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READ BONNIE TOEWS Author of Dramatic Suspense

For intrigue that keeps you guessing.

Pat Bertram's INTRODUCES ... December 18, 2011

Bonnie Toews, Author of “The Consummate Traitor”

Welcome, Bonnie. So good to talk to you today. What is your book about?

My Trilogy of spy thrillers is based on the theme of treason. Each story could be a stand-alone, but certain characters in the first novel re-appear in the other two: The Consummate Traitor, Covert Denial and The Odonata Ring. In The Consummate Traitor, two women spies face betrayal and sacrifice as they struggle to prevent a nuclear holocaust in a tale rich in historical detail. What happens to these heroines exposes a secret England wants buried forever. It is based on a true story. In fact all three novels spin within real life events.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

The idea for the introductory story began when I was 10 years old and percolated for a long time before I attempted to do the research to develop the actual story. In the beginning I had no idea who the traitor was. I formed no plot line. I just wrote and let the characters evolve, and yet I wrote the final two pages almost immediately. Subconsciously I was working to that end. I also believe that if I had known who the traitor was I would never had sustained the interest to keep writing to find out who it was. In the next novel I am now writing, I have a dead body and haven’t a clue who killed him or why. And for this one I have also written the final two pages so spontaneously know where I am going. I accept this is the way my muse works. I have created synopsis as a kind of map but no specific outline. I think it’s because I fear formula writing. Instead I live in the moment. I want each story to evolve on its own terms. I think my voice is also changing through each novel, based on what is happening to the characters and how they are growing.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

From seven-years-old, I was trained to grow up to be an opera or concert singer. (Never happened — I lost my voice just after I turned 21-years-old and can only sing a range of eight notes today. God help Jackie Evanko!) Even so, of my many music teachers, I had two amazing vocal coaches who realized my voice was in jeopardy and was trying to save it, but I was more interested in listening to their memories of the secret lives they led in WWII. Nazi jackboots goosestepping across Europe interrupted their concert careers, but rather than wallow in fear and despair, they slipped into the shadows and risked death to fight Hitler’s tryanny. My present novel does not fictionalize their personal stories but my characters imbue their quiet bravery, steadfast faith and fierce tenacity.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

There are elements of myself in both heroines, but yet they are stronger than I think I could ever be. The journalist, Lee, lives with my recurring nightmare and my affinity with the Holocaust. I have often said, “I am a Gentile with a Jewish soul.” The pianist, Grace, reflects my more naive, pollyanna side. And yet, the one time I headed into the Rwandan conflict that proved the UN’s promise of “never again” would the world tolerate another genocide to be an outright lie, I went with complete faith, like Grace, that I was protected from harm.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite?

I don’t seem to have favorite characters. At least I am not aware of liking one more than another. And as repulsive as my villains could be (there are more than one), I was also aware of their fraility as human beings, so I did not hate them, even if they disappointed me at times. This may be a reflection of how I see most people and animals. I try to treat everyone with respect and understanding, though when I am confronted with pure evil, I have no tolerance or patience. We may all be born with sin, but I’m sorry to conclude there are some bad seeds who are not redeemable. I don’t like writing about them. For those characters who are not as developed in the first novel, they will be in the following novels. It’s what happens to them that creates the needed material to develop the new stories.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it?

I do intense research so that my facts are as realistic as can be in a fictional setting. I scour libraries, Google, read travelogues of areas I have not visited so that my descriptions are as true to life as possible, either today or in the time of the book’s setting. For that I interview people who lived and endured during the period. One interview for The Consummate Traitor was with an actual German aerocraft designer Canada protected so he could work on our Avro jet. He began as a fanatical NAZI with access to Hitler’s inner circle (He hated Goring) but by the end of the war, was so disillusioned that he ended up with a disassociated personality. During our interview he split from one to the other depending on what I described that triggered him to relive the past. I gained amazing insight from that interview and gave his hands to my NAZI villain. I have never seen hands like his — his finger tips were square, not rounded, and his shoulders were so slumped that his arms seem to hang too long for his body. I could picture him in an SS uniform with the shoulder paddings squaring off his body. He died a few years ago. He had Parkinson’s.

