Thursday, May 19, 2011

How Huge the Night - and Giveaway - and interview

contest information below

Authors: Heather Munn and Lydia Munn
Publisher: Kregel Publications
April 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8254-3310-8
Genre: Inspirational/young adult

Julien Losier is fifteen years old. Hitler’s troops have just started their invasion, and his family feels they’ll be safer in the south of France than in Paris. But Julien doesn’t want to run. The boys in the town don’t accept him and won’t let him play soccer; he is made fun of in school. But things get worse when his family take in a fifteen year old Jewish boy named Benjamin. News is grim when the family huddles around the radio at night. Julien becomes angry and frustrated, but is unable to do anything.

Nina and her brother Gustov are Jewish orphans. Right before their father died, he gave them detailed plans to get them to safety. Unfortunately, none of his plans worked and soon Nina and Gustov find themselves without a plan, reacting to circumstances. After they are robbed of everything they own, they do manage to make it out of Austria, but instead of safety, they find themselves not even one step ahead of the German army. And not every place was accepting of two Jewish orphans.

As the Germans invade France, Julien and the Jewish refugees are thrown together in a conflict too big for them to understand. But is it possible that there is a greater purpose in the shadows of this terrible war? Will their choices put them in greater danger?

HOW HUGE THE NIGHT is based on actual events. As I started to the book, I tried to remember whether Germany invaded France I tried to remember the details. Did they go to the south of France? Would Julien and his family be safe there? I seemed to remember that the Germans did stop near or at Paris, but I wasn’t sure. I found the parts written in Nina’s and Gustov’s points of views the most compelling. Their chapters were very short, but they were in grave danger the entire time and I had to keep reading… But Julien was a confused, hurting, angry fifteen year boy. He was struggling to fit in, struggling to understand the war, and there were more struggles added.

HOW HUGE THE NIGHT is a wonderful coming of age story set during a horrible period of time. The historical events are faithful to the actual events of World War II, and young adult readers will learn a lot about this particular historical time during the pages of this book. Excellent for homeschoolers, for church libraries, for school libraries, and for young adults. Highly recommended. $14.99. 304 pages.

Kregel Publications is sponsoring an $50 giveaway.

About the Giveaway!

To enter all you have to do is send a tweet (using #litfuse) about How Huge the Night or share about it on Facebook!

If you tweet we'll capture your entry when you use the hashtag (#litfuse). If you share it on Facebook or your blog, just email us and let us know ( Easy.

Not sure what to tweet/post? Here's an idea.

TWEET THIS: How Huge the Night - compelling, coming-of-age drama that will keep teens and adults alike turning the pages! #litfuse

FACEBOOK THIS: How Huge the Night by Heather & Lydia Munn is a compelling, coming-of-age drama that will keep teens and adults alike turning the pages late into the night!

Or: Leave a comma here at this blog answering Lydia's question (NOT on facebook) to possibly win a copy. Void where prohibited by law.

About How Huge the Night:

Fifteen-year-old Julien Losier just wants to fit in. But after his family moves to a small village in central France in hopes of outrunning the Nazis, he is suddenly faced with bigger challenges than the taunting of local teens. Nina Krenkel left her country to obey her father's dying command: Take your brother and leave Austria . Burn your papers. Tell no one you are Jews. Alone and on the run, she arrives in Tanieux , France , dangerously ill and in despair.

Thrown together by the chaos of war, Julien begins to feel the terrible weight of the looming conflict and Nina fights to survive. As France falls to the Nazis, Julien struggles with doing what is right, even if it is not enough-and wonders whether or not he really can save Nina from almost certain death.

Based on the true story of the town of Le Chambon-the only French town honored by Israel for rescuing Jews from the Holocaust-How Huge the Night is a compelling, coming-of-age drama that will keep teens turning the pages as it teaches them about a fascinating period of history and inspires them to think more deeply about their everyday choices.

