Friday, December 10, 2010

Author Lisbeth Eng takes us to World War II Italy

Lisbeth Eng, Author
 Please Welcome author Lisbeth Eng to the blog today. Lisbeth is a genuine native New Yorker whose love of literature, history and romance led her on the rewarding path to romance writing. An English major in college, Lisbeth has also studied Italian, German and French. Besides writing, world travel is her passion, and trips to Italy and Germany have lent authenticity to her European-set World War II romance novel. Lisbeth currently lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, a stone’s throw from Central Park and Lincoln Center, and loves the fascinating pace of life in the Big Apple.

Caroline: It sounds as if you lead the ideal life, Lisbeth. Please tell us about growing up. Siblings? Were you the shy kid or the tomboy?

Lisbeth: I have lived all of my life in New York City in four of the five boroughs. Born in Queens, I moved to Brooklyn around the age of two, then to Staten Island when I was nine. I lived in Staten Island most of my life, until about five years ago when I moved to Manhattan after my husband died. I love living here on the Upper West Side near Central Park. I have a half-sister Stephanie who is 18 years my senior. She’s from my father’s first marriage and although we didn’t grow up together we are close. She now lives in Virginia. My brother Jonathan is closer to me in age (he’s two years older) and despite the inevitable sibling rivalry of growing up together, we have much in common. He now lives in Ohio. I’m the only one left in New York, except for members of my late husband’s family. I was on the shy side growing up, not particularly popular with my peers and a bit of a “teacher’s pet.” My parents instilled the importance of education and I didn’t dare come home with poor grades!

Caroline: Sounds familiar. I don’t know what I thought would happen, but I also didn’t dare come home with poor grades. Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?

Lisbeth: I read everything from romance to non-fiction to memoirs. Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite fiction authors. I love his dry wit and use of irony. I enjoy the books of romance/women’s fiction authors Deanna Raybourn, Hope Tarr and Leanna Renee Hieber, among others. When I choose a romance novel to read, it’s usually historical, though I’ve read some good contemporaries, too.

Caroline: How many books do you read a month? What are you reading now?

From The Wild Rose Press
Lisbeth: That’s a very tough question because the past couple of years, I’ve been so busy revising, submitting, editing and now promoting my debut novel, IN THE ARMS OF THE ENEMY, that I hardly have the time or energy to read someone else’s book! But I keep buying them and they are piling up in my apartment. A few years ago, when I took a break from writing, I probably read about two or three books per month. I’m a slow reader and tend to savor ever word. The last book I was able to squeeze into my very busy schedule was Hope Tarr’s MY LORD JACK, a romance set in 18th century Scotland. Next on my to-be-read list is something totally different, BLACK EDELWEISS – A MEMOIR OF COMBAT AND CONSCIENCE BY A SOLDIER OF THE WAFFEN SS by Johann Voss. I will be giving a talk at Deutsches Haus at NYU in February on how the World War II German soldier is portrayed in romance novels. Reading this book is part of my preparation. But the main thing that keeps me extremely busy (and unable to read as much as I would like) is my full-time job in the finance industry.

Caroline: A paycheck is important, isn’t it? And I loved MY LORD JACK. When you’re not writing, what’s your favorite way to relax and recharge? Hobbies?

Lisbeth: Gee…I used to have hobbies! :) Besides writing, I like doing crafts, but haven’t had the time in ages. I repainted and stenciled a couple of old pieces of furniture a few years ago and they came out beautifully (if I may say so myself). I can also draw a little but haven’t in many years. I love to walk and am fortunate to live close to Central Park. On a nice day, a long walk in the park can be both invigorating and relaxing. I also love taking a long, hot bubble bath to relax.

Caroline: Ooooh, I love long baths, but usually settle for a quick shower to save time. Describe yourself in three or four words.

Lisbeth: Honest, loyal, detail-oriented (we’ll count that as one word) and generous.

Caroline: Would you like to share any guilty pleasures that feed your muse?

Lisbeth: I can’t think of any pleasures I feel guilty about. I’m very conscious of eating healthfully but will occasionally indulge in chocolate, ice cream, pizza or the like. But I don’t do it often enough to feel guilty about, and I don’t think it has anything to do with my muse!

Caroline: I refuse to admit chocolate doesn’t help my muse! LOL How long have you been writing?

Lisbeth: My first attempts at creative writing were in high school but I didn’t get serious about writing until about nine years ago. Though I was an English major in college, my entire career has been in the finance industry. IN THE ARMS OF THE ENEMY started out as a fluke, you might say. I was fooling around at the computer one day and the words just started coming out, unplanned.

Caroline: Don’t you love when that happens? Where do you prefer to write? Do you need quiet, music, solitude? PC or laptop?

