If you could ask the author one question, what would it be?
What started the idea for this book
She answers that question in the Author’s Note.
A book about a Luftwaffe pilot, Franz von Werra, the only German prisoner of war to escape from the British. Each time he escaped in England he was recaptured. Once he was on the run for several days in the Lake District. He eventually successfully escaped from a POW camp in Canada, walked across the frozen St Lawrence River to neutral America and finally made it back to Germany. I’d forgotten all about the story until I came to Oxfordshire and heard about a plane crashing on the Downs above our village during the war. It made me wonder what… Read more »
Will there be a movie? Do you plan a sequel to the book?
Hi Judy. I would love my book to be made into a movie – you don’t happen to know Spielberg or Reese Witherspoon by any chance, do you? I’m sure a word to the right person would make it happen. Seriously though, my literary agents have a dedicated agent who deals with film and tv rights, so you never know. There’s a very good audio version, read by the actor Thomas Judd, which certainly put a more dramatic spin on the story even for me when I listened to his reading. No sequel planned as yet, although I have been… Read more »
I would love to see what happened to Hugh and his newly acquired sons. And I’m hoping that he finds his true love also… And of course the rest of the gang… You get emotionally invested in them… You just hope that they all found their way through the war and were able to build a life after it was over. Please do write a second book!!!
Who was your favorite character and why?
I’d have to pick Lukas who goes through the biggest transformation. At the start of the story, he has the conceit that he belongs to a great country, fighting a just war. By the end of the book, he has the humility to accept the unbelievable, which many of his fellow prisoners and countryman refuse to do.
What is the theme the author wants us to learn from this particular story?
That’s an interesting questions, because I never start writing with a theme in mind. It’s always the story. Then themes begin to emerge. If I had to pick one, it would be compassion – such as Millie shows to Lukas (before anything developed between them), Lukas shows to Zoller and Hugh shows to Danny.
Compassion is what is important showed to all regardless of backgrounds
I cried with happiness at the end. Yet wondered if author considered having Millie get pregnant (like June did), especially after they were reunited for a few hours; did Lucas get recaptured or turn himself in, did Hugh ever get married, and what happened to Ruby?
I did think about Millie getting pregnant, but earlier on, when Lukas was hiding at the farm. However, she was a married woman and even in 1940 it was plausible that she’d taken steps during her marriage to delay starting a family. A pregnancy wouldn’t have happened later when Lukas appeared on the farm and escaped to find Millie. He did that to beg her forgiveness for everything he and his country stood for, hoping to prepare her for the moment the world at large realised the enormity of the Nazi atrocities. He’d accepted that she’d moved on and ‘that… Read more »
Has the author know of resettled German soldiers in Britain after the war? Is this common or unusual?
Absolutely. At the end of the war, 25,000 German prisoners asked to remain in Britain rather than be repatriated. For many of these young Germans, their homes were in the Russian sector, which was the case for Artur Schaeffer, a soldier in the Panzer division who married a Land Girl in our village. You can read their story in the author’s note, if your edition has it. During my research, I found many similar stories – some couples did face prejudice and judgement, but when I chatted to Artur’s widow (she still lives in our village) she told me the… Read more »
Was it hard to write?
The first draft came very easily. I could see Millie’s farmhouse, her way of life, the blizzard and her discovery of Lukas clearly in my mind. The problem was that I told the rest of the story from her point of view and realised that, without Lukas’s point of view and experiences, the reader would not be able to root for him. That’s when I began to tell his story alongside Millie’s. Later I worked with my agent on ramping up the tension and pace of the narrative. The policeman, Hanratty, was a very late addition. I also got rid… Read more »
Thank you for writing with so much depth!
What made you decide to end it with her shock of seeing him? It definitely left me wanting more!
