Friday, June 1, 2012

Interview with Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy and a Giveaway!

Lee Ann, welcome to Hardcover Feedback! Would you tell us a little about yourself? 
I’m a rebel and a dreamer who lives in a small town in the Ozarks, a long way in more than distance from the urban blue collar neighborhood of my childhood. I’m married with three children. I spent a lot of time with my paternal grandparents as a child – they were my caregivers while my parents both worked. They raised me as they had their own children so I’ve always been a generational anomaly, out of sync with my own time just a little. Maybe it’s why I like history so much!

A lot of people are on Twitter these days, so can you describe In the Shadow of War for us in 140 characters or less (which is the size of a tweet)?
My new WWII romance with the drama, the angst, the love of two people from different backgrounds against the backdrop of the Second World War

When did you begin writing In the Shadow of War? What inspired this book and how much research was involved in writing it?
My first efforts at writing this novel were about three years ago but I couldn’t quite get the beginning right. Last summer, I sat down and decided this time I knew where to begin and it went from there. The book was inspired by the fact the small town where I live, Neosho, MO, was impacted in a huge way when the Army opened a training camp just outside town as World War II began. Although Camp Crowder (which Mort Walker, once stationed there, made into his fictional Camp Swampy for his Beetle Bailey strip) closed long ago, the remnants remain. I also grew up listening to stories about “the war” and I adore the music of the period. All the elements came together as inspiration. I did an amazing amount of research – even with my background which includes a BA in history. I read soldiers’ letters, local accounts of the 1940’s, visited the back country where bits of the Army camp remain, and more.

What or who made the biggest influence on you wanting to become a writer? 
It’s hard to narrow it down to one person because I had a lot of encouragement from family and friends but I’d have to choose Mr. Gary Sims, one of my high school English teachers. In high school, I was more like The Outsiders, SE Hinton’s classic YA novel than Sweet Valley High or High School Musical. Mr. Sims read one of my compositions aloud to the class, made them guess who wrote it (and no one guessed me) and proceeded to tell them it was the finest composition a student ever wrote in his class. It’s hanging on my office wall now, marked 100% A Beautifully Written…..and I dedicated one of my novels, Witness Protection Program to him although he’s now deceased.

What was the first book you ever wrote about and was it ever published?
The first serious effort – not counting my attempt to write a novel in the fifth grade – was an adaption of the ancient Irish story about Deirdre of the sorrows from the classic Táin Bó Cúailnge. And no, it hasn’t been published although I think I still have the MS tucked away in a box somewhere.

Do you have any writing habits that people might find unusual?
Since I bought my laptop, over a year ago, I take it to write in all kinds of places, at a local café, the park, out on my deck, library, hotel, anywhere. I get a few strange looks especially at the café because no matter where I’m at, I can tune out everything and focus.

Do you have a favorite character or one that is especially close to your heart?
I love them all, they’re like my kids in a way and my favorite is usually the one in the WIP I’ve just finished or the one I’m working on at a given time.

What is the best gift you have ever received, do you still have it and who gave it to you?
My grandmother gave me her cedar chest, the one her father bought for her graduation in 1912 filled with all kinds of family artifacts. It’s the best gift because it bridges the past to the present and all the treasures within are a never ending source of inspiration as well as encouragement.

What is something that you have always wanted to do, but just haven't gotten around to it yet?
I’d like to visit Alaska. It’s one place I haven’t been but I’d love to see it.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you hope to find in your suitcase? I’d want books, notebook and pens, and chocolate! Whoops – that’s four!

What is your all-time favorite book? “Gone With The Wind” by Margaret Mitchell. It’s not only the first adult book I ever read as a child but it has everything, romance, war, death, betrayal, survival!

Other than yourself, who is your favorite author?
Narrowing it down to one is hard. For what I read these days, I’d have to say it’s a toss up between Deborah Smith and Sandra Brown.

If a TV show was based on your life, what type of TV show would it be (i.e., comedy, drama, suspense, etc.) who would you choose to play the leading character (you), and what would the theme song be? Why?
It would have to be a reality show…with comic elements. My life is crazy with twin teenage daughters, a middle school aged son, a husband, a dog, and extended family like you wouldn’t believe. If it’s a reality show, I’d have to play myself….if it were anything else, I’d pick Kathy Bates and the theme song would be Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”!!