Lisbeth: I write at my full-sized desk at home on a full-size Mac with a full-sized keyboard. I even bought a special keyboard for my Mac because the one that came with the computer was too “flat.” I need to feel the keys beneath my fingers. I also have a pull-out drawer for the keyboard so I can type in a proper typing position, with my elbows at my sides. Otherwise, my shoulders hurt. I can’t imagine typing an entire novel on a laptop. And I prefer complete silence when I write. If I play music, I find that my mind drifts and I become unfocused.

Caroline: I also prefer writing at my desk although I listen to classical music while I write. Are you a plotter or a panzer?

Lisbeth: I am definitely a panzer. I write whatever scene pops into my head and figure out how it will fit into the book, if at all, later. With IN THE ARMS OF THE ENEMY, I knew how it would begin and end but it took months to figure out the middle, as I was writing it. I’ve written scenes that were never used, though I may recycle them for another book. :)

Caroline: Do you use real events or persons in your stories or as an inspiration for stories?

Lisbeth: IN THE ARMS OF THE ENEMY deals with the Italian Resistance to German occupation of northern Italy from 1943 to 1945. I was inspired by one of my Italian professors in college (I minored in Italian Studies and spent the summer between my sophomore and junior years in Italy). Professor Azzi told us stories of the Resistance (he was in Italy during the war) and it planted a seed, which grew into my Italian-set World War II romance novel twenty years later.

Caroline: He sounds fascinating. Do you do your research before you begin a new project, or as you go along?

Lisbeth: With IN THE ARMS OF THE ENEMY, I did research along the way. As I said, I didn’t start out with a plan to write a novel, I was just fooling around at the computer. But as it began to take shape, I realized that if I were going to seriously pursue this as a complete work, I would need to learn a lot about World War II. So the fiction writing and research (which involved reading books about the war, as well as watching WWII movies and TV documentaries – I became a fan of the History Channel – and surfing the internet) went hand in hand. If my next novel involves a different historic period (I’ve ideas for a few) I think I will approach it the same way, though I may do more research at the “front end.”

Caroline: Tell us about your writing schedule. Do you set goals? Do you write daily?

Lisbeth: Since I work full time (actually, I sometimes work up to 12 hours a day at my regular job) I write mostly on weekends and some evenings, if I’m not too burned out from my day job. No, I don’t set writing goals. Now that my debut novel is out, I will write the next one at my own pace and not set any time limits. My day job comes first, but I also need balance in my life, which means time for socializing and relaxing, and I even do some volunteer work. A full night’s sleep is also essential for physical and mental health. So right now, writing has to be less of a priority.

Caroline: I don’t know how you’ve found time to complete your book. Obviously you are excellent at time management! Tell us about your day job.

Lisbeth: I am a registered representative for a brokerage firm. I have my broker’s license but have never had my own clients. I work primarily as a sales assistant to four portfolio managers, which involves both client relations and entering trades. A few months ago, I was asked to help out in another department, which was short of staff. So I’m really doing a job and a half, which is why it’s more than an eight-hour workday, much of the time. I’ve been with the same firm my entire career. I am grateful for the opportunities they’ve given me and dedicated to doing the best job I can. The past couple of years have been difficult in our industry (and in the economy in general) and I work very hard to keep the job I have. It pays the rent and everything else – until I win the lottery or sell the movie rights to my book!

Caroline: Wouldn’t either winning the lottery or selling movie rights be terrific? Of course, I never remember to buy a lottery ticket, so there's no chance I'll win. Actually, I think with my luck there's about as much chance as if I bought a ticket. LOL What do you hope your writing brings to readers?

Lisbeth: In my European-set World War II romance novel, I portray people on both sides of the battle lines as human beings. There are no “good guys” or “bad guys.” I intentionally avoid the stereotypes one sometimes finds in fiction. Most World War II romances I’ve read depict Germans in a two-dimensional way. I’d like my readers to see that people of all nationalities can have a mix of positive and negative qualities, just like real folks. I want to break through preconceived notions and bias. And of course, I want my readers to enjoy the book and care about the hero and heroine (though you may not identify who the hero is right away).

Caroline: Portraying a human Nazi without embracing his cause must have been extremely difficult. You chose a really tough period to write! What advice would you give to authors waiting for publication?

Lisbeth: There are many things I could say but perhaps the most important is to believe in your work and to have perseverance. It took me years to find a publisher who would offer me a contract. I also advise attention to detail and care with grammar and usage. I’ve been in several critique groups and notice that many aspiring authors have less than a satisfactory grasp of grammar and punctuation.

Caroline: The cover for IN THE ARMS OF THE ENEMY is very well done. Tell us about your latest release.

Lisbeth: Here’s a blurb for IN THE ARMS OF THE ENEMY:

Isabella Ricci has pledged her life for the cause – to free Italy from Nazi oppression. Her mission for the Resistance, to seduce a German officer into revealing military secrets, could be deadly. Can she complete her assignment before losing her heart…or her life?

Massimo Baricelli, commander in the Resistance, and Isabella’s ambitious lover, charges her to uncover intelligence that the Allies need to vanquish the Nazis. But can he hold onto his woman while sending her into the arms of another man?

