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Home > Author > Bonnie P Toews
 
Bonnie P Toews

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Member Since: Before 2003

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  Bonnie P Toews           

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If you want to get something done, ask a woman. My novel does that in the worst of times.


Background Information

I grew up in a mining town and, to amuse myelf, wrote my first novel at age ten. It was about a flight nurse in World War II. Two of my favorite music teachers served as secret agents against Nazi Germany, and their experiences heightened my fascination with intrigue and espionage. I read all of Helen MacInnes’ novels before Robert Ludlum became popular. Through a career that ranged from teacher to advertising representative to editorial director of a major publishing company, I continued writing fiction as a hobby. In 1997, I published my debut novel, “Treason & Triumph,” to rave five star reviews. With book sales matching Ken Follet’s “Jackdaws” at amazon.com, I reprinted my novel with 1stBooks Library. Why did I choose two women as my protagonists? Originally, I believed I was writing women's fiction, and I wanted to show how women respond in emergency situations they can't control, such as war. I first dealt with the original character, Catherine, who represents the real life cousin of Britain's King George VI--a secret agent called Trudi who Churchill sent in to persuade the Danish nuclear scientist, Neils Bohr, to defect to London. After she convinced Bohr to escape to England, the Gestapo found her, arrested her and tortured her. She never revealed who she was or the Nazis would have demanded a ransom for her safe return. Instead, at the end of the war, British Intelligence never found her body. What actually happened to her remains a mystery. In fantasizing a "what if she survived" scenario, I saw the need to develop a "sister-in-spirit" or a mirror of her character--a woman totally different from an opposite background with one commonality that becomes their bond, and through their association, they grow and change. In the end, they reflect each other's character and looks. I wanted to portray the direct way women deal with problems. What takes men all day to discuss to decide on a course of action takes women five minutes to do. Through their mental thoughts I wanted to show war through a woman's perception instead of through a man's. What resulted was a story that men are equally enjoying, so It's not a women's only fiction. "Treason & Triumph" is mainstream historical fiction, and that's a bonus I didn't set out to achieve. It's a result of going with the characters and their story, and their story has created its own audience. I not only tried to show humanity at its worst, I also wanted to show the counterbalance of ordinary people at their best. It is the strange juxtaposition that war conditions create, and so, against the scene of Marla being tortured at Gestapo headquarters, across the street in the convent chapel a young German soldier finds God's redemption in the face of a woman he believes is a nun but who is actually Catherine in disguise. In 1994, I covered the delivery system of humanitarian relief to the war victims in Rwanda and the resulting mass of disease-ridden refugees swarming the eastern border of then neighboring Zaire. I arrived just after the massacre of 10 UN soldiers and one million Rwandans. What I saw in Africa changed my life. Western nations have failed to keep their promise to the world — NEVER AGAIN. The Holocaust in Rwanda shouldn't have happened, but unfortunately this little country in Central Africa has no rich resources the rest of the world wants. But, I saw firsthand the work of our peacekeepers and non-government agencies, and I've never been so proud to be Canadian. Providing food and clothing for helpless victims of war, however, is not enough, not when you see homeless waifs and understand the horrors they have both experienced and witnessed. The plight of children in war is a recurring theme in my novel writing.

