For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited Aubrey Taylor to talk about The Rubicon.
After creating stories prolifically as a child, Aubrey experienced a renewed interest in writing in 2021. Since then she has written four books, as well as a number of devotionals and informative blog posts.
Sunday Dinner is a traditional (noon) meal served after church on Sundays. Whole families, including extended family, would gather over a large meal to celebrate a day of rest. Multiple cultures enjoy this Sunday Dinner tradition. In my experience, I know it from both my Midwestern farm family as well as my Italian-American family. Now, I’d like to bring Sunday Dinner virtually to you. So, pull up a chair as we invite various guests to join us each week!
Without further ado, please tell us something interesting readers would enjoy learning about you.
I sing, play guitar, and yodel – and I have been involved in a Bavarian folk dancing group for a year now!
Can you tell us about your latest novel?
The Rubicon comes out this month! Although part of a series, it can also be read as a standalone. Here is a sneak peek at the back cover:
Jakob Schmidt joined the SS for the pride and prestige of the uniform. Now, all of Berlin lies before him, from career prospects to beautiful women who would like nothing more than to spend an evening in his company. Yet beneath the façade he carries moral injuries he wants no one to see.
Emma Vogel-Schmidt recently exchanged wedding vows with the young man she has loved since childhood. Now she finds herself estranged from him and full of regret. Jakob has given himself wholly to a regime she despises, but she wonders: did she allow politics to sever her from the love of her life?
She finds a lifeline in Christian Richter, Jakob’s former hero and mentor. A faithful friend who is hiding his own secrets, Christian devises a plot to reunite the young couple, and in so doing resolves to face his own demons.
While Jakob and Emma enjoy three years of wedded bliss, Christian finds a new identity as an officer in the swelling ranks of the German army. Will their joy withstand five years of devastating war, or will they each be pushed past the breaking point?
Why did you choose to write a story set in WWII?
I have been fascinated by the conflict since I was seven. As harrowing as it was, I have always felt it was a period of time in which I wish I had lived. Through my writing, I get to do that.
Have you visited Germany?
Three times! In 2017 we were only there a few days, but it was long enough to hook me for life. We took a three week trip there last year (2022), and enjoyed it so much that we went back for two more weeks this year, with our children in tow! It is so much more than book research or family history; it is truly a love affair!
What research was required to set a book during WWII, but from a German perspective?
I have spent over two and a half years reading everything I could get my hands on, from scholarly articles to history books to memoirs and other first-person accounts written by German soldiers. Most precious to me are the personal stories of the people I know who were alive at the time. A few of them were old enough to have been in their teens.
God has also given me a very good friend in Germany who is passionate about telling her grandfather’s war story. Further, there is an incredible amount of video footage and photographs available online. Independent filmmakers on YouTube post well-made historical reenactment films, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible movies produced by the German film industry, such as Downfall and the 1993 film Stalingrad.
What does a day in the life of one of your characters look like?
Jakob Schmidt’s life is one of the most dynamic in the series. In The Prodigal Sons, he starts off as a youth who wants nothing more than to play music in church and marry his childhood sweetheart. As he becomes more involved in the Hitler Youth however, he is enticed by the excitement and camaraderie that is being offered to him, and gives himself fully to the Nazi cause.
By the time we find him in the first chapters of The Rubicon, he is a member of the SS, performing bodyguard tasks for high ranking Nazis, standing guard at parades and public buildings, and occasionally, serving the Führer his dinner. Jakob’s closest comrades are the bookish Teiwaz and the philandering duo, Lothar and Josef.
As the estrangement grows between Jakob and his bride, Emma Vogel, the temptation to follow Lothar and Josef in their decadence grows as well. Soon, he’ll be the undisputed leader of the crew, seeking to fulfill both his career aspirations and romantic yearnings in any way possible. This is interwar Germany, though, and nothing will stay the same for long.
Were resources easy or difficult to find on these topics? Do you have a favorite resource?
There is an abundance of resources available because the period is so widely studied. Naturally, most of it is written from an Allied standpoint, but I think that interest in the German perspective is increasing, so even these resources are not as difficult to find as they may have been ten years ago. My personal favorites are the memoirs written by German men about their time in the army, the SS, or the Hitler Youth. When you read one of these books, you begin to see the author as a whole person and not just part of the regime they lived under.
What is one piece of your research that you couldn’t include in the book, but wish readers could know?
When it comes to writing German-perspective history, there is a fine line between telling the other side of the story and getting into revisionism. As someone who grew up in America, I know that I grew up hearing one side of the story. Now that I am so deep into researching the opposite perspective, I regularly come across things that make me wonder what the truth really is. Only God can get the “complete” picture because He views all earthly happenings from above.
Nevertheless, here are a few things I encountered in my research and have been considering lately:
-That the Germans were actually welcomed by the citizens in parts of Belgium when they invaded in 1940. The English were not well liked.
-That the miracle at Dunkirk was partially due to a Halt order given by Hitler (this possibility is mentioned in the book but not stated with any kind of certainty)
-That later in the war, the plight of the Germans living in East Prussia was absolutely tragic. This history needs to be addressed in its own series.
Do you have another book in the works? What can you tell us about that book?
As I said above, the tragedy in East Prussia needs to be addressed. While there is nothing truly in the works yet, what I do have may eventually lead to a new book or new series. Not only did l become fascinated with the topic while I was doing the research for the Gott Mit Uns Series, I also identified a supporting character that I would like to get to know better. He needs his own book. It will be a while, but I’m excited about it.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I never expected to get into writing German-perspective fiction, and definitely never imagined that as a Christian I’d be writing gritty, real-life stories that challenge me and will hopefully challenge my readers. I know that not everyone will like the things I write, but I know that there are also people out there that need these stories, for reasons only God may know. If that’s you, I hope you will pick one of them up and read it with an open heart. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and Danielle, thanks for the interview!
The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. Aubrey, thank you for joining us today!
If readers would like to purchase a copy of The Rubicon, where might they be able to do so?
If readers would like to learn about you or your other books, how might they find you online?
Over Sunday Dinner next week author A.M. Heath will be joining us. See you then!
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