Wednesday, January 25, 2017

**GIVEAWAY** Interview with Kirk Kjeldsen - Showcase - Land of Hidden Fires

There is nothing more important to me than a WWII tale especially today when its getting harder and harder to find people left who served and lived through those troubling times and I'm always excited to find a new chapter, a new story to tell. It's my pleasure to introduce Kirk Kjeldsen who's here today to talk about his new novel, Land of Hidden Fires.
I can't wait to dig into my copy and I'm happy to announce that Kirk is offering one digital copy of his new book
contest details below!

ISBN-13: 9780998465722
Publisher: Grenzland Press
Release Date: 01/24/2017
Length: 212pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound
Occupied Norway, 1943. After seeing an allied plane go down over the mountains, headstrong fifteen year-old Kari Dahlstrøm sets out to locate the wreck. She soon finds the cocky American pilot Lance Mahurin and offers to take him to Sweden, pretending she's a member of the resistance. While her widower father Erling and the disillusioned Nazi Oberleutnant Conrad Moltke hunt them down, Kari begins to fall for Lance, dreaming of a life with him in America. Over the course of the harrowing journey, though, Kari learns hard truths about those around her as well as discovering unforeseen depths within herself.

Kirk is offering one digital copy of
Land of Hidden Fires open Internationally
Please use Rafflecopter form to enter
Good Luck!

Read an excerpt:

Excerpt from Kirk Kjeldsen’s Land of Hidden Fires


The Stjørdalen Valley, Norway
March 1943

Kari looked up from mending a damaged sheep pen when she heard the faint buzzing noise. At first, it sounded like the blackflies that swarmed up from Lake Rømsjøen every summer, but she knew that couldn’t be, as it was still weeks before the thaw. She scanned the horizon, looking for the origin of the sound. There was nothing but empty grey space in every direction. Then she looked southward and spotted a fighter plane streaking across the sky. Thick black smoke trailed from its fuselage as it plummeted toward the mountains.
     Even if she hadn’t seen its Army Air Force markings, she knew by the whistling sound of its engine that it was a P-47. She’d seen a few in December, over Trondheim, escorting a bomber on its way back to England. She dropped the heavy stone she’d been carrying and hurried back to the barn, clumping through shin-deep snow in men’s boots that were two sizes too big for her. Before long, her thin chest ached from sucking in the cold air, but she rushed onward, unable to contain her excitement.
     She found her father inside their ramshackle barn, hunched over a thin and sick-looking ewe. Erling Dahlstrøm was a mountain of a man, corded with thick, knotty muscles. Even while kneeling, he was almost the same height as his daughter. Broken-faced and ravaged by life, he looked much older than his forty-one years.
     Kari spoke as soon as she entered the barn.
     “There’s a plane,” she said, gasping for breath.
     Erling replied in his gravelly voice without looking up.
     “Not now.”
     “But it’s the Allies—”
     Erling interrupted Kari.
     “It’s none of our business,” he said, finding a swollen and mottled patch of skin on one of the hind legs of the ewe.
     “But father—”    
     Erling snapped at Kari.
     “I said no!”
     Before Kari could reply, Erling turned his attention back to the ewe. He unsheathed his knife and lifted the animal’s head.
     Then he slit its throat.


