Where Treasure Hides is about a Dutch-American artist, her father’s greatest masterpiece, and the Nazi officer obsessed with having both.
But of course, it’s much more than that. Alison Schuyler, whose grandfather owns an art gallery in Rotterdam, is intent on protecting the city’s artistic masterpieces from the looting Nazis. The man she loves, British officer Ian Devlin, fights at the Battle of Dunkirk and is captured as a prisoner-of-war, As they fight their own personal battles, Alison and Ian strive to entrust their future into God’s hands.
Sounds interesting. How did you come up with the concept for this book?
While researching various aspects of WWII history for another manuscript, I watched a documentary called The Rape of Europa. It’s about Hitler’s well-orchestrated attempt to steal Europe’s most cherished art for an extensive museum he planned to build in his hometown of Linz, Austria. What Hitler didn’t claim for his own purposes, other highly placed Nazis did.
I was fascinated not only by the thefts, but also the attempts to hide and protect the art. Even before I had a main character, I knew this would be a major theme in the story.
What are you working on now? Do you have a release date for this book?
I’m currently finishing up the second book in the series tentatively titled, Love’s Deeper Season, which releases in September 2016. The third book will appear in May 2017.
Do you write in more than one genre? If so, why?
Writing in two genres wasn’t in my plan. I love historical fiction and have ideas for a few more novels in that genre. But God has directed my journey onto a dual-genre path.
After publishing Where Treasure Hides, my acquisition editor asked if I had a contemporary. I pulled out a manuscript I’d been playing with since 2005 when it appeared as a NaNoWriMo draft. It was the first manuscript I’d taken to writers conferences, and I’d rewritten the opening chapters several times.
Finally, the opening scene received a Bronze Medal in the My Book Therapy Frazier contest.
Based on the judges’ feedback, I rewrote the opening scene one more time—and from another character’s point of view.
The proposal garnered attention from a few publishers, and I signed a three-book contract with Revell.
I love my contemporary stories, but I still love historical fiction, too. Hopefully, I’ll find fans in both genres.
Are you a pantser or a plotter? Linear or non-linear writer?
On the pantser/plotter spectrum, I land left of center. However, I think of myself more as an intuitive writer than a pantser. Though I have an idea of where the story is going, or at least specific events to write toward, I do very little plotting.
I start at the beginning, getting to know my characters and being surprised by them and the story. Though I rarely write scenes out of order, I often write new scenes while revising. I find it helpful to begin the revising process before reaching the end of the story. The more solid of a foundation I have, the easier it is to move forward.
Tell us about your writing space.
I write at the kitchen table. It’s set in a rectangular nook so there’s a window directly ahead and also one to the side. The house is perched near the top of a Tennessee hill so the large yard slopes to the road.
The alpaca herd (yes, you read that right) wanders past the windows throughout the day, and sometimes I see the littlest ones racing around the yard. Cardinals, bluejays, and other feathered friends flit among the trees.
All that wildlife sounds distracting. Most writers are readers, too. What’s the book you are reading now?
Once Beyond a Time by Ann Tatlock which is so good it distracts me from writing; A Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp; a book on how we read; a book on math principles; and two writing books.
Most writers love books—our walls are lined with them. Name 3 favorite writing craft books on your shelves, 3 fiction books (and the genre), and if you have them, 3 different magazines you read regularly.
Story Trumps Structure by Steven James
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King
Dancing on the Head of a Pen: The Practice of a Writing Life by Robert Benson
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien
I love going to the movies. Do you? If so, what was the most recent movie you’ve seen?
I love going to the movies and seeing epic films on the big screen. A friend and I recently headed to the cinema after church to see San Andreas. Wow!
Before that, I saw The Woman in Gold twice. Anyone interested in WWII art theft should see this movie which is based on true events.
We wanted to see The Woman in Gold, but missed it. Do you have an all-time favorite movie that has stuck in your mind or that you’d watch over and over?
Classic movies are my favorite, and several Cary Grant films show up in my contemporary series. It’s too hard to pick one, but for repeated viewing, let’s go with Notorious (Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman); Pride and Prejudice (the A&E version with Colin Firth); and, oh my, I’m going to say Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl because I actually went to see it in the theaters nine times! (What can I say? The dialogue intrigued me.)
Name three interesting things most people don’t know about you.
I’m only a couple of generations away from being a hillbilly (and I say that with pride).
I once got an obstinate two-hundred pound pig inside a dog crate all by myself.
On two occasions—yes, two!—I’ve taken medication meant for my dog.
It’s been a pleasure having you here today. As you say goodbye, can you leave the readers with an encapsulation of your life’s philosophy? (a quote, a Bible verse, a precept you live by or have tried to instill in your children?)
Making memories together is more important than material things.
I love that my adult children believe this as deeply as I do and are instilling this same value into their children.
