Friday, May 24, 2019

#GIVEAWAY Light From The Dark Side Of The Moon Interview with author Norman Gautreau

I love stories set around WWII a time period that should never be forgotten and as the last of those who experienced that time pass away it's so important to keep it alive in the minds of those who remain.  So when I was given the opportunity to interview the author of The Light From The Dark Side of The Moon, Norman Gautreau I jumped at it.
Norman's publicist Author/Guide is sponsoring a #Giveaway, details below. I can't wait until I have time to read this and I hope this post makes you want to read it too.

Publisher: Blank Slate Press

Release Date: 5-21-2019

 300 pp


A remembrance of love in a time of war.

92-year-old Henry Budge defies most of his family by escaping a rehab hospital to make his way to France for the ceremonies of the 70th observance of D-Day. Before he dies, he hopes to at last address a grief he has allowed to simmer for decades and to rekindle memories of Élodie Bedier, the French Resistance fighter with whom he fell in love 70 years earlier, as a way of confronting his grief at losing her.

During his return journey, he relives events of 1944: being wounded as he parachutes into Normandy; falling in love with Élodie who nurses him back to health; fighting the Germans alongside her and her resistance companions; and finally abandoning the war to rescue a group of children from the Holocaust, choices that leave Henry at risk of a firing squad for desertion and Élodie vulnerable to fatal condemnation from her compatriots.When he arrives back in France, Henry makes several shocking discoveries that shake the very foundations of the memories he’s had of Élodie all these years and he is left to wonder about the love he has had for Élodie: what rests on true memory vs. what is based on countless imagined conversations over the decades?

Giveaway is for one autographed copy of
The Light From The Dark Side of The Moon
Please use Rafflecopter form below to enter
Good Luck

Read an excerpt:

