Today we welcome Kirk Kjeldsen to Booklover Book Reviews to share with us how he came to write his latest book Land of Hidden Fires.
And, thanks to Grenzland Press, we have a paperback copy to giveaway.
I first heard about my great-grandfather Agnar Kjeldsen’s younger brother Anfinn while visiting family in Norway in 1994. I was at Amalienfryd, the house originally built in 1796 where my great-grandfather and his brothers and sisters were raised.
Agnar left Stavern for the United States as a young man, but Anfinn stayed behind, spending most of his life in small-town Norway. I hadn’t thought much about him until another visit to Amalienfryd in 2006, when Anfinn’s son Hans Christian Kjeldsen showed me a commendation that Anfinn had posthumously received for helping a downed American pilot get to Sweden during WWII.
The story fascinated me. It was typical of that generation not to talk about wartime experiences; my late grandfather, Norman Kjeldsen, had never spoken about his own, while serving in the European theater on the U.S. side. I hadn’t even known that he’d had a younger brother, Harold Kjeldsen (1926-1944), who had been killed in the D-Day invasion until I saw a plaque for Harold inside a church in Union, New Jersey.
I asked Hans Christian for more information about his father’s wartime experiences, but there wasn’t much other than a few anecdotes and details, and Anfinn had died in 1984.
In 1952, a Norwegian film called Nødlanding (Emergency Landing) had been made about the events involving the plane crash, and I managed to track down a copy of it, but it had numerous storylines—an American bomber gets shot down over the Norwegian coast, and the airmen bail out and land at different locations before getting helped by dozens of different locals. It shed no further light on Anfinn’s individual story; I even considered contacting the filmmakers, but the director, Arne Skouen, had died in 2003, and his co-writer, Colbjörn Helander, had died decades before him, in 1962.
So I left it alone, but every now and then, I’d think about it. Every time I’d return to Norway, I’d imagine Anfinn and some American pilot making their way across the mountains, toward Sweden.
After I moved from China to Germany in 2014, I wanted to start something new (my first novel, Tomorrow City, which takes place in Shanghai, had just been published by Signal 8 Press). Each time I’d see a German in their eighties or nineties, I’d wonder where they’d been and what they’d been doing during the war. I thought about Anfinn’s story often, but instead of trying to find out more details about it, I let the story begin to write itself. It quickly took on a life of its own, and the main character became a young man about Anfinn’s age, and then a teenage boy, and eventually, a teenage girl. It’s no longer Anfinn’s story, but it never would have been written had it not been for him.
So thank you, Anfinn. And thanks, Jo, for letting me share a bit of his story here.
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Land of Hidden Fires Synopsis:
Occupied Norway, 1943. After seeing an allied plane go down over the mountains, headstrong fifteen year-old Kari DahlstrOm 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.
About the Author, Kirk Kjeldsen
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 shot in Norway and was directed by Rob Tregenza.
He lives in Essen, Germany with his wife and two children. Connect with Kirk on Facebook.
Thanks to Grenzland Press we have a paperback copy of Land of Hidden Fires to giveaway to one lucky reader.
- international giveaway
- extra entries for spreading the word via Twitter [+2] and Facebook/Google+/ Webpage [+4]
- entries close midnight 19 February 2017
- the winner will be randomly selected and must respond to my email requesting their mailing address within 5 days otherwise their prize will be forfeited and another winner selected
SORRY, ENTRIES NOW CLOSED – Winner announced here