Link to buy the book:

About the Munn's:

Heather Munn was born in Northern Ireland and grew up in southern France where her parents were missionaries like their parents before them. She has a BA in literature from Wheaton College and now lives in a Christian intentional community in rural Illinois , where she and her husband, Paul, host free spiritual retreats for the poor, especially those transitioning out of homelessness or addiction. When not writing or hosting, she works on the communal farm.

Lydia Munn, daughter of missionary parents, grew up in Brazil . She received a BA in literature from Wheaton College , and an MA in Bible from Columbia Graduate School of Bible and Missions. With her husband, Jim, she has worked in church planting and Bible teaching since 1983, notably in St. Etienne, near the small town in the central mountains of France which forms the background of How Huge the Night. The Munns now live in Grenoble, France.


Why do you write the kind of books you do?
Heather: I wrote How Huge the Night for my Mom, at least at first. It did come to be very rewarding because I like to write about people who are up against more than they can handle & who have to let go of the illusion that they're in control of their lives. I also write stories re-telling events from the Bible, basically for the same reason! You look at stories in the Bible, God really strips away people's illusions, and it's very painful, and then when they're at their lowest point he gives them something better & more real than they imagined. I think that's amazing.

Lydia: I write books that I would enjoy reading. Basically that means that they are driven by the characters, and not mainly by the plot. I want to learn to care deeply about the characters of the books I read.

Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
Heather: My wedding day. I used to think I'd never say that because it implies it was downhill from there, but the truth is, the joy was more concentrated on my wedding day. We'd been waiting so long, and we were so happy the day had finally come. We had a simple, not very “perfect” wedding, outdoors with guests sitting on folding chairs, the bridesmaids wearing their own dresses, & contra-dancing at the reception—and wow, we had fun.

Lydia: My husband Jim had been away for a month, traveling in Iran during the period of Islamic revolution which ended with the Shah of Iran being ousted. I had no way of communicating with him for a whole month, though he was able to send enough news for me to know that he was okay. But the day when we were finally reunited was wonderful. And better yet, I had news to tell him! While he was gone I had learned that we were going to have a baby. Our first.

How has being published changed your life?
Heather: Not a whole lot. Some people I know view my writing differently now I'm getting paid for it, but it's the same to me. It sure is nice to know that people out there are reading the book, though, and to read reviews. I always love hearing that someone's enjoyed it.

Lydia: Not much, yet. It means people ask a lot of questions (like these!) and conversations tend to center around the book. I hope people will continue to see me as an ordinary wife, mother, teacher, Christian, and not only as a writer of this book.

What are you reading right now?
Heather: I just finished reading Enemy of God by Bernard Cornwell, which is a re-imagining of the King Arthur myth set among Celtic tribes in Britain just after the fall of Rome. Really good book, feels very historically accurate.

Lydia: A book about the French resistance during World War II, a book about how to care for aging parents, and A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens (not for the first time)

What is your current work in progress?
Heather: A sequel to How Huge the Night, focusing this time on Magali, Julien's sister. As the war progresses, she gets involved with the work of a young woman who gets kids out of the internment camps where the collaborationist Vichy government was locking up Jews and other “undesirables.”

What would be your dream vacation?
Heather: I'd really like to go to Israel. I like to write stuff based on Biblical stories and being really grounded in the setting is really important to me when I write. Sometimes I feel like that's missing so what I'd really love is to have a lot of time to spend immersing myself in the culture. Take a walking tour around Lake Galilee, sleep in a tent. Something like that.

Lydia: a small, attractive inn high in the mountains in the Alps or the Appalachians, with good food cooked by someone besides me, hiking trails, beautiful views, and lots of peace and quiet.

How do you choose your settings for each book?
Heather: If at all possible, it has to be a place I know really well. Setting is important to me because I want to communicate a rich experience, and when people ignore their physical surroundings & the place they live in they don't tend to experience things richly. So, it has to be a place that I'm really connected to. A lot of times that means France.

If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
Heather: Quite a few dead people come to mind! But for someone currently alive, I think I might pick Katherine Paterson. I love her books; they are what showed me that young adult novels could be literature. I've heard her speak at a conference, and I like her way of thinking and her sense of humor. I think she'd be a wonderful person to talk with.

