25th August 2018
WW2 is now considered historical and stories about that conflict historical adventures but there is the overtone – unique in the historical genre – of that setting’s impact on and causality relating to the present day. This month, we have been pleased to explore those possibilities within the context of best-selling author j j toner‘s exciting thriller, The Gingerbread Spy.
Welcome to An Author’s Mind, j j, we’re looking forward to learning more!
Can you briefly describe the story of The Gingerbread Spy?
j j toner: The Gingerbread Spy is Book 4 in my WW2 spy thriller series. Kurt Müller – a member, since Book1, of the German Resistance movement, The Black Orchestra – is in London, working with British Intelligence as a case officer for the Double Cross programme. This programme runs a number of German double agents sending misinformation to the Abwehr (German Military Intelligence). As D-Day approaches, a rogue agent surfaces with the call-sign Gingerbread, threatening the whole deception plan. When Kurt discovers that he is a suspect, he sets out to silence this Gingerbread spy in order to clear his name and save Operation Overlord.
Lizzie: People say all fiction is autobiographical. Have you based this book on a formative experience?
j j toner: Not at all. It’s a pure product of my imagination.
Lizzie: Is there an important theme (or themes) that the story illustrates?
j j toner: All the books in the series carry the theme that very few of the German population were Nazis or should be held responsible for the horrors of the Nazi regime.
Lizzie: An important point! Who are the heroes? Who are the villains? And why?
j j toner: There are two heroes in this book, Kurt and his girlfriend, Lina. Between them they unmask the Gingerbread spy. The villains are more difficult to spot, and some are only implicated through the lens of subsequent history.
Lizzie: Do the characters change?
j j toner: Yes. At the start of the book, Kurt and Lina are living together and Lina is bullied by her workmates. Kurt is riddled with shame and guilt, as he loves another. By the end of the book, Lina overcomes the bullies and shakes free of Kurt. Kurt makes his peace with his true love.
Lizzie: Does your main character undergo a transformation?
j j toner: This is tricky. His major transformation was in Book1, when he went from dutiful Abwehr officer to convinced anti-Nazi member of the Black Orchestra. There are personal transformations in the other books, but they are more subtle.
Lizzie: Which character would you most like to invite to dinner this evening and why? Who would you invite too? What would you hope to learn?
j j toner: I’d invite Lina. Her story is unfulfilled, but full of promise. I’d love to see how she turned out. Also, I’d invite Walter Schellenberg, the head of the SD. He was a slippery customer, who escaped the gallows by giving evidence against the other Nazis. I’d like to understand his true motivation.
Lizzie: Where did your research take you?
j j toner: Lisbon, Portugal, a beautiful city of hills and valleys.
Lizzie: What was the inspiration for writing this book series?
j j toner: The inspiration for the series and the idea of senior members of the Abwehr working against Hitler, came from reading Irish Secrets, German Espionage in Wartime Ireland 1939-1945 by Mark M. Hull, Irish Academic Press, 2003, ISBN 0-7165-2756-1
Lizzie: How does this book fit into the series?
j j toner: The story of the series follows the progress of the Second World War and this book ends in March 1944.
Lizzie: Why did you use historical fiction as a preferred genre?
j j toner: WW2 provides a ready-made canvas on which to hang a story. And if, as they say, a story needs conflict where better to find that?
Lizzie: What’s next?
j j toner: I have plans for a fifth book in the series, but my wife wants me to stop writing. We can’t afford a divorce!
Thank you for your rapid-fire answers, j j! These are highly appropriate for a man/writer of action!
If you’d like to learn more about jj toner, please see his Amazon author page. You can also read reviews of the series on Goodreads
And here – from Goodreads – is his short biography:
Born: Dublin, Ireland
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Influences : Douglas Adams, Robert Harris, Chuck Wendig, James Thurber, RA Lafferty …
After 27 years working with computers in a variety of industries: Oil exploration, pharma, hospitals, manufacturing, shipping etc., I retired early and began to write. I’ve been writing full time since 2007, and have completed hundreds of short stories and self-published 7 novels.