Highlighting Historical Romance: Joan Leotta Makes WWII Personal
As the daughter of older parents, one of whom was a WWII veteran, the sacrifices of that war were very real to me. I heard stories from my Mom about the home front and was very interested in researching it. It seems that this was a time to prove loyalty, for women to step up and take unexpected, new roles in society and prove their honor and strength as the men proved theirs on the battlefield. In addition, I wanted to highlight the role of Italian-Americans, their contribution to the war effort.
A friend of mine told a tale about meeting her husband (a non-Italian) and how she had to balance honoring her parents with honoring her love. The part of my book where John meets Giulia at the train station and twirls her off the top step with a kiss—that is taken from their love story. This personal aspect of the tale was my favorite part of the research—its called working with an “informant.” The next two in the series rely heavily on informants. The last, which takes Civil War and Desert Storm eras and manages to link them, relies much more on library and secondary sources. In that case, the heroine’s journalism is the link to real people—me (although I never served as a foreign journalist) and a female journalist of the 70s I admire, Oriana Fallaci.
Research is a special love of mine. I spent hours in the files of the city of Wilmington’s history room, locating streets, businesses, where people lived, etc. I had to construct a story that would be true to the time yet find a way for my character to be ahead of her time in her willingness to step out on her own.
The part of the story where the Nazi U-boat comes up the Cape Fear river—those incursions have been a part of local lore for some time—and some facts about the same are documented. The explosion in my book actually took place, but not where I put it. Part of the balancing act in writing an historical novel is to decide how much fact should be included in the story to make it seem “real” and to honor the reality of the era in which the story takes place.
About the Book
WWII wartime work draws Giulia DeBartolo out of her close Western Pennsylvania family into a world of intrigue, spies, and new friends in Wilmington North Carolina’s shipyard building Liberty ships. Giulia soon discovers that supporting the war effort can include fun evenings of dancing with young servicemen at the local USO where she meets John O’Shea, an unsuitable suitor according to her old-fashioned parents.
As they grapple with the problems of their own budding relationship, John and Giulia encounter a Nazi spy tasked with blowing up part of the Wilmington shipyard. Saving the shipyard from the spy may prove easier than convincing her parents to let her marry John. Giulia must decide what it means to be a good daughter while still following her own heart.
Joan Leotta has been playing with words since childhood. She has won awards in the USA and abroad for her writing and performing. She’s a journalist, novelist, poet. and playwright. Her poetry and essays appear in Gnarled Oak, Red Wolf, A Quiet Courage, Eastern Iowa Review, Hobart Literary Review, Silver Birch, Postcard Poems and Prose and others. Her books include, Giulia Goes to War, Letters from Korea, A Bowl of Rice, Secrets of the Heart from Desert Breeze Publishing, a collection of short stories Simply a Smile, Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery, and picture books, WHOOSH! and Summer in a Bowl published by TheaQLLC. All of these are available on Amazon, Nook and from their respective publishers. Joan lives in North Carolina with husband Joe where you can find her walking the beach, sorting travel photos or on the web at www.joanleotta.wordpress.com and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joan-Leotta-Author-and-Story-Performer/188479350973