Lydia: It would be great fun to be able to discuss literature once more with Dr. Beatrice Batson, one of my Wheaton professors, and one of the best teachers I ever had.

What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
Heather: In the summer I garden a lot—partly as my daily work (to help with the small-scale farm run by friends here in the community) and partly because I enjoy it a great deal (on the good days!) At home I grow flowers, a little vegetable patch of my own, and an herb garden that I keep expanding. This morning I found that my marshmallow plants seem to be coming up, so I'm excited about that. I also love wandering in the woods, learning about the plants and trees, and trying to figure out where the coyotes live that I hear howling at night. In the winter I like to sit by the fire, cross-stitch, and split wood. I love splitting wood. It's so satisfying.

Lydia: Gardening, cross-stitch embroidery.

What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
Heather: The blank page and I are not friends. I'm not good at coming up with stuff from scratch, which is the main reason I have done re-tellings and collaborative projects! Not that I never write from scratch. It's good to work on your weaknesses, but you are also allowed to work around them sometimes!

Lydia: I need quiet and a rested mind to be able to do creative work. There are periods of life when busyness and stress make these hard to come by.

What advice would you give to a beginning author?
Heather: Three things. First, don't hang your self-esteem on it. It's a terrible place to get your self-esteem from. Second, write for the joy of it. Write what you love to write, enjoy the process, and don't think about getting published until you've got something you're really satisfied with and that people really enjoy. Third, reading really good books and practicing is better than getting any kind of post-graduate degree in writing.

Lydia: Read a lot of well-written books (including classics) of the kind you want to write. They help give a taste for good story telling. Share your efforts with others, writers or non-writers, and take what seems good from their advice. Write, and then revise. Keep trying!

Tell us about the book.
Heather: It's a story about coming of age in a very scary time in history. Julien, a French fifteen-year-old, is trying hard to make a place for himself as “the new guy from Paris” in the village in southern France his family has just moved to—just as WWII begins. As Germany invades his world changes beyond recognition—over and over again. Nina, a sixteen-year-old Jewish girl in Austria, promises her dying father that she will follow his instructions and flee the country with her younger brother—but she cannot even imagine the dangers she will meet on the way. Both of these teens face hard truths and hard choices that propel them towards adulthood fast.

Lydia: This novel is based on a story from World War II in France that I discovered while living here. It’s one I’ve wanted to tell for twenty years. Julien, the protagonist, is coming of age in a very unusual town in central France, at a time of crisis for himself and for his country.

Is there anything interesting about this book that you want us to know?
Heather: Mom and I worked very hard on making it as “true”, in a fictional sense, as we could. All the history in it is true, down to the political speeches, all except for one thing they hear on the radio that's false because it was Allied propaganda. Even some of the fictional events are based on similar true events. Because we wanted to respect the reality of what happened.

Lydia: Coauthoring this book with Heather has enriched and deepened the story beyond what I could have made it on my own. It is her writing that makes the book one I hope you will love.

What influence has living in France had on the writing of this book?
Heather: Probably neither of us would have written this book if we hadn't lived in France. I think I put all my love for France into it, and was glad of the chance to show the side of France a lot of Americans never get to see: the little towns in farming country, the ordinary people who are so grounded in their culture and traditions, and in the land. I love that land very much… the hills and the genĂȘt bushes, the little footpaths and little patches of woods, the stone farmhouses, the wilder places with boulders and wild blueberries carpeting the ground. I think that probably comes through in the book!

Lydia: When you live in a country for almost thirty years, you grow to love it and its people. I’m glad to be able to tell a very positive story that comes from France, to counter the negative opinions that I often find when visiting the USA. Living close to the area where the events happened also made it relatively easy to get a good sense of the context of the story. For instance, I used the actual home of friends of ours who lived in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon as the model for the Losier’s home in Tanieux.

Tell us why you wrote this book.
Heather: Largely because Mom asked me to and I wanted to help make her dream a reality. I also agreed with her that the story deserved to be told, and I did really come to love the book and the characters as I worked on it.

