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

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, October 24, 2023

Dissecting a "Cold Peace" Part II - Structure

 While the idea for a novels is for me always an irrational and unpredictable inspiration, determining the structure of the novel is mundane hard work. Because my genre is historical fiction, I always use history as the underlying framework, but -- as the saying goes -- the devil is in the details.

With the Berlin Airlift, I had taken on a historical context involving players from four nations: Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union. Furthermore, the Airlift itself had logistical, political and humanitarian components, all which had to be adequately depicted. Most importantly, the Airlift impacted millions of individual lives and the most valuable contribution of any historical novel is to humanize historical events. The challenge was to find a fictional superstructure to fit onto the historical foundations which would illuminate the historical events and significance while engaging the reader at an emotional level as well. 

Because the inspiration for this novel came from the idea of "marrying" characters from my Battle of Britain novel with characters from my German Resistance novel, I knew that the book had to have British and German characters and their plot lines would have to intertwine. Given the preponderant role played by the United States, I felt American characters and plot lines were also imperative. What I could not manage was a serious Soviet plot line. Acknowledging my limitations, I accepted that I could not create rounded, nuanced and credible Soviet characters capable of carrying a plot pillar fundamental to the overall structure. I simply have not had enough exposure to Russian much less Soviet citizens. 

History dictated that the German characters were drawn from the civilian population in Berlin and that their stories would depict the impact of the Soviet blockade on the people of Berlin. These characters necessarily had to address the political issues at stake for Germany -- the ongoing process of de-Nazification, the threat of a Communist take over, the risk of division. Continuing the themes of Traitors for the Sake of Humanity, the German characters had to display varying degrees of complicity in the Nazi regime -- from a former U-boat commander to an SPD member of parliament who survived the concentration camp.

Building on Where Eagles Never Flew, the British characters had to be former RAF officers, but in the post-war world most of them would no longer be in the RAF. Thus, while the principal character from Where Eagles Never Flew  could be a mid-ranking officer posted to the position of Station Commander at RAF Gatow (the RAF airfield in Berlin which during the Berlin Airlift surpassed New York's La Guardia Airport for air traffic), the other British characters carried over from Where Eagles Never Flew and Moral Fibre have been "de-mobbed" and are struggling to find a new role in the post-war world. This enabled me to highlight one of the most colorful and intriguing aspects of the Airlift: the civilian component. 

The American plot line, in contrast, was not dictated by earlier works. I had more freedom here and used the American characters to highlight a variety of historical components of this remarkable event. On the one hand, I have spotlighted key American historical figures such Colonel Howley, General Clay and, of course, Gail Halvorsen (the "candy bomber"). On the other hand, at a moment in history when President Truman used the power of his office to (finally) integrate the U.S. armed forces, I wanted at least one black face in the cast of characters.  

The cast of characters is large and their fates are closely interwoven in the course of the series. Thus while each character has his or her own individual thread in the total tapestry, they come together to create three broader bands of narrative. These are the plot pillars on which the novel rests. These can be roughly designated: 

  1. The "Eagle's View" which describes and discusses the overarching issues, challenges, set-backs, and consequences. 
  2. The "Worm's View" which looks at "worker bees" caught up in the Airlift as pilots, air traffic controllers, translators, engineers, businessmen (and black-marketeers), and policemen.
  3. "The Dove's View" which is the story of a humanitarian enterprise, an air ambulance. It brings together an eclectic collection of people from not only the UK, US and Germany but also from the West Indies and Down Under, several of whom are traumatized or disabled, yet all of whom bring unique skills that contribute to the precarious enterprise.


Cold Peace is Book I of the Bridge to Tomorrow Series. 

Three years after WWII, Europe struggles with rationing, widespread unemployment and a growing Soviet threat. Hitler's former capital lies ruined under the joint control of wartime allies bitterly at odds. With the currency worthless, the population lives on hand-outs or turns to crime and prostitution. Deep inside the Soviet Zone of occupation, Berlin appears to be an ideal target for a communist take-over, putting the defenders of democracy on a collision course with Stalin's merciless aggression. 

A Battle of Britain ace, a female air traffic controller, a concentration camp survivor and an ex-ATA woman pilot are just some of those trying to find their place in the post-war world. An air ambulance service offers a shimmer of hope, but when a Soviet fighter brings down a British passenger liner, Berlin becomes a flashpoint. The world stands poised on the brink of World War Three.


Find out more at: https://www.helenapschrader.com/bridge-to-tomorrow.html

View a video teaser at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTuE7m5InZM&t=5s

Previous releases include:



 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 bomber pilot, his crew and the woman he loved. 

It is intended as a tribute to them all.  

Buy now on amazon

or Barnes and Noble


 "This is the best book on the life of us fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain that I have ever seen.... I couldn't put it down."-- RAF Battle of Britain ace, Wing Commander Bob Doe.

Winner of a Hemingway Award for 20th Century Wartime Fiction, a Maincrest Media Award for Military Fiction and Silver in the Global Book Awards.

Find out more at: https://crossseaspress.com/where-eagles-never-flew


 For more information about all my books visit: https://www.helenapschrader.com


Disfiguring injuries, class prejudice and PTSD are the focus of three tales set in WWII by award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader. Find out more at: https://crossseaspress.com/grounded-eagles








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