Kari left the barn, boiling with rage. She got a sledge axe from the shed and went out past the sheep pens to split wood, which she often did when her anger got a hold of her. Though scrawny for a fifteen year-old and scant through the arms and waist, she worked like a man twice her size. Even though the temperature was near freezing, she quickly worked up a sweat, and she peeled off her ratty wool coat to cool down.
      She piled one stack of splits and then started in on another, and then another. She kept going until the day turned to night, and the sky had become as purple-black as a bruise. After she finished, she put the axe back in the shed and headed to the barn, where she watered and fed the sheep. It didn’t take long, as their dwindling flock was down to seventeen head, or less than a third of what they’d had before Germany had invaded. Most of the sheep that had survived blackleg had succumbed to starvation, and the few that weren’t starving had been sold to the Germans in order to keep from losing the farm.
      She fed the ewes first, the ones she called Rita and Mae West after her favorite Hollywood stars. In better times, they’d had barley to feed their sheep, but they rarely even had hay anymore and were down to feeding them wheat middlings and by-products they got from a nearby distiller. She fed the rams next, Humphrey and Errol and the Duke, and then their lambs, which she didn’t even bother naming, knowing that few would make it to the summer. After she finished with the sheep, she gave some silage to Loki, their old mule, and a bit of hay to Torden, their last horse. Before the war, Erling had had a team of six dun-colored Fjords they’d used for plowing and pulling logs to the river. One by one, they’d sold them off or slaughtered them for food, and they were down to a seventeen-year-old gelding whose best days were behind him.
      After finishing with the animals, Kari made her way back to their run-down house. She looked inside one of the hoarfrosted windows and saw her father eating a meager supper at the kitchen table, eyes cast downward and head bowed like a penitent. Wanting to avoid him, she waited outside in the shadows, shivering and blowing on her hands to keep them warm. To pass the time, she traced the old constellations her grandfather had taught her. She spotted Thor’s chariot, and the fisherman, and Ulf’s Keptr, or the mouth of the wolf. She saw the Asar battlefield, the great wagon, and the road of the dead. She could even make out Aurvandil’s toe, a sign of spring’s coming victory over the winter.
     Once she finished counting the stars, Kari looked back through the window and saw Erling leaving the kitchen, taking a lit oil lamp with him. She continued to wait outside until she saw Erling’s bedroom door close behind him, then carefully opened the front door and entered the house. She crept into the kitchen and got a husk of stale bread from the pantry, choking it down dry. It wasn’t much—before the war, they often had dumplings or herring for lunch, and gjetost and brown bread or sliced egg sandwiches nearly every night—and even though she could taste the gritty sawdust they’d mixed in with the wheat to stretch it out, it was far better than rutabaga fried in cod liver oil, or salted horse meat, or even no supper at all, which was often the case since the Germans had invaded.
      She washed down the bread with some coppery-tasting pail water. Then she lit another lamp and made her way toward her room, pausing or changing tack every time a board groaned beneath her feet. At one point, she heard her father stirring, and she stopped and waited, afraid that Erling might come out and confront her. But Erling didn’t come out, and the stirring soon ceased, and Kari continued on her way.
      She got to her room and slipped inside, gently closing the door behind her. Then she put the lamp atop her dresser and took off her sweaters and trousers, stripping to her long underwear. Glancing out the window, she watched the winds file down the snowdrifts, wondering what had happened to the P-47, and whether it had crashed into the mountains. Surely it couldn’t have made it, she thought to herself. It’d been sinking like a stone, a plume of thick black smoke billowing in its wake. She wondered if the pilot had gone down with the plane, or if the pilot had bailed out, and if the latter, what had happened to him, if he’d actually reached the ground alive.
      She finished undressing, then crawled underneath the bed’s thick covers and waited for the warmth to come. While she lay there, she glanced over at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island postcards that her Uncle Agnar had sent her from New Jersey, where he lived, and the pictures of Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart that she’d cut out of the Film Weekly and Picturegoer magazines she’d found at the rubbish heap. She soon found herself thinking about her mother. What would she have done, Kari wondered, if she’d still been alive, and had seen the plane going down? She’d believed in taking stands, unlike Kari’s father. She’d fought for independence from Sweden as a schoolgirl, and she’d demonstrated for suffrage as a young woman. She’d even struggled valiantly against the cancer that had whittled her to a skeleton before claiming her in her thirty-fourth year. She wouldn’t have just ignored it.
     Kari stared up at the beamed ceiling, unable to sleep. Her thoughts kept circling back to the plane. She turned and looked out the window again, where she saw vacuous shapes merging and breaking apart in the blowing snow.
      After a long moment, she got up and pulled on her clothes.

