France, 1942. While war blazes at the front lines of Europe, in the walled southern city of Carcassonne, nestled deep in the Pyrenees, a group of courageous women is engaged in an equally lethal battle. Like their ancestors who fought northern invaders seven hundred years before, these members of the French Resistance--code-named Citadel--fight to liberate their home from the Nazis. Led by a daring eighteen-year-old, Sandrine Vidal, and her elder sister, Marianne, the women of Citadel work quickly to sabotage their German occupiers, safeguard their neighbors, and smuggle refugees over the mountains into neutral territory. But that is only part of their mission. Their struggle will reveal an older, darker combat being fought in the shadows, one meant to protect an ancient secret that, if it fell into the wrong hands, could change the course of history. Combining rugged action with the haunting mystery of an ancient city, Citadel is a story of daring and courage, love and passion, as the women of Citadel dare the impossible to save their homeland--and the astonishing secrets buried in time are at long last revealed.
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Kate Mosse Harlan Coben
Harlen Coben interviews Kate Mosse, author of The Citadel
HC: You’re known for writing historical adventures set in France, but what I love about your stuff – and what we perhaps both have in common – is an obsession with the past haunting the present. Why are you drawn to this theme?
KM: 'Haunting the present', that's absolutely it. The decisions made, the mistakes, the violence of the past cast a long shadow and those affect the way people generations later behave. In the south of France- which was occupied from November 1942 to August 1944- that shadow is still there. In some villages, people still walk past the closest bakery because it's owned by a family who informed on their neighbours during the war. In Carcassonne itself, many of the main streets have been renamed in honour of resistance fighters. I knew that the date of death on each sign was the same - 19th August 1944. I became obsessed with finding out what had happened on that day. Over time, the men who died then have been identified, but on the monuments are written words that haunted me for years and were the inspiration for Citadel: 'And Two Unknown Women'. Even after years of research, I never discovered their names. But I knew I could write a novel about the sort of women they must have been - courageous, exceptional. That determination to honour the sacrifice of those unknown women led to Citadel’s protagonist Sandrine and her all-female band of resistance fighters.
HC: Citadel is your first novel set during World War Two. I know you love suspense so how do you create it when, well, we already know the outcome?
KM: I do love suspense! Much of my reading for pleasure is crime fiction. I love a puzzle, love the business of pitting myself as a reader against the author's imagination. It's tricky, especially with World War II. But of course in adventure writing, as in crime, it's how you get there that matters. The key ingredients in adventure writing are momentum, jeopardy and emotion. Developing the characters and working out the twists and turns of the story are easily as important as the climax itself. That's what I love about writing, working it all out.
HC: Here’s a research question: What was the most extraordinary story you uncovered? More to the point, what do you do when you run across great research but it won’t fit into the story?
KM: I am a novelist, not a historian, and I hate the idea of 'stealing' someone's real life. I don't want to write a thinly-veiled version of a real person. I’d rather use my research and imagination to create convincing characters who might have been. So, this is a roundabout way of answering your question. I wanted to protect the identities of people who were generous enough to share their stories with me, or the stories of their parents and grandparents. For example: the woman who showed me the trap door in the floor of their restaurant where they had sheltered Jewish children before smuggling them across the border to Spain; the son who showed me the bullet holes in the wine vats where Resistance fighters hid; the marks in the ground where the signs for the Jewish internment camps – whose existence was denied for years - are still visible. So many incredible, dreadful, stories that would have been wrong to include. But the emotion of those stories is in Citadel and the fears, loves, pride, honour of those people appears, I hope, in some of my characters.
Harlan Coben is the bestselling author of sixteen previous novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers "Long Lost" and "Hold Tight. " Winner of the Edgar Award, the Shamus Award, and the Anthony Award, Coben lives in New Jersey with his family.About the Author:
Kate Mosse is the New York Times bestselling author of Labyrinth and Sepulchre, as well as the cofounder and honorary director of the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction. She lives in England and France.
Finty Williams has worked extensively in theater, television, film, and audio. She has narrated books by Jean Ure, Liz Kessler, and others, including Virginia Woolf's The Years, which was a finalist for the 2007 Audie Award for best classics narration. She won the 2015 Audie Award for best paranormal fiction narration and has received multiple Earphones Awards. Her stage credits include The Secret Life of Charlie Chaplin, Northanger Abbey, and The Misanthrope, while on television she has been seen in Born and Bred, Tales from the Crypt, and The Torch. Her films include Gosford Park, The Importance of Being Earnest, and Mrs. Brown.
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