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How did families survive the World Wars and the often heartbreaking results of those trying times? Gail Kittleson digs into this era in her new novel, In This Together, offering hope despite the struggles. Before we visit with Gail, here’s a quick peek at the story.
After World War II steals her only son and sickness takes her husband, Dottie Kyle begins cooking and cleaning at the local boarding house. The job and small town life allow her to slip into a predictable routine, but her daughters and grandchildren live far away, and loneliness is Dottie’s constant companion when she’s not working.
Al Jensen, Dottie’s long-time neighbor, has merely existed since his wife died. Al passes his time working for his son at the town’s hardware store. However, he still copes with tragic memories of serving in WWI. Being with Dottie makes him happy, and their friendship grows until, for him, love has replaced friendship.
When Dottie’s daughter has health issues, will Al’s strength and servant’s heart be enough to win Dottie’s love and affection? Can Dottie’s love for her family enable her to face her fear of crowds and enclosed spaces and travel halfway across the country to help the daughter who so desperately needs her?
Welcome, Gail! What inspired In This Together?
The women of World War II have always intrigued me. We hear a lot about the Greatest Generation, but the first thing that comes to mind is the men storming the beaches on D-Day or fighting in the Pacific or North Africa. Some really tough women made it through the war, and if you consider all those who worked in factories, flew supplies and soldiers cross-country, and nursed the wounded and dying—they made an incredible contribution.
And then there are those who sent sons off to fight—or daughters to cities to work for the war effort. The heroine of In This Together did both. Her son paid the ultimate sacrifice in North Africa, while her daughter married a sailor and never came back to Iowa to live and rear her family. Thus, Dottie also sacrificed the treasure of watching her grandchildren mature.
The war affected entire families, for sure. What do you hope your readers will take away from the story?
I hope readers will gain perspective on this era, and on the intrinsic versatility of the human spirit. Dottie could be my personal role model, because she continued on, waking up each day and doing her best in spite of terrible loss. Being human, she also clung to her old fears, and I would like readers to sense her struggle—I think many of us women can identify with her in this. And I would like readers to cheer Dottie on as she faces her fears, what all of us are called to do at one time or another.
Fear is something we can probably all relate to in one way or another. Can you give us any hints about what you’re working on now?
I’m working on the third in a series of World War II novels. The second has found a publisher ….YAY!! Lighthouse of the Carolinas plans to release A Purpose True early in 2017. I’m delighted at this recent news, and I did some backhanded research on southern France for this book. Actually, that was thirty-some years ago, when my husband and I studied French for African missions.
Of course, I hope to go back, since the third book takes place entirely in the Auvergne. For book two, I did some “virtual research” of London and the Resistance strongholds of France, but now I need to GO. What I learned, though, through writing book two, was that we were RIGHT THERE back in the eighties, but I had no idea I’d ever write a women’s fiction novel about this era.
For In This Together, my debut novel, my research was local—Dottie’s an Iowan, and that’s where I spent my childhood. Going back into my memory for scenes was fun. For example, Dottie has a scene in her church basement, and I could instantly put myself back in that place and time. Also, it’s amazing what people have in their files and attics. I’ve enjoyed speaking with folks who remember this time, and only wish a Gold Star mother was still living.
How fun to be able to use all those experiences! And congrats on A Purpose True! Which authors/novels do you feel have had the greatest impact on your own writing?
Jane Kirkpatrick’s writing has impacted me greatly. She’s so skillful at weaving characters and history in incredible depictions of place.. For me, characters come first, and the author’s description of the locale entrenches me in the plot. When I read Altogether in One Place, for example, I lived those women’s stories because of Jane’s ability to meld place and personality. I have yet to meet her, but certainly hope I can some day.
That would be very fun. 🙂 Can you share (briefly) about something you feel the Lord has been teaching you recently?
What has the Lord been teaching me recently? That the desire accomplished is truly sweet to the soul. All the writing, researching, not to mention the stewing and fretting I’ve engaged in during the past few years come to culmination with the release of In This Together. Now, I need to not stew and fret about the marketing, but enjoy the moment!
Thanks for taking the time to visit with us today, Gail!
Our stories are our best gifts, and blooming late has its advantages—the novel fodder never ends. Gail writes from northern Iowa, where she and her husband enjoy gardening and grandchildren. In winter, Arizona’s Ponderosa pine forests provide relief from Midwest weather and a whole raft of new people and stories. Gail’s memoir, Catching Up With Daylight, paved the way for fiction writing, and she’s hooked for life.
You can connect with Gail online:
Also by Gail:
Many of us long for rest, as the author did while renovating an old house after her husbands first deployment to Iraq. Yet a different hunger undergirded that desire: a hunger for wholeness.