An Ancient Moonlight
Letting a hurt chafe for years without doing something to soothe it, letting grief linger for decades without confronting it will bring a person to the brink. That's where I am after seventy years. At the brink. It's been that long since I lost Élodie and only now, after a life lived, am I ready to do what I should have done a long time ago: face the grief squarely, ennoble it, dignify it. Embrace it. That is the purpose of this journal, this memoir in progress. I hope the process of writing about what happened will help me recover more complete, more electric memories of the woman I loved, memories I've denied myself all these years.
And to do this, I will return to France before it's time to make my final bow.
From my balcony overlooking Boston Harbor, I listen to the thrum of ferries and ships, the slap of halyards against metal masts, the distant clang of a bell buoy, faint as a memory. The soft euphony of wind chimes from a floor below, reminds me of Élodie's laughter and I almost hear her voice again.
Across the harbor, the sinking sun flares in the windows of the office buildings in the city's financial district and butters the clock at the top of the Custom House Tower. The moon, full and fat, rises low over Logan Airport. I watch an airliner lift into the sky across the face of the moon like a great Pyrenean eagle, its red beacon flashing, its white, wingtip strobe lights slashing the dark, and a thrill runs through me at the thought I will soon fly to France again. Only, this time I will step from the plane trailing carry-on luggage, and smiling at the flight attendant, rather than leaping from an open bay door into a barrage of flak.
In less than two months, I will attend the 70th observance of D-Day, then retrace my long-ago journey with Élodie to see if being in the fields and the barns and the caves and the houses where we had been, inhaling the lavender air of the South of France we shared, hearing the rush of meltwater in the Ariège River where we bathed each other's bodies, and seeing the snowcapped Pyrénées in whose shadows we lived and whose breezes raised goosebumps on our flesh — to see if all these things will help me recover more charged memories of her.
I've already made the reservations.
And I will lay a red rose on her grave — if I can find her grave. And if I'm not too crippled to make the journey. Or too weak to face the grief.
When I speak Élodie's name, it flows melodious from my tongue, whether pronounced the English way, a dactylic AY-low-dee, or the French way, a cretic AY-low-DEE. A three-note song. A melody.
Sometimes when I lie awake and say her name, my little dog stirs in his sleep and gives a soft huff and crawls under the blankets and I feel the wet of his nose on my hip and I am stirred to remember Élodie's lips. But the memory quicklyfades. For, no matter how hard I concentrate, I can never tease out memories of her beyond a half-lidded blur, scumbled images, murky as if seen through a film of cracked varnish. I have nothing like Proust's madeleines to fire my memories with scent and flavor.
If I'm not too crippled to make the journey.
Sometimes, I swear I can feel the synovial fluid seeping from my 92-year-old joints. My engine losing oil as elbows, knees, neck, hip, knuckles choke with thirst. My right knee cracks. For years, I've promised myself I would do anything to avoid arthritis. I swallow chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine pills, I consult a dietitian about anti-inflammatory foods, and I have adopted a Mediterranean diet of fish, vegetables, olive oil, soybeans, cherries and other foods thought to prevent arthritis. I even started choking down broccoli! I go to the gym to lift weights while younger people stare at me with incipient smiles and some pretty woman in spandex tights compliments me on being "over ninety years young" and I feel like clobbering her with my cane because I hate that goddamned, condescending euphemism.
I am determined to avoid a wheelchair because I dread living with my eldest daughter and her husband. Natalie would insist she clean for me and make me coffee in the morning and button my shirts or buckle my belt or tie my shoelaces. The first time that nightmare occurred to me, I bought walking loafers, two sizes too large, so I could avoid bending over to tie shoelaces and, instead, could wiggle my feet into them while bracing against a doorframe. As it is, I catch myself at the supermarket welcoming the support of a grocery cart even if I have only one or two items on my list. I also hired a maid service, so my condo is always neat when Natalie visits. I won't allow her even the tiniest opening to become my caretaker. If that ever happens, I know it wouldn't be long before she admitted it was too much for her (she never stays with things) and I'd have a fight on my hands to avoid a nursing home. I'd rather die than stand unsteadily in a walk-in tub while some grouchy, punctilious aide washes my butt and my balls and asks, for the umpteenth time, about the old, red disfigurement of my war wound, which I would say is a cicatrix just to baffle her nosy self.
Arlequin appears at my feet, clenching his leash between his teeth. I close my notebook and rise. As I pass through my study, I stop at my desk and lift the aging black-and-white photo taken at a barn near the Normandy beaches during the height of the invasion. I remember the red sheen of the apple Élodie held in her hand, the wavering reflection of a candle flame on its skin, the crunch of her teeth as she bit into it. I can even see the remaining flecks of bright red polish on her fingernails. With a shiver, I recall the weep of juice at the corners of her lips. And I remember how Jean-Baptiste came along and snatched Élodie's apple from her hand and took a bite of it, leaving a moist cream-white crater, and how Élodie and Jean-Baptiste exchanged those hate-filled glances that were my first inkling of the trouble that was to come.