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Spare time? I think I remember the concept, lol. I like to read, research history and genealogy, travel, and just hang out on the front porch to enjoy the world around me.

Are you an early bird or a night owl?
By nature, I’m a night owl but circumstances (like my husband’s work schedule and having kids) force me to be an early bird.

If you were throwing a dinner party and you could invite five people (fictional or real, dead or alive), other than family or friends, who would you invite and why?
William Shakespeare, because he had to be an awesome person, Edna Ferber because I adore her novels even though they’re from long ago, Elvis Presley so he could tell me what he thinks about my Long Live The King time travel fantasy, Johnny Horton because he’s my favorite singer and Tommy Makem because he’s my other favorite singer.

If you had the opportunity to go anywhere you wanted, at anytime in history, where would you go and why?
I’d love to return to the 1800’s. to the days when the American frontier was real, not just a setting for Westerns. I would love to see this country before it became built up and industrialized.

What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a new historical novel if it will behave and settle into place.

Where can people connect with you online? 
A Page In The Life:
Rebel Writer: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy:

Thank you so much Lee Ann for being on Hardcover Feedback!

About In the Shadow of War:
Her great-granddaughter wants to know if Bette remembers World War II for a school project and her questions revive old memories…. Small town school teacher Bette Sullivan's life was interrupted when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941 but her world changed forever when she met Private Benny Levy, a soldier from the Flatbush neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York stationed at Camp Crowder, the local Army base. Their attraction is immediate and mutual but as their relationship grows their love and lives are shadowed by World War II. As the future looms uncertain the couple comes together with almost desperate need and a powerful love they hope can weather anything, including the war.


“Come on, we can sit here a while if you want,” Bette told him, settling her skirts beneath her as she sat on a step.  Ben lowered himself beside her, still holding her hand.

“God, this is really something.  We’ve got parks in Brooklyn, some of them nice, but nothing like this. Prospect Park’s got a lake and it’s great, but nothing like this.  Whaddya call it again?”

“Everyone just calls it the grotto,” Bette said with a smile.  She snuggled closer to him so her dimity dress and his tan khaki shirt touched.  His body heat contrasted with the cool of the spring and made her skin tingle.

“It’s peaceful,” he told her, voice just above a whisper. “It’s almost like church.  They all told me about the park, how to meet girls here, but no one mentioned this.  Thanks, Bette.”

“You’re welcome, Benny,” she replied, his name rolling off her tongue as if she’d used it all her life.  Then she recalled he’d said his mother used Benny. “Or do you prefer just Ben?”

Those delightful gray eyes met hers, candid and open. “You know, most people call me Ben and its okay by me.  My ma says Benny, my baby name, and so does my kid brother half the time, plus maybe a few old people from the neighborhood back home.  I don’t think I’d tell anyone else it’s kosher but yeah, you can call me Benny if you want.”

“Okay, Benny,” she said, trying it out again with permission.  She liked the familiarity of the nickname because it fit the connection she felt with him.   He must have sensed something similar because he put his arm around her and she rested against him, content.

They sat in easy silence for a few minutes, a comfortable time stretching out sweet and comfortable.

“Hey Bette?”


Ben Levy faced her and traced the line of her upper lip with one slow finger.  The sensation sent shivers through her with his touch lighter than a butterfly’s brush.

“Do you mind if I kiss you?”

She ached for his kiss.  “If you don’t, I’ll probably die.”

“I’ll take that as affirmative,” Ben said as he put his lips over hers.

His mouth joined hers with a soft caress evoking a deep tenderness within.  He kissed her like a porcelain doll, fragile and precious.  Bette’s emotions kindled as his lips shifted from sweet to heat and she returned his kiss.

Fever sparked between them with heat and the sweetness of the syrup she’d drizzled over her pancakes.  Bette tasted both coffee and his Lucky Strike cigarettes, but she didn’t mind.  His scent infused her with longing.   He smelled like a man, of soap and cigarettes and sweat and just something so quintessentially Ben Levy.  She’d kissed a few men, but no other kiss invoked her body and soul the way his did.  In his arms, she forgot Robbie claimed her as his girl and half the town believed it, too.