Günter Schumann is handsome, chivalrous, romantic…and a captain in the Army of the Third Reich. When he meets Isabella, he falls for her instantly, never imagining that she is a spy and he her unwitting target. What will he do when forced to choose between love and duty?

How much must be sacrificed for the cause of freedom? Will love survive the cruelest betrayal?

Caroline: All right, Lisbeth, you’ve hooked me. Please give readers an excerpt.

Lisbeth: Although my book is sensual, here’s a PG excerpt:

Before she could make sense of what was happening, the men were there inside the room. She wanted to scream, to flee, but she knew the slightest movement could be her undoing. She shook and her eyes filled with tears. But she discovered that if she concentrated on each breath, her lips tightly sealed, no sounds would escape. Crouched beneath the desk, she pressed her hands and feet against the floor to keep them from knocking against anything.
 The two men spoke casually to each other, almost lightheartedly, in contrast to the deadly terror she felt. Though she struggled to comprehend what they were saying, she couldn’t decipher all the words. She thought about reaching for the dictionary that lay by her side, but that was too risky.

Every second was agony, as if death might come at any moment. But she admitted to herself that a swift demise would be easy compared to her fate if discovered. She would face humiliation, torture, and then finally, mercifully, death. The thought made her throat constrict painfully, as if a noose were being tightened around it. Was this what Marco felt when he died? Fear evolved into despondency. Just breathe...slowly, deeply...focus only on that—don’t think about anything else. Concentrate only on breathing.

Caroline: Wow! That excerpt was intense! IN THE ARMS OF THE ENEMY sounds like a real page-turner with great characterization. I want to read more. Where can readers find your books?

Lisbeth: They can buy my book as a paperback or as an e-book at The Wild Rose Press and also at, Barnes & Noble and other online booksellers. It is not in “brick and mortar” bookstores.

Caroline: How can readers learn more about you?

Lisbeth: They can visit my website at and contact me from there if they wish. I love to hear from readers!

Caroline: Thank you so much for joining us today, Lisbeth. Best of luck with book sales for IN THE ARMS OF THE ENEMY—and in selling to the movies and winning the lottery. LOL

Me posing for my newsletter
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Pauline said...

What a fun interview, Lis! I learned some new things about you, too. Your excerpt made me want to hide! Congratulations on the release of your book!

Pauline Baird Jones

Vince said...

Hi Lisbeth:

Have your read, “Love & War in the Apennines”, by Eric Newby? This is a true story of an English airman being hidden by the Italian resistance in an attempt to get him back home to fight again. He actually marries one of the underground women after the war. I think you would love it!

BTW: do you get a chance to go to the Opera or any Broadway plays?

I was born in New York, lived in Italy for three years, and I look forward to reading your book.


Caroline Clemmons said...

Lisbeth, thanks for sharing with us today.

Vince, you sound like such an interesting man. Maybe you'd like to guest on the blog sometime.

Pauline, thanks for stopping by.

lisekimhorton said...

A great interview! I particularly appreciate your stress on avoiding stereotypes in writing. Whether it is a nationality, a sex, a race or a "good" or "bad" character, fully-fleshed, human characters are far more appealing and interesting to read about. Some of my favorite books are by authors who grasp that and give me complex people rather than charicatures. Good to see so much of you, Lis and IN THE ARMS OF THE ENEMY. May sales be fast and furious!

Margaret Tanner said...

Great interview Lisbeth. Love the World War 11 setting. InThe Arms of The enemy is alread on my to read list, just have to to find the time to start reading.



Lisbeth Eng said...

Thanks, Vince, for the recommendation of "Love & War in the Apennines." It sounds interesting. I'll have to look it up. (And yes, I do like going to the opera, though I seldom do -- it's so expensive!)

Lisbeth Eng said...

Thanks Pauline, Margaret and Lise for stopping by. Yes, I really do prefer reading and writing multi-dimensional characters. It adds needed reality to fiction, in my opinion.

Lisbeth Eng said...

Thanks for interviewing me on your blog, Caroline. It was a lot of fun!

Susan Macatee said...

Great interview, Lisbeth and Caroline! I have In the Arms of the Enemy already downloaded on my Nook and look forward to reading it.

Best of luck with it!

Lisbeth Eng said...

I'm glad to hear my book is available on Nook. Thanks for buying it, Susan, and for stopping by.

Vince said...

Hi Caroline:

I’d love to be a guest here. If you’d like, check my web site, “The Philosophy of Romance”,
and let me know what you'd have me discuss.

My email is: vmres (at) swbell (dot) net


Billy B. Bateman said...

Greetings Lisbeth and Caroline: I enjoyed the interview, and I did learn some things I did not know. My wife and I have enjoyed reading your novel Lisbeth. Best wishes on your future writing. We lived for two years at Long Branch, NJ, not far from NYC. Caroline, thanks for hosting the interview.

Lisbeth Eng said...

Thanks, Billy! Nice to see you here.