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

Yes, I do demonstrate a message in all three of the novels in this trilogy. What I have observed at the crossroads of humanity is that victims of atrocities can never forget what they have endured, and their resulting bitterness perpetuates revenge. This convinces me that as long as victim and perpetuator seek retribution against the other, true peace can never be achieved. But, there is an answer: the ACT OF FORGIVENESS. We understand the idea of God’s forgiveness, but the act of forgiveness becomes meaningless if we cannot first forgive ourselves and then one another. To make a difference in world peace, victims and their perpetrators must forgive themselves before they can forgive one another and live in harmony.



Nicole Izmaylov's NOVEL WATCH June 2, 2011

Interview with Bonnie Toews 

This week, on Novelwatch . . .

We have Bonnie Toews, author of The Consummate Traitor, but let me give you a warning before you pick it up: You’d better have some snacks and a vacation prepared, because once you pick it up, you won’t be able to put it down. As the story of a pair of women spies—American journalist Lee Talbot and English pianist Lady Grace—in the midst of World War II, this highly dramatic tale is riddled with secrets, explosions, forbidden loves—and enough suspense to kill.

N: When did you start writing? What inspired you to write? Has writing always been a big part of your life? Will it continue to be?
B: I was an avid reader very early in life and wrote my first “secret” novel when I was ten years old. It was about an Army Flight nurse in WWII in the Pacific. I had also developed a love of flying and read “boy’s” books like the Bigglesworth collection about WWII fighter pilots as well as anything I could find about biographies of famous women pilots such as Amelia Earhart or Jacqueline Cochrane. In the secrecy of my room I fantasized about flying my own plane and practiced the operational steps with them. At, 16 I started to take flying lessons with babysitting money I earned, but my father refused to let me carry on. I was 26 before I was free to get my pilot’s license and do the aerobatic flying I had dreamed about.
  Writing was my secret. If I showed what I wrote to my parents, other than speeches and essays, I was afraid it would no longer belong to me because each talent my brother and I showed was immediately turned into a professional production or competitive entry. I was already training to become a concert singer at ten years old and I was expected to win every festival class. (When I was 21, I lost my voice while I was performing in a recital and it was such a relief.)
  In high school, I discovered the Yearbook Club and the smell of printer’s ink stirred my blood. At university, instead of practicing my music, I was working for the campus newspaper – not just writing but learning everything about the production of words in newspapers and magazines. Upon graduating, I did teach for eight years, but the lure of printer’s ink permeated my teaching too. Every class was set up like a newspaper office, and I taught Reading and English in this setting.
  I’ve been married twice and both husbands encouraged me to write. With them, I finally had the freedom to share what I wrote. My first husband backed my desire to get into newspaper work. I ended up with a career in the business press and won five national awards before I retired. My second husband supported my dream to become a novelist though he has admitted to being jealous of the “computer” because it “steals” so much of my time. When I’m in my world with my characters, he can see from my facial expression that I’m no longer in the present moment and he feels isolated from it (and me), yet he has always given me the freedom to do it. That is true unconditional love.
  For me, writing is an act of survival, and yes, I will do it until the day I die.
N: Name your favorite book. What is it about it you like?
B: I’ve read so many books through my life, but the most significant, the one that turned my life around, was Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. This story advocated the philosophy of individualism—to be true to yourself and to your dreams. In Ayn Rand’s world, individualism was not an act of selfishness but the answer to our soul’s yearning for our higher calling to seek the truest Truth or the light within the darkest shadow.
  Ayn Rand was Russian, and like Vladimir Nabikov, English was her second language, yet both authors possessed an artistic grasp of English that few North American writers understand. A study of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lectures on Literature most influenced my writing as well. 
N: Tell us about your favorite (of your characters). What are his/her motives? Why is s/he your favorite?
B: I've never thought about whether I like or dislike my characters because I try to give even villains some redeeming qualities and picking favorites – well, I've never done that with my kids or grandkids or students either--each is a favorite in his or her own right.
  Both women—Lee and Grace—in my novel are heroines but for entirely different reasons. Their backgrounds are so far apart that in “normal” conditions they would never meet, but war or tragedy or reversals in fortune changes our concept of what has been our “traditional” way of seeing life. War brings these two women together, and war changes them. Of the two, the reader may find Lee the most interesting because she has not grown up with secure unconditional love as Grace has. Lee has always felt abandoned and she seeks recognition. Some women needing affirmation go about it in the wrong way to gain attention, but Lee seeks acknowledgement through the pursuit of noble causes. She is a war correspondent digging for the truth behind the exploding bombs and righteous posturing of the combatants. She wants to make a difference in the lives of her readers. That is how she will be remembered. That is how she will finally belong.
N: Tell us about your least favorite (of your characters). What are his/her motives? Why is s/he your least favorite?