The photo shakes in my hand as I stare at it, trying to remember her face as it was when alive, animated, impassioned, not calcified by the microsecond trip of a lens shutter. But it seems fruitless. The juice at the corners of her mouth is as fossilized as amber. All I can summon of those days, beyond the dry reportorial minutia of where, what, when and why, is a sense of the moonlight that dominated our time together. It weighed heavily on us. It seemed everything we did, we did in a wash of moonlight. On that first night, I saw my buddy's face, drained of blood, bleached white by moonlight. Moonlight reflected in the terror-stricken eyes of the children and in bombed out cities and burnt out villages and in savaged fields until it seemed the entire miserable world was inundated by a density of moonlight.
And then there were the nights we made love in the moonlight.
I place the photograph on the desk next to the brochure titled "Normandy Celebrates Liberty, 1944 – 2014" detailing the events in France for the 70th observance.
When I finally emerge onto the sidewalk holding Arlequin's leash in one hand and a cane in the other, I am greeted by a neighbor, a young woman who jogs frequently along the roads and wharfs of the Navy Yard, her alluring ponytail swaying side to side in cadence with the swing of her hips.
"Good evening, Mister Budge," she says.
I switch Arlequin's leash to my cane hand, doff my herringbone newsboy cap, and give a shallow bow, stopping at the first twinge of pain. "Good evening to you Maddie. Have you had a good run?"
"Enough to work up an appetite. Ted and I are gonna order pizza later. Would you like to join us?" She bends down to pat Arlequin.
"I've already eaten, thank you. And Maddie, you forgot your promise."
"What promise?"
"To call me Henry."
"Oh, of course. I'm sorry. It's hard to get used to."
I smile. "Because it's hard to think of me as a contemporary?"
"No, that's not it. I just —"
"That is it, but I forgive you. It must be hard to think of a ninety-two-year-old man as one of the gang. But I plan to be sharing this earth with folks your age for some time to come, so you might as well get used to it and call me Henry."
Maddie laughs. "Henry, it is, then. And let's make a date for pizza tomorrow night. You can tell us about your book."
"You'll eat pizza two nights in a row?"
"We could eat pizza every night of the week."
This makes me laugh, and I silently curse the broccoli I force feed myself. "I guess it's a good thing you two run all the time."
"So, you'll come?"
Again, I try a slight bow. "How can I refuse a date with a beautiful lady, even if her husband will be present?"
"Great! Come by at seven. And, of course, you must bring Arlequin." She bends and scratches Arlequin behind his huge ears, and he wags his tail as she stands and disappears through the revolving doors into the condo building.
I take a deep breath. "Oh, to be young again!"
Arlequin gives a little bark, and we begin our stroll along the boardwalk that edges Dry Dock 2. Soon three women pass us from the direction of the Pier 6 Restaurant and one pauses and exclaims, "Oh look! How cute! Can I pet your dog?"
"How can I refuse?" I say with a smile.
She squats to give Arlequin a pat. "What's her name?" She looks up at me.
"His name is Arlequin."
"How lovely. What does it mean?"
I explain the name comes from a zany stock character in commedia dell'arte. When she raises an inquisitive eyebrow, I say, "Think of it as Italian vaudeville from three hundred years ago."
"So, is Arlequin zany?"
"All the time. A regular comedian."
"What breed is he?"
"Papillon. Means butterfly in French."
"He's adorable. How old is he?"
But before I can flash my most endearing smile and say, "Not as old as I am," the woman's companions, who have continued along, call out to her. "Sorry. Gotta go." She gives Arlequin a final pat, stands, and hurries to catch up with her friends.
She walks away gracefully, blue jacket, matching pencil skirt, sunglasses propped on her head. I look down at Arlequin. "Everyone thinks I got you because I was lonely after Anna died. But you and I know it's because you're so good at attracting the ladies." I laugh and draw a glance from a man waking in the opposite direction. "Did you notice her perfume, Arlequin?". He looks up at me. "Vol de Nuit. It's what Anna wore. The two women I've loved each wore distinctive scents associated with moonlit nights. Vol de Nuit for Anna and Nuit de Longchamp for Élodie. I'll bet you experience something similar. Do you detect the scent of a lady friend at that fire hydrant over there, and another one at that light pole? We are a pair of sniffers, you and me. Like Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman."
We come to the end of Dry Dock 2 at First Avenue and turn left. Moments later, the woman who'd stopped to pet Arlequin dashes past us in the opposite direction. "Forgot my phone at the restaurant," she says, breathlessly, and is past us before I can think of a clever reply. I shrug, and we continue walking along Constitution Road until we come to the Marriott Hotel where we turn and head back in the lessening light. By the time we arrive back at Old Ironsides, the sky is drained of daylight, and the street lamps create a path of alternating light puddles and dark patches. I stop to admire the full moon through the rigging of the frigate, an old sight a sailor strolling the docks might have seen two centuries ago. The ancient smell of tar on the rigging, like the smell of Latakia pipe tobacco, ferries me back in time. Scent has the power to do that. That's why, a few years ago, I bought a vial of Nuit de Longchamp to remind me of Élodie. Foolishly, I kept it on the corner of my writing desk, which gets a lot of sunlight, and the heat oxidized the fragrance, and it lost its potency. I'll replace it soon and put it some place safer.
