Night of Flames: A Conversation with Historical Fiction Author Douglas W. Jacobson

Douglas W. Jacobson is an engineer, business owner and World War Two history enthusiast. Doug has traveled extensively in Europe researching stories of the courage of common people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. His debut novel, Night of Flames: A Novel of World War Two was published in 2007 by McBooks Press, and was released in paperback in 2008. Night of Flames won the “2007 Outstanding Achievement Award” from the Wisconsin Library association. Doug has also published articles on Belgium’s WW2 escape organization, the Comet Line and other European resistance organizations. Doug is finishing up his second historical novel set in Europe during WW2, focusing on one of history’s most notorious war crimes. Doug can be visited on-line at http://douglaswjacobson.blogspot.com and www.facebook.com/people/Douglas-W-Jacobson/1041418038.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Doug. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I am a life-long WW2 history enthusiast and have always had a desire to write. I started writing seriously in 2000 following a trip to Normandy and have been inspired by the personal accounts of my Belgian relatives who lived through the German occupation.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

Night of Flames is a story of the courage and determination displayed by ordinary people in the face of unimaginable danger. The main characters, Anna, a university professor in Krakow, Poland and her husband, Jan, a cavalry officer, become separated on the first day of the war. Through the long night of Nazi occupation Anna and Jan search for each other while fighting a covert war of sabotage and resistance against the overwhelming might of the German war machine. The struggle seems hopeless, but they are determined to take back what is theirs. I wrote this story to honor the courage of the common people caught up in humanity’s darkest hour.

What kind of research was involved in writing Night of Flames?

My research included extensive reading, internet searches, interviews, and personal travel to museums, archives, libraries and every location in Europe where the main segments of the story take place.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

It’s difficult to answer because I had no idea what to expect. Of course, I received many rejections from literary agents and publishers before finally succeeding in getting the book published, but I never became discouraged.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

Approximately a year and a half.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

I do not have an agent and never have. I have tried to interest some agents in my work but have had more success representing myself.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Yes. I’m just now finishing a second historical novel set in Europe during WW2 which focuses on one of history’s greatest war crimes.

Can you describe your most favorite place to write?

In Door County, Wisconsin, overlooking the bay of Green Bay.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

I would donate a hundred thousand dollars to Oprah’s favorite charity.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

I believe self-promotion is essential. There is only so much that any publisher will do to promote your book and the rest is up to the author. Off-line, I promote my book through offering to serve as a guest speaker at service clubs, historical societies, libraries, and other organizations. Given the setting of my book, I have also connected nationally with Polish-American and Belgian-American organizations, which has been very successful. This virtual book tour will be my first serious on-line attempt at promotion.

What’s the most common reason you believe new writers give up their dream of becoming published and did you almost give up?

I think they doubt their own ability and get discouraged by rejection. Though I became a bit discouraged at times, I never got to a point of wanting to give up. I have spent more than thirty years in business and I have learned that the most important personal attribute for success is perseverance.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

Stay the course! Get help from writers groups and writers roundtables, work hard at your craft and, above all, do not think negative thoughts. If you believe in what you’re doing and have the patience to persevere, things will work out.

Thank you for your interview, Doug. I wish you much success!

You are welcome.
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