B: Again, I can’t say who is my least favorite. There are things in life I don’t tolerate well. One is hypocrisy. Can you say a villain is hypocritical? By whose standards? In fact, a villain is very true to himself and what he wants, to the exclusion of all sympathy for those who cross his path or interfere with his goals. If his goals were honorable, he would be admired rather than feared or hated. That’s all that separated Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler – their goals. Churchill committed terrible war crimes, all in the name of achieving the “greater good,” but I show you in my novel the terrible suffering he inflicted on thousands of people with his ruthless decisions, only one of which was to cause reprisals just to recruit more underground resistance in Nazi-held territories.
N: What genre is your favorite to read? To write? Why?
B: SPY THRILLERS. To read and write. I don’t know why. I love the study of history and have always played with “what if” scenarios even when I was teaching, but after I read my first Helen MacInnes novel, While Still We Live, I was hooked. I read every novel she wrote. And when she retired, I became a fan of Robert Ludlum, and after he died, Gayle Lynds replaced him as my favorite writer of spy thrillers.
N: If you could become one of your characters, who would it be and why? What would you do differently in your story?
B: Contrary to what this question suggests, writers do become their characters. Characters are born in our minds and they evolve from bits and pieces of our own experience and beliefs. I suppose this is a form of fragmenting our personality. Even in fantasy writing, characters are born out of our wishes of what might be. The trick in creating characters is to make sure they always operate from their pure origin. If you stay true to their motivation, you cannot behave differently to create a different outcome in the story.
Am I as strong as the heroines I create? No, I don’t think so, but I haven’t been tested in the circumstances they face. I can hope I would be as brave, smart and compassionate as they are.
N: How do you write? Do you have a special place, do you listen to music, how much do you write a day, etc.?
B: I’m a slow methodical writer. Before I go on to write a new passage, I review what I have done the time before and correct it first. When I am not at my computer, my mind subconsciously plays with different scenarios from different characters’ viewpoints as I decide where we are going next in the story and who will be the POV character for the scene.  This is another reason why I am comfortable writing intrigue—the story is told from different perspectives. I would get bored if I was writing the story from only one POV.
  I do not outline plots in advance. In The Consummate Traitor, I had no idea who the traitor was until I was three-quarters finished writing the novel, and then I had to go back and foreshadow what was to come so I wouldn’t shock the reader as I shocked myself.
  I have an office where I can shut the door, though I rarely do. The cats would scratch it. I do not listen to background music. I prefer quiet. It’s easier to focus. I do write every day, but it can’t always be on my current manuscript. I don’t set so many words per day as a goal. That kind of routine becomes like a prison to me, so I don’t do exactly the same thing at the same time every day either. When I am focused, I write in marathons until my energy is drained, and then it may be days before I return to the manuscript but I am always working with it in my mind.
N: Of all the ideas that can inspire a story, why did you write The Consummate Traitor?
B: A number of reasons. The plot evolved from a biography I was reading of The Man Called Intrepid by William Strevenson. He mentions that a cousin of the King of England was sent on a mission into Denmark to convince the nuclear physicist Niels Bohr to defect to London but is captured by the Gestapo instead and is never heard of again. After the war, her body was never found either. I asked, “What if she lived, what would her story be?”
  As well as having a journalist’s background, I’m also an advocate for better treatment of our veterans, many of whom suffer from PTSD. Journalists who cover war share a bond with soldiers who fight them. As eye witnesses, they also can suffer from combat trauma. The general public tends to be more self-absorbed in their day-to-day lives. As a result, they are unaware of what our vets have endured in service to their country or the human toll caused for journalists in bringing their stories to the public’s attention. Through my characters and what happens to them, readers can better understand how PTSD is caused and what it is like to suffer from it.
  I also wanted to tell a war story from a woman’s point of view, not just from a man’s.
N: What has been your great success in writing? How did you feel?
B: I don’t know any writer who doesn’t suffer from doubts or feel inadequate to the task. It’s overcoming this constant self-doubt that becomes the writer’s challenge, and in writing THE END on another manuscript is the quiet satisfaction of personal achievement. No public award can surmount that because completing a manuscript is confirmation of our life and our choice. What public awards and reviewers’ praises do is acknowledge our growth as a writer, the level of our artistic skill and our relationship with our readers, but that changes with every book we write.
N: If you could go back five (or ten or twenty) years in time, what writing advice would you give yourself?
B: I don’t think the advice I would give now to the writer I was then would mean much because the journey has created the writer I have become. Except for this: Remain true to your vision of your story and the kind of writer you are. If you like to read and write romance, then that’s what you do. If you are not comfortable writing romance, then don’t, because it comes across as what it is—contrived to meet someone else’s expectation. Today, as mixed genres become more acceptable, trying to accommodate traditional formulas is less of a pressure … thank goodness.

