Chasing Mona LisaChasing Mona Lisa
Tricia Goyer, Mike Yorkey
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It is August 1944 and Paris is on the cusp of liberation. As the soldiers of the Third Reich flee the Allied advance, they ravage the country, stealing countless pieces of art. Reichsmarschall Hermann Gvring will stop at nothing to claim the most valuable one of all, the Mona Lisa, as a post-war bargaining chip to get him to South America. Can Swiss OSS agents Gabi Mueller and Eric Hofstadler rescue DaVinci's masterpiece before it falls into German hands?
     

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 Our Interview with Tricia Goyer & Mike Yorkey


 

Would you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Tricia: I am a wife, mom, speaker, and author of 27 novels. I love reading and researching. I love writing. I love traveling, and I mentor teen moms, too. I’ve been married to John for 21 years. We have four children and our oldest is married with a new baby! Our youngest child is under 2-years-old, which means that we have a lot of excitement around our house.
 
Mike: Growing up in San Diego, I always wanted to be a sportswriter growing up. After graduating from the University of Oregon, I did start my journalism career in newspaper but got a big break when I joined Focus on the Family in 1986 as the Focus on the Family magazine editor. I started writing books on the side, and in 1998, I became a freelance author and collaborator and now have done over 75 books. Chasing Mona Lisa is my third fiction effort. I’ve been married to Nicole for 31 years, and she is from Switzerland. We lived in Geneva and Zurich early in our marriage, so I have a great interest in Switzerland and in Europe.

How did you come up with the concept for Chasing Mona Lisa?

Tricia: After writing The Swiss Courier I knew I wanted to write something to do with a curator in Paris. I was fascinated by what happened to priceless art during World War II. Mike took the nugget of the idea and ran with it. Mike and his wife, Nicole, even visited Paris for research! I love when those little inklings of ideas grow into something much more.

Mike: It’s hard to complain about going to Paris to do some research. Tricia and I began kicking around an idea: what would happen if the Nazis wanted to steal the Mona Lisa during the chaotic times of August 1944, when Allied forces were advancing on Paris? That’s when the fun started.

Where do your inspirations for a story come from? This is quite a departure for you from your historical fiction and Amish fiction. What made you decide to partner with Mike Yorkey and write historical suspense?

Tricia: My very first novels were about WWII. I fell in love with the time period—and mostly WWII veterans—when I was traveling in Europe and heard some of their stories from historians. Once I got “hooked” on research, I wanted to write more and more. I love digging through old books or talking to knowledgeable people. To me writing about the Amish is like writing historical fiction because it’s almost like stepping into another world.

Mike and I met about seven years ago through an on-line writing group. He was working on his first novel and I offered him suggestions and a little help. Mike and his wife, Nicole, and John and I were able to go out to dinner, and Mike and I both talked about our love of World War II. From there we got the idea for The Swiss Courier. After that we continued with Chasing Mona Lisa.

I’ve written some historical suspense elements in Songbird Under a German Moon, but Mike knows how to take it up to another level. He’s a master a plot twists, and I’m often surprised by the ideas he comes up with. They work!

Mike: I’ve always been a fan of the 24 series on TV—the suspense thrillers with agent Jack Bauer. There are always massive plot twists and surprises in each episode. I love trying to come up with ways to keep the reader off balance, but it’s a team effort.

 

Is this a stand-alone title?

Tricia: Chasing Mona Lisa can be read as a stand-alone title, but it does follow The Swiss Courier. Readers of that book will be excited to go on another adventure with Gabi and Eric!

Do you have a favorite character in Chasing Mona Lisa? Why?

Tricia: I have to say that I’m partial to Colette, who worked in the Louvre during the Nazi occupation. While I still love Gabi and Eric, the Swiss OSS agents working for the Americans, I was fascinated by a character who worked behind-the-scenes in the art world during WWII.

Mike: I’ve always liked Gabi, who’s in her early twenties. She is the daughter of an American father and Swiss mother and has lived in Switzerland all her life, so she’s quite talented with languages and quite clever in the way she thinks on her feet.

How much research did Chasing Mona Lisa take? 

Tricia: Historical fiction always takes a lot of work, but we put due diligence into researching the time period, the political climate, and the art world. I would say just as much time is put into research than writing . . . maybe more!

Mike: When I was in Paris, I took a World War II walking tour that passed by famous Prefecture de Police, where the Paris uprising started just before Liberation. Then the group walked to the Hotel Meurice, where the German High Command was headquartered. I peppered the poor tour guide with questions all afternoon, but I was able to “see” how many of those famous events really happened, which are part of the book.

What are the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing Chasing Mona Lisa?

Tricia: Well, first that the Mona Lisa was really stolen in 1911. An Italian took her out of the Louvre. I had no idea . . . and she wasn’t found right away!

