Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

Dr. Helena P. Schrader is the winner of more than 20 literary accolades. For a complete list of her awards see: http://helenapschrader.com

Helena is represented by Laurie Blum Guest at the Re-Naissance Agency.

For readers tired of clichés and cartoons, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader offers nuanced insight to historical events and figures based on sound research and an understanding of human nature. Her complex and engaging characters bring history back to life as a means to better understand ourselves.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

DISSECTION OF A NOVEL - SECONDARY CHARACTERS PART II: A Woman's World

 Secondary characters enrich a novel. In novels like Moral Fibre with distinctly separate plot lines, a different population of "supporting cast" inhabits each plot. While the male protagonist is surrounded primarily by his crew, the female protagonist has her family, her colleagues and the children at her school.

 


Unquestionably the important secondary character in the heroine's world is her father, Reverend Edwin Reddings. As an Anglican priest, a father, and a veteran of the last war, Reddings provides a mature and (usually) wise point-of-view in a world (and book) otherwise inhabited primarily by teenagers. He also has a better overview of what is happening and other unique gifts that contribute materially to the plot of the novel.
 
But Georgina is also challenged by a class-conscious headmistress in a school which is flooded with refugee children from London's slums. Georgina is determined not to be like the bigoted headmaster -- only to encounter her own difficulties in dealing with children from backgrounds so different from her own. An important lesson is provided by "Batty," a girl who is disinterested in everything and whom all have given up on -- until her secret is revealed. 
 
Next week I will explore the challenge of describing wartime Britain and operations.

Riding the icy, moonlit sky— They took the war to Hitler. 

Their chances of survival were less than fifty percent. Their average age was 21.

This is the story of just one Lancaster skipper, his crew,and the woman he loved.

It is intended as a tribute to them all. 

Order Now!

 Flying Officer Kit Moran has earned his pilot’s wings, but the greatest challenges still lie ahead: crewing up and returning to operations. Things aren’t made easier by the fact that while still a flight engineer, he was posted LMF (Lacking in Moral Fibre) for refusing to fly after a raid on Berlin that killed his best friend and skipper. Nor does it help that he is in love with his dead friend’s fiancé, who is not yet ready to become romantically involved again.



 

 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

DISSECTION OF A NOVEL - SECONDARY CHARACTERS - Part I: The Crew

 Few humans live in isolation, and neither do characters. Secondary characters enhance novels, particularly complex novels, by adding depth and color. Sometimes secondary characters have their own plot-lines; sometimes they simply inhabit the plot line of the central characters, adding color, texture, and added depth to the main character's actions and development. Ideally, secondary characters attract the reader enough for the reader to be emotionally invested in what happens to them, too.


The central character of Moral Fibre is a bomber pilot and bombers in the Second World War were manned by comparatively large crews. The B-17 had a crew of ten. The B-24 had either ten or eight men. The RAF's Lancasters and Halifaxes had crews of seven. 

Unlike the USAAF, which simply assigned men to a crew, the RAF relied on an informal procedure for "crewing up." Once men had qualified sufficiently in their own particular specialty (i.e. pilot, navigator, bomb aimer etc. ) to be ready for operational training, they were sent to an Operational Training Unit where men from all the trades necessary to man a bomber collected. Here the trainees were brought together in a large hall and told to "sort themselves out." This process occurred quite early on in training, usually within the first two weeks, and it lasted until every pilot had a complete crew. Thereafter, the men trained together as a crew. 

Memoirs, letters and diaries all attest to the powerful bonding that went along with serving together in the same crew. In Fighter Command, the pilots' focus was the squadron. Pilots and ground crews developed a strong identification with the unit. Socializing took place largely in the squadron or with other members of the squadron. In bomber command, the squadrons were large and evoked little loyalty. The crew, on the other hand, was everything. Yes, some crews broke up because of injuries, deaths, or incompatibility. There were instances of crews refusing to fly with a pilot, or of one member being kicked off a crew for one reason or another. But as rule, crews melded together and became an interdependent team. Not only did they fly together, they ate, drank, and played together much of the time too. Many crews kept in touch with one another after the end of the war, sometimes for decades until death separated them.