Lydia: I learned about what happened in the town of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon after I had already lived in France for about ten years. At that point I wanted to learn more, and I became more and more convinced that this was a story that was well worth telling. I also knew that it was not well known in the English speaking world. So began a long process of research, writing several drafts, and finally working with Heather to produce the book.

How much research was involved in writing about historical events? How did you know how much historical detail to provide?
Heather: Mom did almost all the research, which was a lot. I was very lucky; I could ask her anything I wanted to know and she knew. I did try to immerse myself in the feel of the period somewhat through documentaries. I'm interested in history chiefly as story, and that means giving the details that affect the characters' lives. In this book, you get details about Germany's invasion of France because Julien is glued to the radio, trying to convince himself there's some way it can be stopped. You also get details of the anti-Semitic laws passed after the defeat because Julien's family is boarding a Jewish boy named Benjamin.

Lydia: I have always felt that wartime is a fascinating period to study, though difficult at times, because war is so ugly. War brings out the worst in many people. But it brings out the best in others. And that best shines all the brighter for the very dark context in which you find it. My own interest in this period of French history came about because I wanted to tell the Le Chambon story. I read all the primary sources I could find, visited the town, and talked with a few people who had lived through the events. I also read all that I could about World War II seen from the French viewpoint.

Do you have any plans to develop these characters or this story further?
Heather: Yes, Mom and I are working on a sequel that focuses on Magali, Julien's younger sister, who was a minor character in How Huge the Night. We see the next period of the war through her eyes: the crack-down on Jews (and other foreigners) getting worse, the organized rescue and resistance movements starting to find their feet.

What is the story behind the story?
Heather: It's the story of a small French town called Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, kind of in the middle of nowhere, where something very unusual happened during World War II: not only did a large number of people there get involved in taking in and hiding Jewish refugees (especially children), but the whole town became a kind of safe haven for them. It's like there was a tacit agreement among everybody to protect them. And they were remarkably effective, too: over the course of the whole war, only one Nazi raid ever found a handful of the thousands of people in hiding there. It was a town of about 3,000 people and over the course of the war they saved the lives of at least 3,000 Jews—some say as many as 5,000.

What do you hope readers take away from reading How Huge is the Night?
Heather: I’d love readers to understand the title. That phrase is from a scene in which Benjamin explains to Julien just how scary the Nazis really are. He doesn't have details, he doesn't really know what the Nazis are going to do, but he knows they are coming—and Julien gets this very intense feeling: “suddenly he felt how large the world was, how huge the night, how small they stood on the road in the light of the waning moon.” It's that sense of our own smallness, of how little we know and how little we can necessarily do. A lot of WWII books about rescuing Jews focus on teens getting a chance to be heroes, but this one is more about teens faced with realities that are too big for them, and figuring out what to do in the face of that. I think that's true—that life is too big for us—and that truth drives us to humility and to dependence on God.

Lydia: I was struck, when I first learned about what happened in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon during the war, with the fact that people made the choice to help Jews in a country where most people did the exact opposite. I asked myself, why were they able to do so? One thing I hope readers will see in Julien’s story is that choices are important. But also, that all is not lost if you make a mistake. Julien does not always choose well. Part of his growing up is to learn to acknowledge those mistakes and learn, with God’s help, to do it right the next time.

What one question would you like us to ask your readers?
Heather: I love conversations. I’d love to know if any moment or person or situation in the book remind you of a person or situation you've known? How and why? I invite readers to come visit our website at, and answer the question in our forum there and we can have a conversation.

Lydia: Does this book contribute to your understanding of the country of France, or change in any way what you think of it?


Ann Lee Miller said...

Thanks for the chance to win! This book sounds great.

splashesofjoy said...

Thanks for the interview and thanks for the chance to win this great book!

Diane said...

I also reviewed this book and enjoyed it. Have a super week! :O)

Heather Munn said...

Thanks for reviewing How Huge the Night! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for posting the interview as well.