One of my favorite verses, which is also Alison’s in Where Treasure Hides is Proverbs 31:25 which says, “Strength and dignity are her clothing; and she smiles at the future.”
Where Treasure Hides
by Johnnie Alexander
Artist Alison Schuyler spends her time working in her family’s renowned art gallery, determined to avoid the curse that has followed the Schuyler clan from the Netherlands to America and back again. She’s certain that true love will only lead to tragedy—that is, until a chance meeting at Waterloo station brings Ian Devlin into her life.
Drawn to the bold and compassionate British Army captain, Alison begins to question her fear of love as World War II breaks out, separating the two and drawing each into their own battles. While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. But safety is a luxury war does not allow.
As time, war, and human will struggle to keep them apart, will Alison and Ian have the faith to fight for their love, or is it their fate to be separated forever?
After they first meet at Waterloo Station in London, England, Alison and Ian go to Minivers, a nearby tea shoppe, for their renowned cherry scones.
As Ian devoured one of the dainty sandwiches in two bites, Alison stifled a giggle.
“Papa said he could leave here hungrier than when he came in. If not for the scones.”
Ian nodded in agreement as another petite sandwich disappeared. “Is your father an artist too?”
“He is. Was.” Alison twirled her finger around the rim of her teacup. “The Van Schuyler Fine Arts Gallery has been a renowned Rotterdam institution for almost three hundred years.”
“What happened to your ‘Van’?”
“Papa emigrated to America and dropped it somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. At least, that’s the story he used to tell me when I was young. I was born in Chicago.”
“But now you live in Rotterdam.”
“With my grandfather, yes. He owns the family gallery.”
“And your parents? Are they still in Chicago?”
“Papa . . . travels.”
“For the gallery?”
“Mostly for himself.” Alison felt Ian’s gaze upon her as she added more tea to her cup. “You’re wondering about my mother.”
“You haven’t mentioned her.”
Alison stared at her cup for a moment. The words were never easy, but she had learned over the years to keep them few and simple. “She died shortly after my fifth birthday.”
Not unexpectedly, sympathy appeared in Ian’s eyes. That was how most people responded when hearing her forlorn explanation. But unlike most people, Ian didn’t look embarrassed or awkward. “That’s a difficult wound to heal,” he said gently.
“Papa never painted again.” The words slipped out without warning, and Alison coughed with surprise. She had buried that truth deep inside, had felt churning anger when her grandfather condemned his son for throwing away his talent. But she used them as an excuse for him, her personal consolation to explain Pieter Schuyler’s paternal lapses. Unfortunately, the excuse, a double-edged sword, only compounded her loneliness. Eventually she had lost her father, too.
“We were fine for a while.” Alison held her cup with both hands, staring into its depths as if to find some explanation for the odd willingness to share her family history with a stranger. But she wanted Ian to know. Somehow it felt right to tell him. “Our gallery was small but reputable. The clientele was growing and Papa seemed to be coping with his grief. Then the stock market plummeted. Taking our gallery with it.”
The Great Crash. October 1929. It hadn’t meant much to Alison, caught up in her little girl world of school lessons and china dolls. But only a few short months later, that innocent childhood had grown frighteningly dark.
“Our clients couldn’t pay their accounts; no one could afford our paintings.” She shrugged, trying to lessen her embarrassment at the family’s financial failure. Of course, men with more savvy than Papa had suffered just as much, perhaps even more. A few had killed themselves rather than face the shame of bankruptcy.
She shuddered, remembering the grown-up whispers she had overheard, Papa’s crying moans when he thought she was asleep. “There was an auction. We lost everything.”
Ian reached across the table and covered her fingers. His hand felt cool and strong against her skin, giving her the courage to face the long-buried memories. She didn’t pull away.
“Everything but The Girl in the Garden.” Her voice softened almost to a whisper as she imagined the painting. “My mother’s portrait.”
“She was his muse?”
“And his life. He painted it shortly after they met at Wrigley Field.”
“They were baseball fans?”
“No, that’s what was so strange. Neither of them particularly cared for sports. But it was love at first sight.” The Van Schuyler fate. But Ian didn’t need to know that.
Like what you read? Here’s a link to Chapter One
Johnnie Alexander writes inspiring stories that linger in the heart. Where Treasure Hides, her debut novel, won the ACFW Genesis Contest (2011) and Golden Leaf Award (2014). The first of her three contemporary romances, Where She Belongs (Misty Willow Series), releases from Revell in January 2016.
She also has won Best Novel and Best Writer awards (Florida Christian Writers Conferences), and Bronze Medalist (My Book Therapy Frasier Contest).
A graduate of Rollins College (Orlando) with a Master of Liberal Studies degree, Johnnie treasures family memories, classic movies, road trips, and stacks of books. She lives in the Memphis area where her morning chores include feeding dogs, cats, chickens, and a small herd of alpacas.
Other books by Johnnie