I tried hard to use words that would show Millie’s soft delight, rather than shock. She doesn’t drop the flowers, or throw them to the ground. They flutter. And not like autumn leaves or petals, but like confetti. I rather hoped that making that word the final one of the book would tell the reader that they were destined to be together. Perhaps I was being a bit too ‘literary’, but after all the over-heated, dramatic emotions in the rest of the book, I wanted to show their cool acceptance that of course this was how their story would end.… Read more »
I loved the ending and got the delight. Thank you for a wonderful book.
please write more stories. I can see everything you write in my mind because of your word choice. thanks for a terrific read.
Who’s or what’s your inspiration and why did this inspire you(I think that was 2 but…whatever)
I think it’s probably one question, but I’m happy to answer as many as you like! Lots of things inspired this story, some of which I talk about in the author’s note. But the idea of these condensed and passionate relationships in wartime (or the “aphrodisiac of imminent death,” as Captain Trevelyan puts it) was inspired by my parents’ war. Growing up, I always knew they’d met in Austria in 1945, fallen in love and then been parted when my father was demobilised eight months before my mother. It wasn’t until later, when my mother gave me the letters they… Read more »
Some sub plots were a bit long or too much to absorb in the story and perhaps unnecessary? Lost me a few times, but all in all this book is excellent. I have a huge respect for an author that can truly take me away to a far away place in history and absorb me like this one.
I’m so pleased that the book transported you to a different time, but disappointed that you found some of the subplots too long. Every book is improved by cutting – I shelved sixty-thousand words from the original draft before we reached the book my agent and publisher were happy with. Perhaps I should have trimmed even more. I suppose inevitably certain subplots will appeal to some readers but bore others.
Did you ever think about Huge and Millie marrying and then Lukas returning and trying to lure Millie away? By the way I’m glad you didn’t I loved the outcome. A great read
Oh yes, I thought of many extrapolations for just about every character in the book, including that one. Although I don’t believe characters magically control the author, I did get to know Lukas well enough to feel he wouldn’t have done that. After all, in his more spontaneous youth, he’d stoically accepted the loss of the lusty Ursula. After the shock of seeing Millie again, he berates himself for ever coming back, “What sort of love was that? It was a greedy, selfish love, alien to the feelings he’d carried with him all these years. Herr Adamson was a good… Read more »
Your right! just dreaming of your characters, and how they would have responded in this age we currently live. Yes Lukas had a strong true character that is what Millie loves as part of him. great answer, thank you.
What happened to Hugh, Danny, and Little Hugh?
I had a fancy that Hugh perhaps courted and married Morney Beswick’s daughter. She’s mentioned briefly as being in Bristol during the bombing. It would bind together the two largest farms on the Downs. With his mother’s support, Hugh would have taken in both Danny and Little Hugh. Hugh was kind to Danny and loved having him around. I’m sure he would have made a loyal and loving guardian to Little Hugh as well. However, at this time in England, Little Hugh would probably not have been told that Hugh was his actual father, even when he was old enough… Read more »
For me, Lukas’s pride in his country and being a Luftwaffe pilot were so tangible. So when Lukas finds out the terrible crimes committed by the same country, the feeling of his guilt was coming off in waves. I suffered for him with him.
Did the author meet anyone who was German but not a Nazi? I would love to get an idea of the research that took place.
Because clearly, Germans and Nazis are two different group of people from the same country.
The short answer is no but during my research, I came across many examples of Germans during the war who were not Nazis. I developed Lukas’s attitude and early pride in Germany from reading the few first-hand accounts of Luftwaffe pilots that I could find – not easy because, as Winston Churchill was purported to say, “History is written by the victors”. One of the most useful was an account by Ulrich Steinhilper, a Luftwaffe pilot shot down over Canterbury in England in October 1940 and sent across the Atlantic to Ontario in 1941. He was eventually released and returned… Read more »
I would have loved to read about Lukas’ and Millie’s reunion and the aftermath. The ending had such a good build up, taking the reader higher and higher. The then the peas fall down from Millie’s hands like confetti and the book ends. I felt suspended in the air for a good 10 minutes bf I realized the book had ended and I was free-falling bc there was nothing more to read!!! @LP Ferguson…please add more to the end. I love the build up, I loved the suspension mid-air, I enjoyed the free fall (always happens at the end of… Read more »
The ending has certainly split readers – many love it while others are left feeling frustrated and wanting more. Although I never like to think I’ve disappointed a reader, I’m touched that the two lovers’ stories made you care so much for their future together.