Accomplishments

Five Business Press Awards

Additional Information

In my earliest memory, I recall my mother and babysitter talking about the rationing of butter, and my favorite uncle was a fighter pilot. Two of my music teachers were also involved. One fought with the Dutch Resistance, and the other was an actual spy posing as a church organist in Berlin throughout the war. They were such humble people it was difficult imagining them as secret operatives capable of killing anyone if they had to. Their stories are not depicted in my novel, but the use of music in the secret operations plays a big part as well as the essence of my teachers' wonderful character and faith. In fact, I wrote my first novel at age ten about an army nurse in the Pacfic. Years later, when I read Leon Uris' "Mila 18," which describes the death camps in graphic detail, I felt such an affinity with the Jewish soul and the horrors the Jews suffered through the Holocaust that I wondered if I had once lived as one before my present life. In my twenties, I studied Jewish history, culture and religion to try and discover why the Jewish people have been so persecuted and scapegoated over the centuries. I did gain insights from my studies and a deep abiding respect for their religious concepts. I was equally fascinated with mob psychology and what drove the German people to embrace and follow a mad man like Hitler with such blind faith. Studying history provided those answers, and it alarms me today that our education systems do not emphasize the study of history. Without knowing our pasts, we are vulnerable to making the same mistakes again, and that's exactly what is happening now. Today's United Nations is making the same mistakes its predecessor, the League of Nations, made in the 30s, and the results are frightening. If people don't understand history, they can't undertstand the decisions their leaders make, and they can't respond with knowledge to those decisions. The terrorists' attacks of 9/11 reignited our nations' patriotism, but we still have to guard against blind loyalty based on manipulative propaganda. An article by a savvy Toronto journalist and foreign correspondent can give Americans and Canadians the best reason for going to war with Saddam Hussein that I've read in some time, but it still doesn't nullify the terrible loss of life and suffering for both sides in an invasion of Iraq, either for the military of both sides or for their civilian victims. In my novel, Churchill was part of what really happened in the true events related to the story. He did sponsor such an operation. He did back the secret civilian agency called Special Operations Executive (SOE) and his masterspy, "Intrepid," director of the British Security Coordination. He was as ruthless as either Hitler or Stalin in his strategies to beat them, such as exposing villagers and citizens in Nazi-occupied territories to terrible reprisals just to unify the local people into secret resistance. He believed the formation of a fifth column was absolutely necessary to winning against the Third Reich. I was also intrigued with his style of speech--the rhythm and choice of words--which William L. Shirer notes in his "The Nightmare Years 1930-1940." Churchill rarely came out and said directly what he wanted. He used words in euphenisms, similar to Hitler actually, like planted seeds for others to interpret. Perhaps the "buzz" words both men invented were to allay their guilt for the brutal and tragic orders they issued. I also wanted the reader to see the man behind the British hero so many admire. We may never be able to criticize that what he did he did because it was necessary to win the war against such a sadistic enemy, but we don't have to like it, or respect it, or be mesmerized by his bulldog personna. He was a bully fighting bullies. The novel also integrates flying, which is something I loved to do in my younger days -- it represents my belief that women can do whatever they set their minds to achieve -- and horse racing, a hobby my husband and I enjoyed in our later years. The title of my next book is yet to be decided, and it is a sequel to "Treason & Triumph" featuring Caitlin. It's another suspense story based on true events that I experienced during a magazine assignment in 1994. Caitlin is now 48 years old, at the peak of her broadcasting career, when she journeys to Central Africa in 1994 to report on the mass slaughter of Rwandans. There she discovers more than genocide: UN peacekeepers are being used as guinea pigs for an experimental antimalaria drug without their knowledge. In her zeal to find out who is behind it, she suddenly stumbles upon government files that reveal that she isn't who she always believed she is. Her parents are not her birth parents. Her mother was a war correspondent and her father was a war criminal. It all begins with murder at her dinner table, and one man's mission to prevent another Holocaust. I'm also having a little fun with Caitlin's character going through menapause at the same time as she reinvents herself. For aspiring authors, I can only say you need faith, patience, perseverence and skill. Learn to use the best writing techniques you can. Never give up on your dream. There is no truly original story. What is unique is each author's way of putting a story together. In writing, there are no shortcuts. Writers who do not want to spend time authenticating details used in their imaginary plots cannot suspend their readers' disbelief. The first "error" readers see turns them off and makes them suspect the rest of the story. If you read through reviews at amazon, for instance, this is the biggest complaint of readers and the most prominent reason for giving a book a poor rating. It is also the most immediate reason to be rejected by agents and publishers, who are first and foremost the biggest fans of the authors they sign. Publishing? There are many books written about it today, and writers do need to read them and understand the process before they can make a decision about how they want to approach getting published. Some self-publish or turn to print-on-demand publishers to establish a track record or deliver a ready-made market they can sell to an agent and/or commercial publisher. Others query agents looking for one to represent them to the publishers in their networks. It can also depend on the fiction genre you are writing in as to the way you seek to be published. Writing non-fiction books works differently. Many "experts" make profits self-publishing their expertise. Their way of approaching agents is also different. You take an idea and sell them on the niche your book fills with just one chapter written to provide an example of your writing style and marketing strategies for selling your book. With this proposal and sample material, agents can find a publisher and negotiate an advance payment.

Contact Information
Whistler House
28 Bluffs Road 
Newcastle  L1B 1A3   Canada
Contact Author: Bonnie P Toews


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