As they canoodled, her arm locked around his neck, one of his hands strayed so it touched her breast through thin fabric of her dress.  Bette allowed him the liberty and shocked herself even while she liked it.  She wondered just how far they might’ve gone if a sharp whistle hadn’t cut into their consciousness.

“Hey, Jew boy, is this the way you spend Sunday mornings?” a loud voice shouted above them.

Ben released her and turned around, bristling with irritation. “Whaddya want shmendrick?”

The unfamiliar word confused Bette and she scooted over as Benny found his feet.  She feared there might be a fight but the whistler, another soldier, snickered.

“I don’t want from nothing,” he said, in the same nasal accent. “I just wondered if your shiksa knows you’re not pure goy.”

Benny laughed and the men embraced.  Surprised, Bette stood up brushing her skirt and tugging it down to stay decent.  They babbled in a language she didn’t grasp putting her on the outside, left out.  Her happiness bubble threatened to burst until Benny put his arm around her shoulders.

“Bette, don’t think I’m crazy – this is an old buddy from Brooklyn.  We went to Erasmus Hall High together.  Moses Cohen, this is Bette Sullivan.”

“Pleased to meetcha,” Moses said with a bow. “Your ma’ll like this one, Benny, a good Irish girl.  Where’d you meet her?”

“Church,” Benny said. The word exited his mouth firm as a pebble. “You keep forgetting I’m really a shagetz.”

“You’re meshugeneh is what you are,” Private Cohen said. “So carry on, Private Levy, as you were.”

Church bells from the little Episcopal Church on the edge of the park pealed the noon hour as the other Brooklyn soldier headed off through the park at speed.

“Its noon,” Bette said, wondering just what all the talk meant.  He’d been at Mass so she wondered how he could be a Jew, too. What she knew about the Jewish faith could fit into one fingernail so she ignored the issues raised and stuck to something safe. “Aunt Virgie’s going to put dinner on the table soon.  We’d better go.”

She didn’t intend her voice to sound resentful but it came out sounding like a little girl’s whine and Benny stopped her at the top of the grotto steps. “Hey, baby, I know you got questions but it’s copasetic.  I got answers.”

The taut strings around her heart relaxed.  “So give them to me.”

“I’m Catholic, like you know already.  You seen me at Mass.  My ma’s Irish Catholic as they come, Mary O’Hara with my grandparents in Ireland, still there.  But my pop, he was Jewish, Aaron Levy.  He died not long after my fifteenth birthday. I’m from a mixed marriage, sweetheart, with a Jewish name and raised Catholic as the Pope.”

“Can’t you be both?”

“Nope, no dice,” Benny said with a wry smile never reaching his eyes.  “To be a real Jew, you gotta have a Jewish mama and I don’t.  So the Jews think I’m Irish, half my Irish relatives figure I’m really a Jew, it’s a crazy mess.  I’m just me, though, so take me or leave me.  I ain’t hidin’ nothing else.  I meant to tell you but Moe beat me to it.  So what do you think, Bette Sullivan?”

“I think I like you just the way you are, Benny Levy,” she replied, linking her arm through his. Her decision came fast and she’d stand by it. Whatever his heritage, whoever he might be, she meant it. She liked him and she didn’t care about his origins. “So let’s go eat dinner with my aunt, okay?”

Video Trailer:

Enter to win an e-copy of In the Shadow of War by Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy. Giveaway is open internationally! To enter, all you have to do is answer the madatory question, follow this blog in at least one way and then complete whichever extra entries you want in the Rafflecopter form below. If you are not familiar with how to use Rafflecopter HERE is a link to a how-to video. Giveaway ends June 24th at 11:59p.m. (e.s.t.). Good luck!


  1. Thanks for being a stop on my virtual book tour!

  2. I like stories set in WWII and this story sounds like a great one. I like that it looks at the Pearl Harbor aspect.

  3. I love books set in WWII. This sounds so good!

  4. I love romance and stories set during WWII. This one looks like a great love story. Great review

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