 
Since Moral Fibre features a Lancaster skipper, Kit Moran, his crew inherently plays an important role in the novel. They are the men Kit both depends on and for whom he is responsible. Each of them is an individual with a backstory, a character and dreams of their own. I have striven to depict them as sharply as possible and to make the reader care about them too. 

The navigator on Kit's crew, and only other commissioned officer on the crew, is Adrian Peal. The son of a wealthy and successful lawyer expected to succeed, but an artist and a dreamer at heart. He has learned to "fit in" and lose himself in a crowd, but soon realizes that with Kit he can be himself. A real friendship develops between Kit and Adrian. "Daddy" MacDonald, the Flight Engineer, is the oldest member of the crew at 35. He's worked his way up through the ranks, and he's married with two kids. He's calm, trustworthy, knows his job inside out and is a rock on which Kit can rest some of his burden. The two gunners are very young and come from poor, disadvantaged backgrounds. Frank Roper is a "bolshie" with an cheeky attitude toward authority and a cocky confidence. Nigel Osgood comes from a broken home that makes him quick-tempered and pugnacious. Nigel gets into fights, causing Kit some problems, but is tough and tenacious and overall an asset to the crew. Terry, the wireless operator, who was orphaned young, is poor-sighted and introverted, yet bright, curious, and possessing inner strength. Stuart Babcock the bomb aimer, on the other hand, comes from a good home, is rather spoiled and the least mature member of the crew. The mix of these personalities makes for a unique crew with a unique blend of strengths and weaknesses, and provides almost infinite material for fleshing out the novel. 

Next week I'll look at the secondary characters that support the heroine.
 

Riding the icy, moonlit sky— They took the war to Hitler. 

Their chances of survival were less than fifty percent. Their average age was 21.

This is the story of just one Lancaster skipper, his crew,and the woman he loved.

It is intended as a tribute to them all. 

Order Now!

 Flying Officer Kit Moran has earned his pilot’s wings, but the greatest challenges still lie ahead: crewing up and returning to operations. Things aren’t made easier by the fact that while still a flight engineer, he was posted LMF (Lacking in Moral Fibre) for refusing to fly after a raid on Berlin that killed his best friend and skipper. Nor does it help that he is in love with his dead friend’s fiancé, who is not yet ready to become romantically involved again.



 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

DISSECTION OF A NOVEL PART IV - THE ANTAGONISTS

 Good antagonists contribute almost as much as good protagonists to the success and quality of a novel. In my books, the antagonists are rarely evil. That's because I don't like to dwell in evil minds and I have to be able to get inside my characters in order to write about them convincingly. Instead of evil antagonists, I seek to create characters that could just as easily be protagonists if only one chose to see the world through their eyes. In short, they are complex characters with their own strengths and weaknesses, but for one reason or another they are in conflict or competition with the protagonist of this particular novel.

 In Moral Fibre  there are two antagonists, one for the hero and one for the heroine. The hero Kit Moran's antagonist is Red Forrester. 


Red is an Australian pilot who arrives at the same Operational Training Unit as Kit Moran at the same time. They share a room, and they soon become, well, bitter rivals. Forrester is ambitious. He wants his crew to be the best in everything -- flying, bombing, gunnery, navigation. He selects a crew of like-minded individuals, who are as aggressively competitive as he is.  And when they do well at anything, they brag about it.

In the course of the novel, this sets up several situations where Moran is forced to make choices and take actions that would not otherwise have been necessary.  Forrester acts as a foil to Moran. He forces Moran to re-evaluate who he is and what he wants. He is the shadow that sets Moran into greater light. 

The heroine Georgina Redding's antagonist is Fiona Barker. 

 


Fiona is a fellow trainee at the teacher's college, but she is more of a rebel. She resents the restrictions placed on women. She wants to have a career. She hates men who are more focused on her looks than her brain. She is, well, the way I was when I was in college. So, you see, I identify strongly with Fiona. Yet she is Georgina's antagonist because she tries to impose her worldview on Georgina. 