Thank you, Bonnie, for that awe-inducing interview. The Consummate Traitor is available now on Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Consummate-Traitor-1-Bonnie-Toews/dp/1461015383. You can learn more about Bonnie at http://www.bonnietoews.com/books.htm.

Joy DeKok's BELIEFS AND BOOKS June 3, 2011

I’m delighted to share this interview with Bonnie!

Bonnie, the story, The Consummate Traitor, left what I call a “lingering” in my mind. Although there are many reasons, one that stands out is this – what would have happened to the world had Hitler reached his goal of perfecting a nuclear weapon? From what you’ve been able to learn, how close was he?

If Hitler had succeeded in producing all the nuclear weapons, jets and rockets not only on the drawing board but being tested in the closing days of World War II, there are two possibilities: 1) We would not exist for he would have unleashed a nuclear Armageddon without understanding that in destroying us he was also destroying himself and his dream for Germany. 2) He would have selected certain cities as the U.S. did in Japan to demonstrate his power and then forced the Allies to surrender to him to save the rest of the world. Because he was visibly ill at the end of the war, he would not have survived to enjoy it but his chief Nazi leaders would have. The Holocaust then would have become the standard for cleansing all those the Nazis deemed “undesirable” and we would be living in a police state today. Some would argue we are anyway, but that’s for another discussion.

How close was Hitler?

From the outset, his nuclear scientists were way ahead of everyone else. My novel is based on only one aspect of the “nuclear” race. Other authors have explored different acts of extreme bravery among the German scientists to delay or sabotage their own work. Britain, the U.S. and the Soviets separately worked to convince German nuclear physicists to defect to their projects because they understood the country to use the atomic bomb first would be the next world power. It’s why I believe Harry Truman decided to use the atomic bomb against the Japanese. He said it was to save more American lives because the Japanese were refusing to surrender, but that action made the U.S. the most powerful nation in the world for the next 50 years

What other historical facts were you able to weave into the pages of this novel?

The use of the English king’s cousin to convince the Danish atomic scientist, Neils Bohr, to defect to London was true, and she did not survive her imprisonment by the Gestapo. A movie producer in England has phoned me twice to see if my research has unearthed more than he has found so far, but I only looked at that single mission from the “what-if-she-lived” perspective whereas he has dug more deeply than I did. He believes she was descended from the German side of British royalty and was already living in Germany near Peenemunde, Germany’s rocket-testing site, when British Intelligence asked her to help the Danish scientist to escape. It is part of Churchill’s “Intrepid” operation the world will never know.

What compelled you to write this book and the rest of the series?

Anger, at first. We glorify war, but it is nothing more than a chess game to those manoeuvring it. For them, the victims have no faces. They are merely tags on a wall map moved back and forth as battles are won and lost.