In the dimming light, I nearly trip and plant my cane hard to arrest a stumble. Arlequin scuttles out of the way and looks up at me with concern.
"My boy," I tell him, "I should go about in a red shirt with a big yellow cross on it and have a sweater made for you out of the signal flag for the letter 'U'. You would look quite handsome sporting the four alternating red and white squares, and together, we would signal 'R-U, Romeo-Uniform.' That's what ships in trouble hoist to say, 'Keep clear of me. I am maneuvering with difficulty!'"
I chuckle at my own joke and then stop abruptly as a cry of alarm cuts through the cool evening air. A woman's voice. I turn to see two figures disappear into the darkness behind a dumpster near the locked entrance gate to Old Ironsides.
Another cry. "No!" More like a shriek. Then another, slightly muffled. "Stop! Get off me!"
"Christ!" I mutter. I hobble as fast as I can toward the dumpster, planting my cane hard on the pavement with each step. Arlequin follows at my heels. As soon as I round the dumpster, I see a man prone over the blue-jacketed woman. The waist of the man's pants sits just under his buttocks, which shine in the moonlight as the woman struggles beneath him.
I saw this brutal violation play out seventy years earlier in France, and the anger I felt then rushes back, cascading onto and reinforcing the anger I feel now. I raise my cane over my head and, with all the might I can summon from my ancient body, bring it crashing down on the would-be rapist's head. The man cries out and looks over his shoulder, his penetrating eyes shining up at me, and I bring the cane down again with a sharp crack, and then again, and again, and my senses are so aroused, I can hear the cane whistling in the air and feel the spittle flying from my lips. The man raises an arm to shield his head and some of my spit lands on his face, and I hit him a again so hard, the damned cane breaks in two and the lower end pinwheels through the moonlight before clattering along the pavement and the man staggers to his feet and tugs at his pants, and I, gasping for breath and wiping the slobber from my mouth, turn to the woman who has raised herself to a sitting position, and ask, "Are you — ?"
"Watch out!" she screams.
I turn and see a flash as something slams into my chest and it's like being hit with a baseball bat in the sternum and I crumble to the ground and bash my head against the corner of the dumpster as I fall.
And there is only blackness.
When I regain consciousness, the piercing whine of police and ambulance sirens fill the air and white, red and blue flashing lights strobe wildly in the moonlit night, anachronistically streaking across the 18th century rigging of the frigate and across my face, blinding me every few seconds. Suddenly, I am aware of being on a gurney without remembering being lifted. I am being loaded into the back of an ambulance when I catch the eyes of the woman and they are wide with fear and I hear her ask, "Will he be alright?"
"They have great docs at MGH," someone answers. "They'll take good care of him."
I recognize the voice. It's Teddy Eagan, a Charlestown cop with whom I often chat.
Someone else says, "We gotta get a dressing over that wound."
"Teddy," I whisper. "Where's Anna? Someone should tell her what happened."
"What did he say?" a man asks.
I hear Teddy answer, "He asked about his wife. But she died two years ago."
It's like the voices are drifting to me from an echo chamber. Then a thought comes to me. "Where's Arlequin?" Panic rises inside me. I can't catch my breath. I try to raise myself to a sitting position, but instantly feel dizzy and slump back. "Where's Arlequin?" I mumble again before the doors of the ambulance close.
Night of Nights
The light is wrong. Too white. Too soft.
And where is the noise?
And the pain.
Where is the pain? Where is the pain?
Because on this night of nights, under the fullest of moons, the flashes of light are not soft-white, but hard, angry-white and fire-red. And then the pain is real, excruciatingly real, as I jump into the inferno and my breath is snatched by the double shocks of propeller wash and the snap and jerk of my parachute opening and I look up through the floating silk canopy to see the bloated moon with its shivering edges and I breathe and exhale at its fearsome beauty.
But the moon is too bright and too soft, and I sway and float in 3/4 time, exposed among the silent explosions, descending with dozens of my buddies like a bloom of moon jellies sinking into the abyss and I watch, helpless and heartbroken, as many of my brothers die, blown to pieces in the fireworks of flak that makes no sound, blasted into shards like irreplaceable pottery as they jump from disintegrating planes or are shredded by hot shrapnel or plunge to earth with flaming parachutes trailing impotently behind, and still others, like suspended targets at a midway arcade game, are torn apart by machine gun fire spewing from silent muzzle flashes rising up from the shadowed ground. All soundless images. Then my right thigh explodes in a painless spray of blood and I let out a voiceless cry and see the murky, moonlit earth rise up to meet me and see how the earth glints back at me because I am descending into water and I remember how, in the previous night's briefing, we had been warned the Germans might flood the fields (but how deeply?) and what if it's not a field, but a pond, or a lake? Will I drown if I can't free myself from my equipment? Will I sink like a dead moon jelly into the depths? And where is Jimmy Carson, my best buddy? Jimmy was immediately in front of me in the stick, number three on the anchor line cable to my number four, close enough that I could smell he had shit himself. Like many others. Was the bar of grace so low that I swelled with pride because my pants remained unsoiled, if a little wet? I look left and right and search the ground below and see no collapsed parachutes, no sign of Jimmy.
Book Trailer


