Below is my interview with T.H.E. Hill, the author of The Day Before the Berlin Wall. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did.
1) Despite the serious historical events taking place in The Day Before the Berlin Wall, it was written with humor. I loved the humor; it made the story very entertaining. What inspired you to write this book in such a manner? Do all of your books have this same kind of humor present?
Answer: Yes, actually all my books display a sense of humor. If you liked the humor in The Day Before the Berlin Wall, you will probably enjoy the humor in Voices Under Berlin: The Tale of a Monterey Mary even more.
Voices Under Berlin" did not start out to be a humorous novel, but I'm one of those authors who creates the setting for a book in his head, and then listens to the voices of the characters as they move about in this setting. All I do is write down what they say. Every time I put the characters 'on page' in the set-up for a new chapter, the characters decided that the story should be funny. In retrospect, the characters' decision to make it a funny book was a good one. Iíve gotten some very good reactions to the humor in Voices Under Berlin. One reader said that he laughed so hard that he almost fell out of his chair. Others have compared it to Catch-22. You're the first to comment on the humor in The Day Before the Berlin Wall.
The same thing happened when I was writing The Day Before the Berlin Wall. While the story itself is very serious--the fate of Berlin and the post-war peace in Europe hang in the balance--the humor stems from something I learned long ago that I included in the novel. As my main character, Marc Logan, starts to come to grips with the terrible situation he is in, he says: "I was trying to think positive like they had told us to in training. 'A positive mental attitude,' said the instructor, 'may be the only thing that keeps you on the warm side of the thin red line that separates the quick from the dead.'"
Humor is one way to maintain a positive mental attitude. At work, we used to say: "you don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps." Being able to laugh at the insane things going on around you was the only way to maintain your own sanity. This thought is also paraphrased in The Day Before the Berlin Wall when Marc Logan says: "That wasnít an entirely sane thought, but realizing that it was somewhat on the other side of the line that separated lunacy from sanity did show that I hadnít gone completely around the bend." The characters in my novels clearly remembered the value of keeping your sense of humor in tight spots, and brought it to the novels with them. I didn't plan it that way.
2) While a member of the armed forces, you served in Germany. Are any of the characters based on those you met while in Germany?
Answer: The characters in my novels are amalgams of people I knew, and people I heard about, and of various incarnations of myself. They are the people with whom I fought the Secret Cold War. They were some of the most extraordinary people I've ever met in my life. They were so full of intelligence and energy that you could almost see the sparks flying off of them. They are actually the reason that I decided to write a novel. I wanted to record what it was like to fight the Secret Cold War for posterity.
When their children ask "What did you do in the Cold War?," most Secret Cold War veterans, have to say something trite, like "If I told you, I'd have to shoot you." I wanted to give voice to some of their stories so that they would not disappear when the generations of Marc Logans who are sworn to silence shuffle off this mortal coil. My novels may not be exactly the story that each and every one of them would like to tell, but they are close enough so that people who fought the Secret Cold War in places other than Berlin say that they felt right at home while reading them. I wanted Secret Cold War vets to be able to answer their children and grandchildren with: "I can't tell you exactly, but why don't you read one of T.H.E. Hill's books?" A number of Secret Cold War veterans have done just that.
For those of you who would like to purchase your own copy of The Day Before the Berlin Wall, below I have provided a link to Amazon. Also, I have provided a link for another of Mr. Hill's books, Voices Under Berlin: The Tale of a Monterey Mary.