We had an opportunity to discuss The Swiss Courier (on sale for $4.49 until February 29!) with authors Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorky. Here’s what they had to tell us about how they met, why they used Switzerland as a backdrop for a novel about World War II. If you are a fan of historical fiction, subscribe to Vyrso Voice so you don’t miss the next installment of this enlightening interview!
How did you decide to write The Swiss Courier?
Mike: Five or six years ago, Tricia and I met online through the Writer’s View, a place where Christian writers, editors, and agents can gather online to bat around ideas and what’s happening out there. I had just finished writing my first novel, By the Sword, which is a Mideast thriller set in modern times about how Islamic elements in Iran want to take Islam back to its roots, which is conversion by the sword.
I was getting rejection after rejection for By the Sword, and Tricia helped point out why. I wrote and rewrote, and I eventually got By the Sword sold and published with Broadman and Holman in 2006. After that experience, Tricia and I started kicking around some ideas about a World War II novel, which was up my alley since I’ve always thought of myself as a Second World War buff.
Tricia: I think our conversation really took off when I met Mike and his lovely wife Nicole at a large book convention. Once we started talking about World War II it was clear we both loved this time in history. I was also excited because Nicole is Swiss—her accent is lovely! I can’t think of many novels that have been written about WWII from a Swiss character’s perspective.
Why a book centered in Switzerland during World War II? What made you want to focus on this particular story in history?
Mike: My interest in Switzerland stems from being married to a Swiss native, Nicole, for 30 years, and our more than two dozen trips to her home country. Back in the early 1980s, before our two children arrived, we lived one year in Geneva and six months in Zurich so that I could experience Swiss culture. I did a variety of things, from working in a sporting goods shop to teaching tennis at a large indoor club.
One of the aspects about World War II that I was always fascinated by was how Switzerland figured into the global conflict. I read several books about Switzerland’s role during World War II. Although Switzerland declared its neutrality after the invasion of Poland, the landlocked country had to be militarily prepared to defend her neutrality since Nazi Germany had already invaded several other “neutral” countries, including Belgium and Denmark. I learned that the U.S. set up an espionage network in Switzerland, headed by Allen Dulles, starting in 1942. In fact, all the Allied and Axis powers had spy networks operating in Switzerland during the war, and there was a “war of wits” that made for a lot of intrigue.
Tricia: Two aspects that excited me most were both the presence of the OSS (American spies) and American soldiers (being held after making it into Swiss air space).
This isn’t just a Swiss story—it’s a story about American lives that were impacted within the Swiss border.
How much of The Swiss Courier is true? Can you give specific examples?
Mike: Much about The Swiss Courier is true, which begins with a faithful recounting of the assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler’s life on July 20, 1944. At that time, Werner Heisenberg, a German winner of the Nobel Prize, was leading the efforts to build the world’s first atomic bomb. American and British pilots were landing their damaged planes in Dübendorf, Switzerland, rather than ditching in Germany, where they stood a good chance of being shot on sight. More than 300 Allied pilots were interned “for the duration” of the war in the Swiss Alpine villages of Davos and Adelboden. Allen Dulles established the OSS—the forerunner of the CIA—in the capital of Switzerland, Bern, in 1943, to start running a spy network. Switzerland did close its borders to Jews and other refugees because “the boat was full.” Switzerland also allowed German trains to pass through Switzerland while going back and forth from Germany to Italy.