Hi Kirk, your new WWII novel, Land of Hidden Fires looks really good and has gotten some very nice reviews.
Tell my readers a little about the novel.
It's about a Norwegian girl who helps a downed American pilot get to Sweden during World War II. Fiction’s a broad category, but I’d say it’s in the vein of sparse, cinematic novels like David Benioff’s “City of Thieves,” Daniel Woodrell’s “Winter’s Bone,” James Dickey’s “To the White Sea,” and Per Petterson’s “To Siberia.”
I think its so important that we keep WWII stories coming especially now when there are so few WWII veterans alive.
What was your reason for writing this novel?
On a visit to Norway in 2006, one of my grandfather’s cousins, Hans Christian Kjeldsen, told me the story about his father (and my great-grandfather’s brother), Anfinn Kjeldsen, who helped stranded members of the 8th U.S. Air Force get to Sweden during the war. I wanted to learn more about it and maybe write about it someday, but Anfinn died in 1984, and I couldn’t find the pilot or anyone else who had been involved, and there seemed to be few specific details other than a letter and citation given to Anfinn from the U.S. Air Force, so I left it alone. I kept thinking about it every now and then, though, and in 2013, I began writing about it, but in a fictionalized way.
I haven’t seen many if any WWII novels based in occupied Norway and it just confirms how much of the world was impacted by this war.
Why base it there?
The event it was inspired by took place there, and every time I went back to Norway, I found more reminders of WWII, from the German that Hans Christian’s generation remembered learning in school to the stories of the aging Lebensborn children to the concrete bunkers that still stand along the Skagerrak coast. I also hadn’t read many WWII novels based in Norway, either, so I set out to write one.
Your female protagonist in the novel is a fifteen year old.
Did you know from the beginning that she would be this young and if so why did you choose to make her this age?
I didn’t know that the protagonist would be that young when I began writing. Anfinn was originally the protagonist I had in mind, but I couldn’t find enough information about him or what exactly had happened, so I began thinking of the protagonist as a young man around Anfinn’s age. Then it occurred to me that it might be more interesting if the protagonist was a boy rather than a man. Halfway through the first draft, I realized that it might be even more interesting if the protagonist was a girl rather than a boy, and once I started fleshing out that character and writing it from her POV, the story really began to write itself.
You are an assistant professor in the cinema program at Virginia Commonwealth University and yet your bio says you live in Germany.
That’s a pretty long commute tell us how this happened.
I got hired at VCU in 2010, but in 2011, my wife Lauren got a job opportunity in Shanghai. We both thought China sounded interesting, and we weren’t beholden to Virginia, where we’d only spent a couple of years. I offered my notice, but the program chair liked what I was doing and wanted to keep me on, and six years later, I'm still a full-time professor there (I teach writing classes via Skype during the fall and spring semesters, and in the summer, I teach a five-class, 15-credit class on film production). I go to Virginia for a couple of weeks every semester, and I also go for 6-8 weeks every summer.
You are a filmmaker and an author.
What are the similarities and differences between making a film and writing a novel?
Film is visual storytelling, and it involves externalizing the internal lives of the characters. You have to ‘show’ your story as opposed to merely ‘telling’ it through dialogue, or you may end up missing the medium’s opportunities and advantages. Writing fiction, you have opportunities with language and voice and with the internal lives of characters that you don’t have in film; contrary to film, if you just ‘show’ your story as opposed to ‘telling’ it, you may miss opportunities and advantages that the medium of fiction offers. In the end, they’re both forms of storytelling and have plenty of similarities—the best stories, in my opinion, regardless of the medium, have three-dimensional characters struggling with challenging situations in interesting, specific settings, and they’re told in refreshing and original ways. My favorite writers usually write in multiple mediums, too; Benioff wrote the screenplays for the films 25th Hour and Troy and is the showrunner on Game of Thrones, for example, and the author Cormac McCarthy wrote the screenplay for The Counselor and the play The Sunset Limited. Dickey wrote poetry, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lawrence Wright writes films and novels, and Nick Cave, an artist I admire who’s primarily known as a musician, has written screenplays such as A Proposition and novels including The Death of Bunny Munro.
Your first novel, Tomorrow City and this one seem so very different.
Do you know what novel number three will be like yet?
I wrote another novel in between these two, while still living in Shanghai, about a strained married couple who gets taken hostage while living abroad. It’s different from these two as well; I don’t like writing the same sort of story twice. I’m also working on a graphic novel with a talented artist that I’m very excited about. Hopefully one of those will come out some time in 2018.
Kirk thanks for taking the time to answer these questions.
Good luck with the new novel and your filmmaking.

 Kirk's other works
Fiction                         Film

Connect with Kirk - Website - Facebook - Twitter

Meet Kirk:Kirk Kjeldsen received an MFA from the University of Southern California and is currently an assistant professor in the cinema program at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts. His first novel, Tomorrow City, was named one of the ten best books of 2013 by The New Jersey Star-Ledger. He also wrote and produced the feature film Gavagai, which was directed by Rob Tregenza. He lives in Essen, Germany with his wife and two children.

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  1. As always, very interesting interview. It is great that he was able to stay on at the American university, even while living abroad. Amazing what technology has done for us. I also agree that we need more stories about WWII. I think people are starting to forget what a horrible time it was for most of the world.

    Melanie @ Hot Listens & Rabid Reads

    1. Thanks for the comment Melanie. I agree that its a time we should never forget

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this Debbie and wonderful interview as always! ;)

  3. Yes, I agree with you that we need these WWII stories so much. This past summer, I sat listening to one of my mom's friends telling a story about her husband who fought in WWII and wished that he was still alive to tell it himself. I love that this one is set in occupied Norway.
    Neat that Kirk could still keep his teaching job no matter where his family moved.

    Great interview as usual, Debbie!

  4. How interesting. And it is good to have books set in differing countries. I think Susan Wiggs had a section of her book set in Norway during the war and it was eye opening. I can't say I am really drawn to WW11 fiction but I read an awful lot of them! Possibly because there are so many books written in that time period.

    1. Oh I haven't read Susan Wiggs book and have to remedy that. Thanks Kathryn

  5. This sounds fascinating. I really haven't read many from this time period but I always want to. Just not enough time or the right book crossing my path when I'm looking. I need to start making a list I think :) Thanks for the heads up on this one!

    1. You're welcome Anna, its actually one of my favorite genres

  6. I love books fictional and nonfictional surrounding the war. It was fascinating reading the interview and learning how the story and characters developed.

    1. I feel the same way about WWII stories it was such a world wide game changer

  7. I do, especially books based in Europe where most of the action was taking place.

  8. Hi Debbie,

    I just receieved a copy of 'Land Of Hidden Fires' for review and as usual, I decided to check out any author interviews or guest posts, which is how I arrived here, at your lovely blog!

    I do have several books on my shelves and downloads on my Kindle, of books written by Nordic authors, although this will be the first of them I will have actually read.

    I am so looking forward to 'dipping my toe into the water' of a new to me reading genre.

    Thank You for your excellent interview, which made for interesting reading in itself :)


    1. Can't wait to see what you think! Thanks for commenting