In Book One, I show you the human side of war and its folly. Those who have never believed that the German people did not know about the Holocaust have only to look at our own actions of indifference and apathy at what happens around us. One day I stood on our condo balcony and realized I had no idea about what was going on three blocks away from me never mind miles away. We live in our own worlds dictated by our own interests until the outside world touches us.

In Book Two, I am revealing the scandalous disregard for humanity in the continual distribution of an anti-malaria drug to the public and to NATO fighting forces that for some is a neural toxin. It is the backdrop to the main plot that brings closure to some of the main characters in Book One.

In Book Three, I examine the treachery of our own trusted institutions and how nothing is as it seems. Mennonites play an important role in my examination of how political intrigue twists their values, morals and beliefs as they grapple with the events shaping their decisions to escape to Paraguay with concealed Nazi war criminals. Tracking them are two main characters from Book One.

While I didn’t sense an “agenda” while reading the book, what do you hope your readers will realize about war?

It’s only in the last 15 years that Winston Churchill’s ruthlessness during World War II has come to light. I wanted readers to see that no war is a good or honorable war. How wise the Greeks were when they first used the Olympics to settle their conflicts, but that ideal did not last because ambition and greed exceed honor and grace. War is a profit-making machine for the winners and so war is perpetuated in one form or another.

 You created two female characters, who while very different, are both strong and capable in their own ways. As you wrote, did you find yourself liking one more than the other? Who is your favorite male character?

I’ve been asked this question in a similar way before, and I have a problem with the concept of favorite. I try to look for redeeming characteristics in everyone, even villains. I’m also aware that all our characters grow from facets of our own personalities, character and experience, so we do explore things about ourselves we like and dislike each time we create a new character in our imagination. Grace reflects the innocent child in me, the one filled with faith; Lee represents the angry advocate, that part of me that declared at age three: “It’s not fair.” It’s like asking me which of my grandchildren is my favorite? Each is unique and precious. I’d go before a firing squad and never declare a favorite before I died.

The true heroes are the British double agent Baron von Loren and OSS agent Morgan Saunders. Ah, and briefly there was the American Norwegian agent. And how could you not like the Irish Quinn Bergin? When I began writing, I pictured him as Pierce Brosnan. For two hundred pages into the story I never knew who the traitor was, and I was in utter shock when the reveal came. I then had to backtrack and foreshadow the revelation so the reader wouldn’t be in the same shock I was. I can’t pick a favorite. I’m sorry.

When will the next book in the series be released?

September 2012.

Is The Consummate Traitor also available at Kindle and Nook?

There will be a Kindle edition within the next four weeks and I am told it can be downloaded into any e-reader. As this is my first e-book experience, I won’t know how true this is until I try each one.

Anything else you’d like to share with your readers?

I haven’t mentioned God’s part in all this. That’s because I either haven’t figured it out or He hasn’t chosen to reveal it to me yet. The one chapter that I swear He wrote for me no one has ever mentioned. I felt it was the real purpose for my being inspired to write the story, but if I have to point it out to people, is that really fulfilling God’s purpose? Maybe it’s a private insight He wants people to experience, not a public one. 

Thanks Bonnie – I know you’re busy with your launch – I’m glad you had time for this interview.



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Last Updated on Friday, 3 June 2011 10:13

I enjoy historical novels and spy novels – when they’re good. If  WW2 is part of the story, I’m in. Combine them and write with excellence and I’m hooked. Author, Bonnie Toews accomplished this in, The Consummate Traitor.

WW2 is personal for many of us. Three of my uncles served. Two returned.  They didn’t talk much about the war, but they are my direct connection to this part of the world’s history.

Inside all wars are secrets, spies, and sacrifice. When one death can save the lives of countless others, a decision is made; plans set in motion, and then carried out with ruthless determination. 

 The author considers the what if’s based on little known, but reliable WW2 facts, and weaves them into a riveting story of betrayal and a personal sacrifice so compelling it left me asking, “What would I have done?”

She reveals motives of her characters, and the ultimate sacrifice one woman must make in ways that kept me wondering to the “reveal” as I traveled the pages of this novel.

