From July 17, 1936-April 1, 1939, well before America was involved in World War II, another battle was fought on the hillsides of Spain. On one side were the Spanish Republicans, joined by the Soviet Union and The International Brigade—men and women from all over the world who have volunteered to fight Fascism. Opposing them, Franco and his Fascist military leaders, supported with troops, machinery, and weapons from Hitler and Mussolini. The Spanish Civil War, considered the “training ground” for the war to come, boasted of thousands of American volunteers who joined to fight on the Republican side, half of which never returned home. Unlike World War II, there is no clear line between white and black, good and evil. Both sides committed atrocities. Both sides had deep convictions they felt worth fighting and dying for. During the Spanish Civil war, terror tactics against civilians were common. And while history books discuss the estimated one million people who lost their lives during the conflict, we must not forget that each of those who fought, who died, had their own tales. From visitors to Spain who found themselves caught in the conflict, to the communist supporters, Basque priests, and Nazi airmen . . . each saw this war in a different light. These are the stories behind A Valley of Betrayal.
This was a great story, so complex and about a place and time that I knew nothing about. This book is especially for you if you love war stories. In this novel, Spain, and the people of wartime Spain, definitely stood out as characters adding to the plot in their own right. The description was so rich that the reader can almost see it, feel it, hear it and smell it. I asked Tricia to elaborate on her process of researching a book where the setting is so real. Do you complete the research or the story first, or do you work on them concurrently?
I have a basic idea for a story when I sit down and write. Then I work on the layers back and forth. I work on the people. Then I research history. Then I research the place. It's like basket-weaving, one color of thread (rope?) goes in, then I add another. Once the platform is done, I add more--building up the story. This is the hard part, working on the layers. Once my basket is done, then it's easy to fill up the pages. I know the place. I know the people. I know their dreams, motivations, fears and that's when the story starts to flow! The story pours through my fingers as if I'm just writing out what is already there.
The other facet of the book that really stood out to me were the thoughts and voice of Sophie, as an artist. How do you think that the experience of writing compares to visual art, such as painting, and how are they similar and different as far as interpreting situations that the artist encounters?
Personally, I think artists have the same way of interacting with the world--they just share their feelings and thoughts in different ways. They see the world, take it in, then want to express it in their own interpretation. Sophie did that through painting. I do that through words. I don't know what I'm feeling until I put it on paper, and I think visual artists are the same.
I had a teacher once who said. . . that great art is only created when you discover the truth of what lies before you, and the truth found within, and you express it on the canvas. That's why I think I'd paint more beautifully here than anywhere else. I've found my heart, despite the war.
--Sophie in A Valley of Betrayal (p. 78)