In May when I got to go to the writers’ conference one of the authors I was excited to meet was Ocieanna Fleiss. I had read and enjoyed Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington and Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana (which she wrote with Tricia Goyer), so I recognized her name on the schedule. Ocieanna taught a couple of workshops at the writers’ conference. I attended “Spicing Up Character Emotions” and learned so much. She shared some very helpful suggestions that I will be able to apply to my own writing.
In celebration of the 4th of July, Ocieanna offered to do an interview and book giveaway for my blog. Love Finds You in Victory Heights is a story about a “Rosie the Riveter” set during World War II in Seattle.
What inspired you to write about this subject?
Those pictures of the women who worked in the factories during the war captivated me. With their bandanas and big smiles, they seemed to be a combination of old-school values and spunky independence. I admired them for this and wanted to explore them and their world.
Tell us about your research on the topics of Rosie the Riveter etc.
So much fun! I knew I liked this time in history, but I had no idea I’d fall in love with it. I watched old movies like His Girl Friday and My Favorite Wife and was hooked by their slang:“Hi, sugar, are you rationed?” (which means, “Hi miss, are you dating anyone?”)“What’s buzzin’ cousin?”“Let’s cut a rug.”“Aw, you bumbleheaded baboon.”
Not to mention the fun music! To get into the feel of the time, I constantly played The Andrews Sisters, Frank Sinatra, and Louis Armstrong. These old crooners definitely got me “In the Mood.”
My co-author and I also interviewed five real-life Rosie the Riveters in Seattle. Talk about wild! These ladies still show the spunk they had back in the forties. One lady, Georgie Kunkel, started singing, “Accentuate the Positive” and started dancing around her house. It was really fun.
What did you learn about life in Seattle during the war years?
Digging into Seattle’s role thrilled me too. I had no idea Seattle was such an important hub. The men and women at Boeing cranked out about 350 airplanes each month. These B-17s and B-29s were pivotal in winning the war.
Also, Pike Place Market basically died during those days. Pre-war it swarmed with activity, much like today. But most of the fruit, fish, and flower stands were owned by Japanese. So since the Japanese were shipped away to internment camps, the Market stayed empty.
I found out lots of other really cool historical facts about Seattle: Playland (an amusement park that graced the area for thirty years), the Ferry Kalakala that was used to transport sailors to and from Bremerton, the camouflaged roof of the Boeing plant, and more. (To download a free illustrated list of Seattle fun facts, visit www.ocieanna.com)
Are there other WW2 stories you’d love to write, taking root in your mind?
I learned that women also played a pivotal role in the war in their work as nurses. There were hospital trains that transported wounded soldiers home after returning from overseas. I’d love to delve into that subject a bit more.
How did the research for this book affect you? The heart, strength, and selflessness of both the military men and the folks on the home front amazed and inspired me.
Are you more patriotic today because of having written Victory Heights?
Absolutely. The people during WWII all worked together. Folks at home felt it was just as much their duty to help win the war as those fighting. In spite of their own losses and struggles, they worked hard at rationing, salvaging materials used for weapons and supplies, planting victory gardens, buying war bonds, some even knitted socks to keep soldiers’ feet warm. They were always busy helping our boys overseas. I realized how I take our fighting men for granted and have tried to write letters to the troops and encourage others to support them more. I also put the soldiers on my prayer list. I especially remember the ones I know and their families, but I also pray for those I don’t know.
We’re blessed to live in this amazing country where we can worship God freely. It’s natural to be concerned over our government’s shortcomings, but I try not to forget to be grateful for what we have—and to teach my kids to do the same.
Victory Heights addresses the subject of guilt. What can you tell us about guilt and how to deal with it?
My character Rosalie whole-heartedly throws herself into working for the war effort. When her fiancé is killed in the war, she struggles with an overwhelming sense of guilt:
Fact was, she didn’t know if she would’ve walked the aisle with the man who loved her. She cared for him, always had, but their time apart had crystallized the reality of her heart. She didn’t love him like a wife should love a husband. She knew back then she couldn’t marry him, not under the guise of being in love. So rather than planning a spring wedding, she’d intended to gaze into Vic’s trusting eyes and place the ring back in his hand—breaking his heart once and for all.
Then he was dead. Gone. And Rosalie lived amidst the shambles of heartbreak and guilt. I should’ve been grateful that you loved me. I should’ve freely given you my heart—you deserved it. Rosalie fingered the empty place on her finger where she used to wear Vic’s diamond ring. “But I didn’t,” she whispered.
She kissed the Kodacolor photograph of Vic and put it back in her pocket. “I’m sorry, Vic.” She’d make it up to him the only way she could. She’d rivet those planes till no other girl’s man had to die. She’d rally the folks at home to salvage and save and work—all for the war. To end the war. “I’ll make you proud, Vic. You’ll see.”
What Rosalie had to face was that feeling guilty came because she sensed she was unable to live up to a standard she created for herself to “make it up” to Vic.” Like Rosalie, I also create my own set of rules. Sadly I often base it on comparing myself with other women. “I should have a perfect home like she does.” “That woman never yells at her kids.” “She’s a more supportive wife than I am.” “Look at her volunteering at church. I should do more.”
What happened in your own life that has taught you about guilt?
The reason I chose to use guilt as a theme for Victory Heights is because I’m really good at feeling guilty! You could call me an expert. Especially in my early teens and twenties, I never felt like I could please God. Then when I became a mom the feelings of inadequacy surged even greater. I’d sit on my couch just staring, feeling like a complete failure as the kids ran around me.
How did you overcome the guilt?
Like Rosalie, the only thing that could get me out of guilt prison was the grace of God. And, oddly, when I realized I truly am guilty of sinning against His will, the feelings of guilt lifted. How? I was setting a standard too high for me to reach, but God’s standard is infinitely higher! I kept thinking if I just tried hard enough, I’d become good enough (to meet my own expectations). But when I grasped my complete inability to please Him on my own (by striving to be the perfect wife, mother, friend, housekeeper, etc.), I finally understood my need for Christ. What a relief to finally admit I could never meet God’s high calling on my own. What a relief when Christ came in and offered free forgiveness and grace. It put a smile in my heart that never goes away.
Rosalie and I were both trying to please God by our own efforts instead of resting on the completed work of Jesus. Resting…what a concept! When I finally let go of the steering wheel and hid under the shelter of His wings, guilt flew away and was replaced by peace and joy. Happily ever after.
Ocieanna has written two books with co-author Tricia Goyer, Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington, and Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana. She also writes a bi-monthly column for the Northwest Christian Author. She frequently speaks at moms’, writers’, teens’, and homeschool groups. Find her at www.ocieanna.com. She’d love to get to know you.
If you’d like a chance to win a free copy of Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington, leave a comment about your favorite patriotic memory. It can be something from your own past or a bit of American history. Giveaway ends July 10. US addresses only, please.