write them as regular people rather than just Nazis or "bad guys."

For example, he got sick at one point and was nursed back to health by a German woman until he could rejoin his unit.

As the war was ending and the Germans were surrendering in masses, his unit just directed them to the rear. There were so many, that was as much as they could do. One day, a German on a motorcycle approached my grandfather and another soldier to surrender. Before sending him on, they each guarded the German in turn while the other took the motorcycle for a spin through the fields.

June: I admire the way you wove real-life experiences into your manuscript to enrich the characters and their relationships with each other.
June: Please tell us a little about how you created your setting and developed the characters for this book.

Shawn: What I wanted to do with this book was explore a concept often found in the Book of Mormon, in which one man struggles to remain righteous while his own countrymen have degenerated into wickedness and violence. Ether, Nephi (son of Helaman), Mormon, Moroni; how did they remain true to their convictions in the face of almost universal opposition? Nazi Germany, and especially the fighting in the East, is a more recent equivalent of this situation. If there was a man who attempted to keep to a higher ideal in such an environment, what effect would his efforts have on him, and what influence could he have on others?

I developed the characters to be able to play off one another. In the earliest version, Kohler was an experienced sergeant who had been with Meier for a long time, but as I got deeper into the story, I realized I was just writing the same character twice. I understood the main characters needed to be foils for one another so they could develop their own identities and grow through their interactions, so I turned Kohler into a green private. I also tried to make Kracauer more than a two-dimensional antagonist by making him an entertainer as well.
June: Please share with us what type of research you did for your book. One of the book's reviews on states: "The imagery of the battles was amazing." Did you study World War II military history in high school and/or college?

Shawn: I didn't study history formally but I have done a great deal of reading on the wars of the 20th century, specifically World War I through Vietnam. My grandfather who served in the Navy had a large collection of books on World War II, and when he passed away, my grandmother was kind enough to give them to me. And in addition to that, there is a wealth of information on pretty much any aspect of the war you'd care to delve into. I read a lot about specific aspects of life in the Third Reich, and about general observations on the nature of war by authors like Richard Holmes and John Ellis.

Here's a sampling of the books that helped me in my research:
German Army, 1939-45: Eastern Front, 1943-45; Three Against Hitler; Hitler's Hangman: The Life of Heydrich; Hitler Youth: Growing up in Hitler's Shadow; Life in the Hitler Youth; The Hitler Youth: Marching Toward Madness; The Nazis; Blitzkrieg; Prelude to War; Partisans and Guerrillas; Russia Besieged; Red Army Resurgent; Acts of War: The Behavior of Men in Battle; The Sharp End: The Fighting Man in World War II.

June: It sounds as if you did a thorough job of researching your subject matter and setting in order to construct a realistic period piece.
June: What or who inspired you to become an author?

Shawn: The desire to write has always been part of me. It was just something I instinctively knew I wanted to do. That said, it has taken me a long time to actually become a writer.

As for inspiration, I have a lot of interests that I want to create narratives for: war (obviously), crime, boxing, cooking, cowboys, music, and the list goes on.

I am most moved to write when I read certain authors. Stephen King, Dennis Lehane, and Steve Hockensmith are among those who, when I read them, make me want to write.

As for getting disciplined enough to stick to a regular writing schedule, my dad has helped me a lot. He is also a big war and history buff and so has given me a lot of encouragement in writing on these subjects. We cowrote a novel several years ago which didn't get published, but it was a good exercise in developing a daily writing schedule. The basic scenario for 'The Road to Freedom' came from ideas we developed together, and he asked about its progress a lot as I was writing it. Working on these projects with him has gotten me into a mode where I now make time to write every day.

June: How awesome to have a close relative who shares an interest and knowledge of your subject matter.
June: What do you like to do in your spare time--assuming you have any spare time?

Shawn: First, of course, is write, and I barely have time for that some days. I participate in the online chapter of the League of Utah Writers and trade critiques with other chapter members. I really enjoy associating with fellow writers and seeing writing from more of the critiquing/editorial side.

I like to stay active. I try to go running or play soccer as often as I can, and I'll torture myself with other exercises when the weather keeps me indoors.

I also enjoy cooking. I make breakfast for my kids every morning and cook dinner once in a great while and on holidays. I would have a hard time being responsible for a daily dinner, but I love planning Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. I make pizza every Valentine's Day. I made my own birthday dinner last year because I wanted to try making Japanese curry from scratch.

June: It was a pleasure getting to know a dedicated author, Shawn. Thank you for the time and care you took in constructing your answers for this interview. Best wishes on a successful writing career.

GOODREADS                    FACEBOOK

In 1945, World War II is ending, but not in Germany's favor. Hans Kohler is a young Mormon German who knows more about farming that being a soldier. A worn copy of the Book of Mormon is the only thing that brings him comfort.

Captain Christoph Meier seems to be the perfect German soldier. His pristine Aryan features and strong family ties to the Nazi Party should have placed him at a far better post than this unit. Instead, he's leading broken veterans and inexperienced greenies.

When the Russians attack their unit, it leaves Meier and Kohler trapped behind enemy lines. To get past snipers, the Nazi SS, and the Russian Army, they need to use all of their skills, including believing that God wants them to survive.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Shawn has graciously offered to sponsor a fun giveaway on his 'The Road to Freedom' Facebook Page. He's offering a signed print copy of the book to one fortunate US winner! {Entrants must be eighteen years of age or older -and- have a US mailing address.}

Here are his instructions for the giveaway:

Go to 'The Road to Freedom's' Facebook page: 'The Road to Freedom's' Facebook Page

On the post that says "The Road to Freedom Giveaway (Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic)," tag as many people as you can in the comments. The person who tags the most people will receive an autographed copy of my book.

Contest closes on Saturday, March 3rd, 2018, at 11:59PM PST. Good luck!

 ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
-- Monday, February 26th: Marvelous Middle Grade Monday Post: A fiction feature on a fun middle-grade mystery from 2016 by Author C. M. Surrisi, 'The Maypop Kidnapping'. 
-- Wednesday, February 28th: Blogging For Books Review of a picture book by Author Matthew Paul Turner and Illustrator David Catrow, 'When God Made Light'

-- Friday, March 2nd: Book spotlight featuring debut Cedar Fort author Chelsea Curran's LDS romance, 'Unseen Road to Love'.

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  1. Very fun interview to read, and an interesting concept for the book. Love that Shawn has an LDS character in the book, and I love reading books set during WWII. Can't wait to read this one. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Laura! I'm glad you enjoyed the interview and hope you enjoy the book as well and find it a good addition to LDS fiction.

  2. Thank you for your positive comments, Laura. Three of my uncles served in the armed forces during World War II, so I have a special interest in that time period. In the past year or so I've read some good middle-grade and adult fiction set in this time period. Glad you stopped by! Sincerely, June