Fiona thinks Georgina should not get involved with Kit. She thinks she should "stand on her own two feet." She calls Georgina "dependent" and deplores her "need for a ring to make her feel whole." She fails to understand the depth of Georgina's feelings much less Georgina's great emotional strength. By highlighting Georgina's alternatives, like a good antagonist, she makes Georgina define herself more precisely and consciously choose a different course.

Next week I will explore the critical role of secondary characters.

Riding the icy, moonlit sky— They took the war to Hitler. 

Their chances of survival were less than fifty percent. Their average age was 21.

This is the story of just one Lancaster skipper, his crew,and the woman he loved.

It is intended as a tribute to them all. 

Order Now!

 Flying Officer Kit Moran has earned his pilot’s wings, but the greatest challenges still lie ahead: crewing up and returning to operations. Things aren’t made easier by the fact that while still a flight engineer, he was posted LMF (Lacking in Moral Fibre) for refusing to fly after a raid on Berlin that killed his best friend and skipper. Nor does it help that he is in love with his dead friend’s fiancé, who is not yet ready to become romantically involved again.



Tuesday, May 10, 2022

"Some of the coolest, most courageous people..." Feathered Quill Review of "Moral Fibre"

"For those readers who have not yet gone on the “ride of your life” with this incredible author, I suggest you jump on the plane as fast as possible. Why is that? Because Ms. Schrader has written yet another historical fiction story that focuses on some of the coolest, most courageous people who fought for freedom." 
 


 

 

 

 


 

"Kit’s struggles, his life, and the romance he is continuously hoping and striving to have with the woman he loves hits you directly in the soul, but the addition of adventure and excitement makes you want to read cover-to-cover without ever having to put the book down. After all, the RAF’s bombing offensive against Nazi Germany was one of the longest, most expensive and controversial of the Allied campaigns during the Second World War, and the contributions made by these men – and the women they had to leave behind – were more than substantial. And Ms. Schrader does a brilliant job of heralding them with every chapter.

"The intriguing dialogue, the settings, the clear descriptions of such harsh situations – this author has hit on all cylinders once again, and even provides the most exhilarating history lesson I, personally, have ever had the pleasure of reading. “5-Stars!”

Quill says: Helena Schrader’s in-depth stories, fantastic characters, and ability to write an unforgettable tale makes her one of the best authors out there!

For more information on Moral Fibre: A Bomber Pilot’s Story, please visit the author's website at: helenapschrader.com.com

For the full Feathered Quill Review go to: https://featheredquill.com/moral-fibre-a-bomber-pilots-story/

Riding the icy, moonlit sky— They took the war to Hitler. 

Their chances of survival were less than fifty percent. Their average age was 21.

This is the story of just one Lancaster skipper, his crew,and the woman he loved.

It is intended as a tribute to them all. 

Order Now!

Flying Officer Kit Moran has earned his pilot’s wings, but the greatest challenges still lie ahead: crewing up and returning to operations. Things aren’t made easier by the fact that while still a flight engineer, he was posted LMF (Lacking in Moral Fibre) for refusing to fly after a raid on Berlin that killed his best friend and skipper. Nor does it help that he is in love with his dead friend’s fiancé, who is not yet ready to become romantically involved again.



 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

DISSECTION OF A NOVEL PART III - THE HEROINE OF HISTORICAL NOVEL

My novels usually feature strong female leading characters. Yet because I write historical fiction, they sometimes pose unique challenges. Human nature may have changed little over the centuries, but acceptable female behaviour varies greatly across both geography and time. In keeping with my objective of creating novels which authentically convey the atmosphere and ethos of the period in which they are set, my female characters cannot be modern women in period costume; they have to share the values and respect the restraints of the age in which they "live." This was true of the female lead in "Moral Fibre" no less than novels set in Ancient Sparta or the era of the crusades.

