Q&A: Tracy Groot
Tracy Groot was working as an accounts payable clerk in a big corporation when she realized she would rather write. Tracy wrote commercials for a year, quit to have a baby, and didn’t return to that writing job because by then she realized she really wanted to write books. Her latest novel is Flame of Resistance (Tyndale House).
You have written historical fiction set in Bible times, but Flame of Resistance resets the biblical account of Rahab during World War II—on the brink of D-Day, in fact. How did you first consider this combination?
I’d just finished Stephen Ambrose’s Pegasus Bridge, the fascinating story of the spearhead action of D-Day, as fought by the British Sixth Airborne. In the book, Ambrose mentioned a Germans-only brothel in the little town of Bénouville, in Normandy, France. A little “what if” must have lodged itself in the back of my brain: “Okay, so get this: brothel in Bénouville. Supposed to be for Germans only, right? But they join with the Resistance, see, and there’s a downed American pilot and a prostitute named Brigitte who works for the French Resistance ...” Stephen Ambrose got the ball rolling.
How different an experience was it writing this than a more traditional work of “biblical fiction”?
The elements in my ancient retellings are the same elements you’ll find in my contemporary retellings. I was pretty focused on the pigeonhole of ancient stories, until the H-U’s made me see that what I bring to that category is the same stuff I bring to another. Stuff like a sense of place, danger, peril, adventure, truth, characterization, a little romance ... When I focus on what I love about storytelling, I can write in whatever genre comes my way. This was a psychological breakthrough.
How important is it to know the biblical account when reading the book?
I don’t think you need to know the story of Rahab to enhance the reading of Flame of Resistance; it’s kind of fun to connect dots and draw parallels after the fact, if at all. Having said that, knowing the story of Rahab may deepen the reading. For example, I read the book of Hosea before I read Francine Rivers’s Redeeming Love, and it deepened the story for me.
What kind of research did you do for Flame of Resistance?
I needed to approach this book differently than, say, Madman. Since this story deals with a recent historical event with exhaustive documentation, I needed to be more sure than ever of dotted i’s and crossed t’s. I wanted a strong sense of place for the novel, so my husband and I spent time in Bénouville, Normandy, to get the lay of the land and the feel for the book. I also had the privilege of interviewing elderly people who provided direct source information, including French, Dutch, British, and American folk. I learned about living under German occupation, about P-47s, the correct way to handle a rifle, tactics and strategies of the French Resistance, and yes, the inner workings of a brothel (!) (In case you’re wondering, I didn’t conduct interviews for that—just tracked down some books and did a lot of reading ...) I was also able to get my hands on the original transcript of the interrogation of an American pilot at a camp in Trieste, Italy. Much of the experience of my pilot in the book is based on this transcript. It even introduced me to a few historical figures whom I would end up including as characters in my story, including Krista Hegel and Sturmbannführer Schiffer. Research is an amazing catalyst for story, and you meet the most amazing people—folks who become friends for life!
What do you want readers to take away from Flame of Resistance?
First, entertainment and diversion. That’s the job of a storyteller, and if that’s the number one takeaway, then color me happy. Second, if I can convey a greater understanding of what Allied forces went through to win the war, if I can make the reader have a better feel for what went on behind different curtains on the approach to D-Day, if I can put the reader in the shoes of a prostitute who may remind them of another prostitute from the book of Joshua, if I can make the reader have a better understanding that not every German was a Nazi, and that the French didn’t just lay down arms when their country was taken ... well, then color me happier.