Monday, September 17, 2018

NBTM The Fortress by Madeleine Romeyer Dherbey

The Fortress
by Madeleine Romeyer Dherbey


GENRE:   WWII Historical



The war has not made much of difference in Alix’s life. Her father has seen to it that she grows up
unaware, unworried, but safe in her tiny village under the cliffs of the Vercors. All around her he has
built a fortress whose walls are impregnable—until the 27th of April, 1944. That day he makes a stupid
mistake up on the cliff, and the walls of the Fortress start crashing down. Reality breaks into Alix’s life
with unrelenting violence, unforeseen possibilities. From now on, every decision she makes will mean
life or death.


Six weeks before D-Days, a thousand kilometers from the beaches of Normandy.

There are no generals in the French Vercors, just a handful of men and women against the Nazi war
machine. They come from Bretagne, Paris, and Slovenia, and the villages up on the cliff. They are the


Excerpt Two:

“Honey, if anybody’s looking for it up here, it means you’re already dead. So it won’t matter to you.
Listen now. People will call you on the other phone, the one downstairs, and give you coded messages.
As a rule it will be about movements in our direction, Germans, Militia, or even new recruits for our
camps. Remember, the security of Mortval depends on you. Here is a list of codes. You must
memorize all of them and get rid of the list.”

She started to read. “The strawberries are in their juice. Your walnuts were wormy. You can’t put rabbit
in the cassoulet.” She looked up. “Are they all about food?”

“No. Read the next one.”

“Yvette préfère les grosses carrottes. Well?”

“Well, it’s not about food.”

“Yvette préfère… Oh. I understand now. Did you come up with that one?”

“I thought it would be memorable.”

“It’s lovely. I bet the British are impressed.”


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Madeleine Romeyer Dherbey was born in the French Alps, moved to the United States twenty-five years
later, and currently lives in the mountains of Virginia with her husband, two daughters, and Mikko.

Interview with Romeyer Dherbey
If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which would you choose?
I would choose Under the Northern star, a trilogy by Finnish author Väinö Linna, the saga of a poor Finnish family across three generations. In simple but vivid language, Linna makes a complex and emotionally charged historical portrait of Finnish society using every-day characters. He is so skilled at pulling you in, that in fact, it’s not so much the writer I wish I could have been, but a person living my own life among the characters of his book. He created my all-time favorite hero, Akseli Koskela, who personifies all the virtues I respect in a man, courage, persistence, humility, loyalty, honesty, generosity, even though he’s just a man, subject to emotional fragility we can all identify with.
What made you want to become a writer?
Never outside some very obscure recess of my consciousness did I ever think I could write a book, for a ton of—obviously invalid—reasons, the main one being, writing in a foreign language is rather daunting. I didn’t think I could pull it. With college, children, and job pressures, I didn’t have the time to even consider it. And I think I did not—could not—still do not—consider myself to be a writer. I see myself as a multifaceted person, like all of us, who happen to write as one of the things a person can do. I am a wife, a mother, a teacher, and a Christian before anything else. Then one year I had an easy assignment at school, which freed the mental space necessary for the creative process, and I couldn’t stop after that. Too many emotions accumulated over the years I felt ready to share, aches, regrets, angers, joys I had reprreseed and that came to the surface in the most flexible form of all, the roman-fleuve—river-novel, although in the case of The Fortress, it’s more of a roman-waterfall.

What is your favorite part of this book, and why?
Any scene Alix finds herself with Marc? I think I did a good job on building the tension between them, based on attraction and real conflict, and shaped by the violence that unfolds around them rather than unnatural drama or corny sexual prose. That love story made the writing almost hypnotic for me.
I am also proud of my battle scenes, and military arguments.

Are your characters based off real people, or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
Both. I grew in the Vercors mountains, near a village called Malleval which was destroyed by the Nazis in 1944. My uncles were accused of betraying the resistants encamped there, and while kids my age worried about the future, I wondered about what had really happened, and how my family was involved. Were they Nazis, did they cause their own neighbors to be murdered? When I felt ready, the characters just appeared, some jumping out of history books, others out of my childhood, and quite a few out of some recess of my mind where I didn’t know they were hiding. The inspiration came from an intense longing for that past, my past, the grandfather I never met, the father who still guides my decisions, the brother I never got to see all grown up.
Some characters are almost entirely made-up, like the Nazi major or Andre-the-traitor, and some are transposed, like Felix, the French militia interrogation expert. Some are cast after real historical players, like Father de Rosa, or Lovrenc, one of the Slovenes who died defending the Vercors against the Nazis. Marc is a composite of all the men I have loved, their steely strength and emotional secrets—no masculinity is too toxic there—and Alix the woman I wish I had been, I guess, calm but passionate, intelligent and organic. Isn’t it why we write, to re-invent ourselves?

If you could spend time with a character of your book, who would it be? What would you do during the day?
If my father is not an actual character as such, his spirit, personality, strength of character is what animates Marc, and Regis as well. I had a bad relationship with my father while he was alive, because I was a stupid, selfish, ignorant, liberally indoctrinated product of the seventies in France. I will forever mourn the wasted time and destructive arguments. I had a chance to make an amazing man proud and wasted it, to my eternal grief. Eusebe, Alix’s father in the Fortress, is closest to my dad, and the portrayal of their relationship is what I wish I could recapture. If I could spend a day with him, I would do exactly what Alix does with her dad, talk, listen, ask questions, and say, “Oui, Papa.”



Madeleine Romeyer Dherbey will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly
drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.


  1. Thank you so much for taking time to bring to our attention another great read. I enjoy these tours and finding out about many terrific books.

  2. Would you ever like to see your book made into a movie? Congrats on the release. Bernie Wallace BWallace1980(at)hotmail(d0t)com