 

The female protagonist of Moral Fibre is Georgina Reddings. Unlike the hero, Kit, she was shy about communicating with me directly. I knew her first and foremost through Kit's eyes and only gradually pieced together more about her. Slowly, step-by-step, she emerged out of the shadows as her natural modesty and reticence melted and she took shape as a full-blown character in her own right. 

Georgina was the daughter of a rural vicar in West Yorkshire. She enjoyed a carefree and comfortable childhood, attending a girls boarding school run by the Church of England. The Victorian vicarage with its large barn made it easy for her to indulge her passion for horses, riding and hunting, and she was a bit "horse crazy" as a young teenager, but the war soon sobered her.  In 1942 she started studies at the Lincoln Diocesan Teachers Training College, with the goal of becoming a secondary school teacher. At at dance at the Lincoln Assembly Rooms, she met and instantly fell in love with the shy, serious and gentle Don Selkirk, a Lancaster skipper from a nearby RAF station. 

Scion of a wealthy, Scottish gentry family, Don bedazzled Georgina, without even trying. They became engaged within four months of meeting, to the delight of both sets of parents. Don's parents found Georgina sweet and innocent, modest and malleable. Her parents saw in Don the perfect gentleman with a law degree and good prospects after the war. Meanwhile, he was  protective and considerate in every way. He cocooned Georgina in a sense of safety. He encouraged her to continue her studies, yet indulged her hopes, visions and plans for a future together. He assured her he had always been lucky and that nothing would happen to him. 

And then he was dead. A 20 mm cannon of a German night fighter having hit his heart and killed him instantly. Georgina's entire world fell apart. She hadn't just lost the only man she'd ever loved, she'd lost her dreams and hopes for the future as well. All at the age of 19.

Georgina's grief was as great as her heart and her capacity for love. It shocked the under-cooled society around her, which expected a "stiff upper lip," "restraint," "self-control." After all, Don was only one of 55,000 airmen who were to die, and civilians were being killed every day too. There was no room in wartime Britain for too much grief. Instead, the emphasis was on all those established British virtues that had won and Empire and were more vital than ever in this, their "finest hour."  Her friends and colleagues at the college were alienated. Her parents feared for he sanity. Her doctor thought she needed psychiatric treatment. 

The only one in the whole world with whom Georgina could share her grief without reproach or inhibition was with Don's best best, his flight engineer Kit Moran. But Moran was in trouble, having refused to fly after Don's death. He was posted off his squadron and sent to a RAF diagnosis center. His future was under a cloud, and he told Georgina that he believed it would have been better for all if he had died in Don's place. 

Georgina denied it, and with that recognition that Kit too was a valuable life that might also have been lost, she started groping and stumbling along a path out of her underworld of grief. She clung to Kit as a lifeline connecting her both to Don through his memories and shared experiences and to life. Although Kit was soon posted to a training station in South Africa, they corresponded. Georgina wrote two to three times each week, pouring out her feelings and by writing down her thoughts coming to terms with her loss bit by bit. 

Then, in August 1942, Kit returned to the UK to start operational training. Since his family was in Nigeria, naturally Georgina invited him to spend his disembarkation leave at her home with her parents. And there they met again. Suddenly, their relationship wasn't all about Don and the past. Kit was in love with her. But Georgina was terrified of committing her heart again when Kit was facing a tour of operations in a war that was as intense as ever.

Next week I will introduce the two antagonists: Red Forrester and Fiona Barker.

Riding the icy, moonlit sky— They took the war to Hitler. 

Their chances of survival were less than fifty percent. Their average age was 21.

This is the story of just one Lancaster skipper, his crew,and the woman he loved.

It is intended as a tribute to them all. 

Order Now!

Flying Officer Kit Moran has earned his pilot’s wings, but the greatest challenges still lie ahead: crewing up and returning to operations. Things aren’t made easier by the fact that while still a flight engineer, he was posted LMF (Lacking in Moral Fibre) for refusing to fly after a raid on Berlin that killed his best friend and skipper. Nor does it help that he is in love with his dead friend’s fiancé, who is not yet ready to become romantically involved again.