Second, I was fascinated by the political factions at the time. The French worked together to fight the Nazis, but when it was clear that they’d soon have control of their country again the fighting turned against each other. It was a scramble to control.

Third, I was horrified to find out the Nazis not only stole priceless art, but purchased it, too. I had no idea!

Mike: A lot of people think the Nazi generals and bigwigs just marched into Paris museums and took paintings off the wall. Didn’t happen that way. They had the money to buy up all the art they wanted. Sure, they stole art from Jewish families, but with legitimate museums and dealers, it was by purchase order.

Another thing I learned was that the Louvre museum started packing up all their treasures just days before Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Within weeks, priceless paintings like the Mona Lisa were dispersed to southern France for safekeeping.

 

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

Tricia: One of the challenges Mike and I face is working on the same book. Only one person works on the manuscript at a time and we send the file back and forth. We want to make sure we’re working on the newest file so we don’t lose anything.

Personally, my biggest challenge is balancing my baby and my books! Having a toddler at home is a lot of work. She requires a ton of attention. I can’t just sit and write anytime. Instead, I have to plan my writing time into certain slots. I’m thankful for my family. We all take turns with her. She brings us so much joy. It’s worth it!

Mike: It’s amazing how these books get done. They sure are a lot of work. Sometimes I spent half a day researching a certain fact or how a rail yard looked for a pivotal scene. But I think readers will notice the effort.

What clubs or organizations are you involved with helping with your writing?

Tricia: I’m part of a few writing organizations on-line. They are a great support! One of my favorites is ACFW.com (American Christian Fiction Writers). I highly recommend joining for anyone who’s interested in writing fiction! I teach at their conference, too, which is fun.

I’m also part of a private writer’s group that gets together ever summer to pray, plot and pray. We’re there for each other more than just in writing. We’re a care group that supports each other through the year. There are amazing authors in this group: Francine Rivers, Brandilyn Collins, Robin Lee Hatcher, Sharon Dunn, and Tamera Alexander to name a few. They’ve really helped me spice up some of the plots of my novels … but more than that I can always turn to them for prayer.

Mike: Tricia is much more connected in this fiction world than me, for which I’m thankful.

When you meet someone who has a passion for books and writing, what advice do you give them?

Tricia: Just do it! Honestly, the main thing you need to do is get those words on paper. I’ve gotten emails of people worried about marketing or websites or social media, and they haven’t written two chapters yet! Don’t worry about any of that . . . yet. Just write the story God has put on your heart.

Mike: It’s words on paper that count. And after words are typed on a screen, then you have to rewrite and rewrite. I would say that our chapters got rewritten ten or twenty times . . . always tweaking, always improving. That’s the hard work aspect.

What were your favorite books as a child?

Tricia: My all time favorites were the Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I also loved reading about Helen Keller, and (like most young girls) I adored Nancy Drew!

Mike: I grew up in La Jolla, California, and when I was five years old, I met this new author from La Jolla who had his first children’s book out. It was called The Cat in the Hat, and the author was Dr. Seuss. My mother read me that book every night in kindergarten. But my favorite book was Eloise in Paris by Kay Thompson, the story of a sprightly six-year-old girl who runs everyone around her ragged.

Are there any other new projects on the horizon?

Tricia: Yes, I wrote a novel to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Titanic sinking. By the Light of a Silvery Moon will be out March 2012. And my third novel in my Amish series Beyond Hope’s Valley will be out in April.

Mike: My most recent book, Growing Up Colt, is one I collaborated with Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy and his father, Brad. That was a lot of fun for this sports fan. I have a book on NBA basketball players called Playing with Purpose coming out in the fall of 2011 and several other projects in the works.

What message would you like your readers to take from Chasing Mona Lisa?

Tricia: In addition to being swept away with the plot, I hope readers walk away with an understanding that each of us has a unique place in history. There are times we fell lost in all that’s happening around us, but sometimes the ordinary is just what God can use to impact what—and who—is priceless!

Mike: Tricia said it well.

What is your greatest achievement?

Tricia: My greatest achievement is the joy we have in our home. John and I want to love God and serve Him with all our hearts and we want our children to do the same. They love God and are living for Him. There is no greater achievement than that.

Mike: Beyond my family, I would say that being the co-author of the Every Man’s Battle series, which has impacted millions of men, has been the professional highlight.

What do you do to get away from it all?

Tricia: Our family loves to travel. Family road trips are something we venture out on a few times a year. Whether it’s a long weekend or a week-away we love finding a new location to explore and heading out!

Mike: Nicole and I are fortunate to be able to go to Switzerland twice a year—once in winter for skiing and once in the summer for hiking in the Swiss Alps. Not only does Nicole get to be Swiss again and speak Swiss-German, French, and Italian, but I get to tag along and soak up the beauty and the culture. I’m very blessed.