 My Interview with Norman Gautreau:

Norman hi. Welcome to The Reading Frenzy, your latest release The Light from the Dark Side of the Moon is my favorite time period to read and sounds fabulous.
Tell my readers a bit about it please.
Ninety-two year-old Henry Budge defies his family by escaping a Boston rehab hospital to make his way to France for the ceremonies marking the 70th observance of D-Day. Before he dies, he hopes to confront the grief he’s harbored for decades and to rekindle fading memories of Élodie Bedier, the French Resistance fighter he loved and lost 70 years earlier.
During his journey, he relives events of 1944 – being wounded as he parachutes into Normandy behind enemy lines, falling in love with Élodie who nurses him back to health, fighting the Germans alongside her and her companions, and finally abandoning the front line of the war to rescue a group of refugee children from the horrors of the Holocaust.

It’s such a poignant era to write about.
What was the inspiration behind the book? 
My inspiration came both from the present day and from the WWII time period of the novel as the writing of the story started in anger and ended in love. On the Friday night of December 14, 2012 I went to bed angry, confused and overwhelmed with sadness. Earlier that day 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7, plus 6 adults were gunned down. My eldest granddaughter was 7 at the time and I was filled with terror that the same sort of thing could happen at her school in California. I was desperate to save the children, especially my granddaughter, itching to take action, but there was nothing I could do. Except I could write! I could save some fictional children! I asked myself, when in history have children been so callously threatened and the answer was obvious. Nazi Germany. So I read a great deal and came across several people from the WWII era who courageously acted to save children. Everyone knows about Oskar Schindler, of course. But there was also Irena Sendler, a Polish nurse who smuggled Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. And Nicholas Winton, the so-called “British Schindler” who rescued almost 700 children from Czechoslovakia.  And there was a Protestant minister named André Trocmé, and the citizens of his village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon who risked their lives to rescue and hide Jews from being rounded up. And Johan Van Hulst (who died just this last year at the age of 107!), a Dutchman who saved 600 children from being sent to the Nazi death camps. I read about all these people, and many more, during my research for the novel. I also came across a man named Bernard Jordan who was a British veteran who had survived the D-Day invasion and, many years later, escaped a nursing home to travel to France for the 70th observance of D-Day. Naturally, he became the model for my character Henry Budge. And, finally, I did some research on female resistance fighters, of whom there were many. But one, in particular, became my heroine and the model for Élodie: Lucie Aubrac whose book Outwitting the Gestapo was very informative. And it didn’t hurt that her maiden name, Bernard, was the same as my mother’s maiden name! A distant relative?

In your bio you make a statement-“Through all this reading – truly, a job requirement for a writer…” 
Why do you think that reading is a requirement for a writer?
Two reasons. One, for historical fiction especially, a writer must read voraciously to become familiar with the general historical facts of the chosen time period, the slang and the speech patterns of the period, and, importantly the quotidian details that help make a narrative convincing. Two, reading other writers is stimulating. It helps birth ideas about themes, techniques, metaphors, etc.

I love how you describe how you visualized your 4th grade teacher’s reading of The Hardy Boys mystery to you in class.
You almost make it sound like a religious experience. Was it? 
More like a blinding insight that storytelling has the awesome power to create whole worlds and populate them with characters that live in the minds of readers. To me, at that age, Frank and Joe Hardy were real people; Bayport, Wildcat Swamp, Cabin Island, Skull Mountain were real places.

Also, in your bio you said that you and your wife Susan love to travel and in fact during one of your trips is when you decided to chuck corporate life for writing.
Where is the most exotic place you’ve been and what’s the one place that’s on your bucket list?
Most exotic place? I can name 4, each for different reasons: Saudi Arabia (17 weeks); Singapore (4 weeks); Iceland (a few days); Hawaii (several weeks over several trips). As for bucket list, not so much a destination, but a means of getting there: The Queen Mary 2 transatlantic NYC to Southampton.

Norman thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions
 good luck with the new book. Do you have any author events coming up where fans can meet you?
We are just beginning to book author events. 5/23/19—Beebe Library, Wakefield, MA, 7:00 pm.; 6/1/19—Toadstool Bookstore, Keene, NH, 2:00 pm.

About the author:
A native New Englander with a life-long love of the sea, Norman’s first novel, Sea Room, won the prestigious Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction in 2003, was an “All-City-Reads” choice in several cities, and was a BookSense® selection. He has since written several more critically acclaimed, prize-winning novels.
An avid reader, poet, sailor, runner and cyclist, Norman lives outside Boston with his wife Susan and three cats.

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  1. I love these stories that look back at events during the war. Lovely interview!

  2. Sounds like he has an emotional journey in this book.

  3. I agree with you, Debbie, that WWII is a period that should never be forgotten and I like to pick up historical fiction set in the time period even if the stories end up breaking my heart.

    Interesting learning what motivated the author to write this one.

  4. I do like war stories, they are alwasys sad

  5. World War 11 novels are my favorite of all. I read all that I can about that era. It is meaningful and profound and should be constantly written about since we have our freedom and so many went through dreadful experiences.

  6. Sounds like a great book, I love the idea of it being about rescuing children. I remember as a child seeing a movie where children were rescued during the nazi occupation and being touched by it.

    1. it is a great story Kathryn I can't wait to have time to read my copy. But alas I just took on another reviewing gig ;-)

  7. I enjoy learning about WWII, reading books about it, and watching movies too! I agree, it is a time that should never be forgotten. My grandparents use to talk to me about what was going on when they were growing up during that time. Excellent Interview! I agree with the author, and can see why it's important to read a lot as a writer, so that you have all of your facts down. I think it's interesting that Mr. Gautrea and his wife left bewhind corporate America to become writers! Good for them pursuing their dream :)

    Lindy@ A Bookish Escape