I thought she married Hugh because she took his last name right?
No. Millie didn’t marry Hugh. She’s Millie Sanger right to the end of the book, I hope – unless we’ve missed a simply ghastly mistake during the editing process!
Is there going to be a sequel?
I hadn’t planned a strict follow-on sequel but I may take one of the minor characters and see how their future panned out.
How old is Millie in 1951?
She’s thirty-one and Lukas is thirty-two. They were both in their early twenties at the beginning of the war. I wanted to bring them together when they were still young enough to build a life and a family. Physically they probably wouldn’t have changed a great deal (Lukas’s drinking and smoking may not have helped!) but the passing years would have given them emotional maturity. I’m very hopeful for their future.
How and where did you find your inspiration to make this book also how long did it take you to make this book
The inspiration came from many things – the escaped prisoner’s experience from flying ace Franz von Verra, love continuing despite physical separation from my parents’ experience at the end of the war, the countryside around the village where I live and an incredible book I read about the peace makers at the end of the war, sadly now out of print. From the first full draft to the last, it took five years for me to perfect. It went through many changes, losing characters along the way and finding new ones.
Did you ever think about Huge and Millie marrying and then Lukas returning and trying to lure Millie away? Did Hugh and the children end up with Ruby? A great read thanks
Delighted you enjoyed the read. And yes, I did think of the first idea but felt strongly that as a character, Lukas wouldn’t have behave like that. And Hugh with Ruby? I didn’t think of that! What about poor old Nip, her husband? I rather liked the idea of Ruby being flirty and course, but actually rather loyal to Nip. But maybe you’re right. Ruby is exactly the sort of lusty woman Hugh needs to knock a bit of that male pomposity out of him. I think his Mum might have had something to say about it though.
As you were writing and rewriting, did you ever give real consideration to a different ending? Millie and Hugh stay together? June lives? Lukas dies, or finds a German love before Millie manages to track him down? Or did you have the end from the moment you started and it never wavered?
I always wanted Lukas and Millie to end up together but I went through many different rewrites. The very first draft Millie was much younger and unmarried (it was her father who committed suicide in the barn in that draft) and she and Lukas never consummated the relationship. Writing colleagues correctly pointed out that this seriously compromised the idea of Millie waiting for Lukas, instead of marrying Hugh. Another idea was that Millie did consummate the relationship, realised she was pregnant, and seduced Hugh so that he thought the child was his but again, I just couldn’t make myself believe… Read more »
I read this book in 2 days. When I say this book takes you through a whirlwind of emotions, it’s an understatement. There are pages i couldn’t take my eyes away from and pages i had to force myself to read. Love, hatred, anger, forgiveness, acceptance all wrapped into this book. It makes you step back into time, and to view this monumental moment in history as those who lived it did. Thank you so much for writing this book, and if I have to chose one question I think it would be , what was the hardest part of… Read more »
I’m so pleased the book worked for you on many levels. The parts I found extremely hard to write were the sections about the war in the east. I had to read through translations of the transcripts from the listening houses that were declassified fifty years after the war. I’m still haunted by these accounts. I also found researching the atrocities at Buchenwald particularly upsetting. I actually got very down when I was writing the section about the listening houses and even now, I find it hard to return to the chapter about the massacre in Poland.
Do you have future books on the horizon? Not necessarily a sequel to A Dangerous Act of Kindness.
Absolutely. I’ve just delivered my second book, set this time in the eighteenth-century. It’s another historical romance set during another European war, this time against the armies of Louis XIV. It’s due for publication in 2020. I’m now working on another WW2 story set in a military hospital on the south coast of England.