All of you know (or are realizing) I take fiction seriously. It teaches us if we let it. While reading The Consummate Traitor, I asked questions no one can answer, pondered the many facts and what if’s woven into the story, and then the author did the best thing of all – she kept me guessing.

To learn more about the author visit her website: www.bonnietoews.com

You can also order this book here:  http://www.amazon.com/Consummate-Traitor-1-Bonnie-Toews/dp/1461015383/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1307105230&sr=8-1-spell

Rita Gerlach's STEPPING STONES MAGAZINE for Readers

Rita Gerlach hosts a special opportunity for authors to connect with their readers in letters she hosts on STEPPING STONES magazine--a blog everyone bookmarks. Don't miss it because it brings unique insights that are not based on formatted interview questions but rather based on heart-to-heart thoughts from your favorite and new authors. 

June 5, 2011

Dear Readers,
Well, this novel wasn’t a quick and easy birth. Its publishing debut seemed to take as long as the dinosaur age. When I started writing it, I had no idea why. I had no clear plot in mind.

Actually, I had experienced a lengthy period of aphasia following a heart attack (extended loss of oxygen damages the brain too), so I was playing games with myself using a dictionary and a Thesaurus to redevelop vocabulary. I came across the word “amanita” – a poisoned mushroom, and the thought that I didn’t know anything about it fascinated me. So I went to the library and took out a book on botany to study it. I also came home with “A Man Called Intrepid” by William Stevenson, a Canadian author.

I’ve been a World War II buff since age ten. Two of my music teachers had survived the secret world of spies: one with the Dutch Resistance; the other was a Canadian assigned to British Intelligence. He lived in Berlin, and his cover was a Lutheran church organist. Under Hitler, being a church member was almost as dangerous as being a spy.

“Intrepid” intrigued me because, like my music teacher, he was a Canadian whom Churchill turned into his master spy throughout the war. Grounds called Camp X, near where I live in Ontario, were used to train Intrepid’s super spies. They were recruited from the U.S., Canada and Europe, trained and sent on their missions in Nazi-occupied Europe. Of all the brave men and women only identified by their code names in the book, one stood out for me. TRUDI.

Trudi was a second cousin of England’s King George VI. Her mission was botched. The Gestapo captured her, tortured her, according to the Dutch Resistance who sent photos of her in prison to London, and then it was assumed she bit down on her cyanide capsule rather than reveal her relationship to the king, for today, in British historical war records, she is still listed as missing in action.

“Amanita” and “Trudi” began my long journey to complete and publish “The Consummate Traitor,” the first book in the Trilogy of Treason series.

There is one chapter I have always believed God wrote, not me. I woke up at 3 a.m. and it seemed to write itself. When I finished and reread it, I was sure it was the real reason why I was inspired to write the story. From that point on, I grew even more aware of God in my life as well as in my writing. Yet, no one who has ever read the book has singled out that chapter. I’ve often wondered why. If I have to point out what I believe is His message to people, then is that really fulfilling God’s purpose? He does things for His own reasons. Right? I have to trust that and not feel left out because no one is spotting the significance of that chapter. Maybe it’s a private insight God wants people to experience, not a public one. I’ve prayed for guidance and I still feel his invisible hand restraining me from revealing it.

This opening novel serves another purpose that has become my mission: to show the human side of war and its folly and to show how the war correspondent suffers with the soldiers he or she writes about—some of them return home with what we now know is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Why do these people risk and sacrifice their lives for what appears to be a thankless assignment?

When I came home from Rwanda in 1994, I was asked if I had gone there on holiday. No one was interested in what was happening in Africa and hadn’t read about the genocide. Our peacekeepers returned home traumatized and no one cared about what they witnessed. Through decades and decades of peacekeeping missions, the general public has not been interested in what our military has endured to fulfill their duty to our country’s political commitments—until 9/11, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. led the war on terrorism and everyone took notice.

The mission God has placed on my heart is to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves through my characters and their stories.

First up is THE CONSUMMATE TRAITOR now available at amazon.com  
A Letter to Readers from Bonnie Toews



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