I put in long hours of researching before I ever put pen to paper, er, finger to keyboard for another brilliant story. And when I say hours, I mean days, weeks, even months filled with studying books, news articles, old photographs, geography*, documentaries, diaries, and of course movies. As many historical writers will tell you, it’s way too easy to get caught up in researching and not get around to actually writing. Occupational hazard.
During my research for my last work, A Rolls Royce in No Man’s Land, I came across the movie Joyeux Noel**. It’s the story of the WWI Christmas truce of 1914 depicted through the eyes of the British, French, and German soldiers. It’s beautifully shot, with all the harshness and grit of war mixed with the hopeful and ever-persevering spirit of human beings. The most stunning and humbling moment of the entire film is when a German singer joins in song with an enemy bagpiper far across no man’s land on Christmas Eve. Enemies who find common ground in music.
Being a movie, much of this is fictionalized, but it is based on fact. The German Crown Prince brought Walter Kirchhoff, tenor from the Berlin Imperial Opera, to visit the front lines. Kirchhoff was applauded by French soldiers from their trenches. The exchange of small tokens and access to the dead for burials occurred up and down the lines in 1914, but happened less and less as the years wore on. To read more on the real Christmas truce, you can find my story here.
*My husband once came home to find me tracing a map of battle trenches on the Somme. He didn’t even bother asking.
** It was actually a Christmas present from my husband. Some people watch It’s a Wonderful Life, we watch war movies.