Thank you! I will be patiently awaiting the release of these two books!
My prejudice against romance literature made me think initially that this story was just okay. I was wrong. The characters and the plot were thought-provoking and controversial. I like books that make me think or question what I thought I knew. As I commented on other discussion streams, I realized that I had a lot to say, so I must have really liked this book. I am glad I read it. So, now that I want to know what happened to Millie, Lukas, Hugh, and Brigsie between 1945 and 1951, my biggest question to LP Fergusson is can we expect… Read more »
I haven’t planned a sequel but I have thought of taking a less central character, such as Brigsie and following her story. I like the idea of getting her to the point where she’s mentioned in the last chapter of ADAoK – how did she end up working with the Family Association and what did she feel when Millie contacted her?
I adored brigsie and would love to see where her story took her. And what of Ruby?
I’m so glad you were fond of Brigsie. She was based on a VAD friend of my mother’s during the war, also called Brigsie. I rather think Ruby would have gone back to her husband Nip. I imagined she was one of those women who flirt outrageously and crudely, but actually aren’t putting it about at all. If Nip made it through the war she’d go back to bossing him from pillar to post but they’d continue to rub along pretty well.
When did you start writing
When I was a child. I clearly remember writing a bloodthirsty pirate story at primary school followed by a ‘novel’ about two girls and a unicorn. I wrote on and off sporadically from then on. In my teens I wrote two novellas, in my twenties I wrote a thriller, in my thirties a romance and in my forties a humorous novel. Each of time these various manuscripts were rejected, I gave up but then the itch to write would return, and the cycle would begin again. Five years ago, I knew I had to break that cycle, so I did… Read more »
WONDERFUL STORYTELLING! When is the next story coming out? Can not get enough of the characters! Even Gyp was well-developed personality! Would love to hear what happens to Brigsie, Hugh, Zoller, Joseph… (and in their stories get glimpses of Millie and Lukas!)
Dear LP Fergusson, Thank you very much for writing A Dangerous Act of Kindness. Your book grabbed me tightly and would not let go. I laughed and cried and really felt the emotions, along with Millie, Lukas, Hugh, and the rest. An idea: a sequel with Brigsie, like you mentioned, could be excellent, and so could one with a character such as Hugh’s young son with June, from his perspective as an adult. Or even from the children of that generation. The stories of Lukas and Millie, and all the characters, could be shared by stepping back in time. Like… Read more »
Answer to your question (late I’m afraid, as I’ve only just got notification that it had come in) is yes, but not because they were difficult to imagine. Writers feel things deeply but it’s never enough to write that a character is sad, or angry, or afraid. You have to say how that emotion feels, and that’s difficult. I study writers who are experts at describing emotions, such as Sarah Waters, Graham Swift and Elizabeth Bowen. When I’m feeling any of those emotions myself, I study the sensations and try to translate them into words. And when I write the… Read more »
Did Millie end up with Lucas?
Yes. I’m certain of it. I don’t imagine it would have been easy at first. They had each lived with the idea of the other, not the reality but this was a generation who kept going, even if life wasn’t perfect. I like the idea of them rediscovering a different kind of love for one another, a more realistic and therefore stronger connection.
Did Millie end up with Lucas? I assume that Hugh would not accept Millie after she told him of her affair with a German? Am I right?
It was very interesting to me to read the perspective of a German soldier realizing Hitler’s true intentions.
You’re right about Hugh, and Millie would have had trouble coming to terms with that level of hypocrisy from him. I never saw Hugh and Millie’s relationship as balanced. Love is not the driving force behind Hugh’s pursuit of Millie – he wants to possess her, he feels she’s his by rights, and those characteristics are not appealing to a woman like Millie. I always imagined she would end up with Lukas. There’d be choppy water ahead but enough understanding between them to ride out the storms. They’d both invested far too much emotional energy over the years on one… Read more »