Monday, July 9, 2018

NBTM + #Giveaway: The Fortress by Madeleine Romeyer Dherbey @GoddessFish

The Fortress
by Madeleine Romeyer Dherbey
GENRE:   WWII Historical


The war has not made much of difference in Alix’s life. Her father has seen to it that she grows up unaware, unworried, but safe in her tiny village under the cliffs of the Vercors. All around her he has built a fortress whose walls are impregnable—until the 27th of April, 1944. That day he makes a stupid mistake up on the cliff, and the walls of the Fortress start crashing down. Reality breaks into Alix’s life with unrelenting violence, unforeseen possibilities. From now on, every decision she makes will mean life or death.


“Honey, if anybody’s looking for it up here, it means you’re already dead. So it won’t matter to you. Listen now. People will call you on the other phone, the one downstairs, and give you coded messages. As a rule it will be about movements in our direction, Germans, Militia, or even new recruits for our camps. Remember, the security of Mortval depends on you. Here is a list of codes. You must memorize all of them and get rid of the list.”

She started to read. “The strawberries are in their juice. Your walnuts were wormy. You can’t put rabbit in the cassoulet.” She looked up. “Are they all about food?”

“No. Read the next one.”

“Yvette préfère les grosses carrottes. Well?”

“Well, it’s not about food.”

“Yvette préfère… Oh. I understand now. Did you come up with that one?”

“I thought it would be memorable.”

“It’s lovely. I bet the British are impressed.”

Interview with Madeleine Romeyer Dherbey

Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in The Fortress?

I’ll start with Alix. My first agent, John A. Ware, who has since passed away, told me she is the reason he picked up the book—despite the horrendous state of my POVs. Eighteen, innocent but smart, she knows what she wants. There is no ambivalence about her strength of character, her judgement, and her femininity. She falls in love with Marc for all the right reasons. Will he die for freedom, she asks herself, knowing it means he would die for her too. In love and loss, in war and vengeance, Alix grows as the story unfolds, to become the woman her mother was, who can give death and life, and love forever.

Marc is a seriously complicated man. Not ambiguous, mind you, for he knows where the path of honor lays ahead—even though honor often gets in his way. Obsessive and controlling, he has denied himself a future in this defeated country of his. He does not believe in fate or luck, or God, although he doesn’t mind talking to Him once in a while. His life is a minefield full of demons and forbidden fruits, but he is strong. He’s the person I’d choose to go to battle with.  

There are many other important characters. Régis, my lost brother and the embodiment of my father’s youth, the kid who understands idealism as a cross for him to bear, not someone else; and Angélique, entrusted by God with the mission to test man’s endurance to Evil. Pic-pic, the village idiot who talks to the Virgin Mary, and Lovrenc, the Slovenian deserter with his pet rabbit, whose memory is a thousand years old. Most of these people once lived in the Vercors. Some of them are still alive. 

It was sometimes painful to go into the bad guys’ minds, because of the blend of contradicting emotions that went into their behavior, the hateful things they say and do, against their stunted humanity. I think the Militia chief, a broken soul with a pale glimmer of who he should have been, is the most effective in that sense.

Can you tell us a little bit about your next books or what you have planned for the future?

My next book will be the story of a young teacher entrapped by an agent of the Deep State and cast as an accessory to a terror attack. And as I watch the news, the plot I thought was far-fetched four years ago when I started developing it, now appears too mild. It is too bad that it takes me so long to write. By the time I’m finished with this, there might another civil war in America, and the story will serve as a premonitory warning sign.

What is your favorite childhood book?

I was born in France and lived there until my mid-twenties before emigrating to United States, so most of my childhood classics may not ring a bell. Very close to my heart is The little match-girl, a story I still cannot read without sobbing my soul out.

If you could spend the day with one of the characters from The Fortress who would it be? Please tell us why you chose this particular character, where you would go and what you would do.

Eusèbe, the man who falls off the cliff in the first chapter, the grandfather I never met. Eusèbe died the day of my father’s sixth birthday, leaving eight children behind, one of whom would never again celebrate his birthday. While my father never talked about the war, he often talked about his father, what little he remembered, with longing. Eusèbe remains a legendary figure in the family, the victim of a random confluence of events that changed the destiny of each one of his descendants. His last day, spent with Alix, on the fateful errand that took them along the cliff road, is he day I dream of spending with him. I hear his voice, I read his thoughts. Oui, Papa, I say to almost everything he tells me. Maybe he is my own father, whom I miss so much.

What was the hardest scene from The Fortress to write?

No single scene stands out. I struggled with intensely emotional scenes, love scenes, but also battle and murder scenes. You feel it more than you see it in your head, because there is so much more to feel than to see. I was terrified of trivializing something important with a cheap word, a corny detail. Some scenes between Marc and Alix I rewrote fifty times to make sure they captured both the passion and the reverence that was growing between them, as well as, in Marc’s case, the guilt of being tempted away from his duty by a girl half his age.

What made you want to become a writer?

It’s the Vercors that pulled me. Look it up. Imagine yourself hiking the trails along a canyon stream to the top of the cliffs. Listen to the waterfalls, the silence of the pine forests, the ruins of an abandoned monastery, a marble plaque screwed to the rock where someone was murdered by the Nazis—there are many of those up there. Soon enough you’ll be wondering whose footsteps you are following on the steep trails, whose whispers in the woods, whose shadows under the cliffs, and you may find yourself wanting to write too. 

Just for fun

-Favorite song

A song for my funeral, by Black Sun Aeon, or any song by my favorite Finnish metal bands, Braveheart, Ghost Brigade, Insomnium, Swallow The Sun, and more.

-Favorite book

The devil’s pleasure palace, by Michael Walsh, and Under the Northern star, by Väinö Linna

-Favorite movie

Braveheart, Apocalypto, Gladiator, The green mile….

-TV shows

None! I never watch TV. We don’t even a satellite network at home.

Thanks so much for visiting with us today!

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Madeleine Romeyer Dherbey was born in the French Alps, moved to the United States twenty-five years later, and currently lives in the mountains of Virginia with her husband, two daughters, and Mikko.


$25 Amazon/BN GC

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Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Unknown said...

I enjoyed getting to know your book and thanks for the chance to win :)

James Robert said...

Thanks so much for the opportunity to win but also for helping us find some terrific books to read. I have a family who loves reading so this helps me out since they all have various genres.

Victoria Alexander said...

Really great post, I enjoyed reading it!

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