Novel PASTimes: If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?
Kate: I would read the day away, preferably with my best friend Addie to discuss what we learned. We love having philosophical talks about the meaning of things.
Now that I’ve spent time on Domingo’s idyllic family homestead, if I couldn’t have Addie for company, I’d enjoy being with the sheep out in the pasture, and with le Chien, the dog.
Novel PASTimes: What impression do you make on people when they first meet you?
Kate: Hmm…they probably think I’m flighty. But they have no idea how thoroughly I think things through—then when it comes time to act, I’m pretty decisive.
Novel PASTimes: What’s your idea of a good marriage?
Kate: Being friends before you become romantically involved, so you really know each other well from the outset. To be honest, Alexandre and I never really spent much time together, even after we were married. Our love stayed strong when he deployed with the RAF, but we had not lived together even a year. I think our marriage would have lasted, but sometimes think we might have had a stronger foundation.
Traipsing all over the mountains together, sweating together, and experiencing the same very real dangers created a bond between Domingo and me. He’d seen me in rag-tag clothes and unkempt hair, exhausted and fearful. I knew what he was like—really like—when he feared for his mother and brother’s life.
So I’d say being REAL together is vital, and going through some rough times before you say “I do.”
Novel PASTimes: What are you most proud of about your life?
Kate: I gleaned from others, like my Aunt Alvina and Mrs. Tenney and Domingo’s mother, what it meant to have a home. But it’s another thing to make a home for your own family.
Since I grew up as an only child with just my Aunt, I wanted to become the best wife and mother possible, but lacked role models. Still, the way things have turned out, I think I did fairly well with out three children.
Novel PASTimes: What do you believe about God?
Kate: I could go on and on. Through thick and then, I’ve experienced God watching over me. I’ve done some stupid things in my time, and still enjoyed safety and protection. Then when the war took me to Southern France, my trust grew through facing a whole lot more danger from the Gestapo, and from random people who might be connected with them.
It was hard to know whom to trust, and I felt very alone at times. But I can’t believe meeting Domingo was a coincidence, nor was spending so much time with his parish priest. Even though I experienced betrayal, the kindness of many strangers nurtured me through my clandestine work—I see this all as the hand of God upon my life.
I made some deep friendships during the war—and even discovered someone I wanted to marry. For some time after Alexandre’s death, I thought I’d never want that again, but getting to know Domingo changed my perspective. For this, I’ll always give credit to our Creator.
Novel PASTimes: What’s the worst thing that’s happened in your life?
Kate: That would be becoming an orphan when I was very young. This circumstance left me with never-ending questions about my moorings. Often I feel adrift and restless, and wonder what it would be like to have a real home, with a nuclear family you’d always interacted with, parents there every time you needed them.
Novel PASTimes: Tell me about your best friend.
Kate: Addie is the purest soul I’ve ever known. She’s true to her word, loyal to a fault, and humble—sometimes too humble. By that I mean she puts others before herself, even when she ends up getting hurt. I’ve always encouraged her to stand up for herself and believe she deserves the best treatment.
In this final book of the series, readers discover a brighter phase of Addie’s life, after all she went through with her husband Harold. I was so glad to hear about her relationship with Charles when I returned to London—nothing makes me happier than to know she was enjoying life.
Novel PASTimes: What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done to someone? Why?
Kate: Oh, this is easy. When I was young and in love with Alexandre, an exciting Canadian who came to Iowa to visit us, I eventually eloped with him. At the time, it seemed so right, of course! We really were in love, and both knew the war would tear us apart soon enough.
But I have yet to forgive myself for how much that action must have hurt my dear aunt Alvina, who had provided a wonderful home for me after my parents were killed. She’d put up with a lot from my independent nature, already.
But to make matters worse, I also skipped out on my high school graduation. I can’t imagine how disappointed she must’ve been when she realized I had left town. She’d have worried, and then, when she found my note, I picture her dropping on my bed and wiping away tears. Why, when she’d offered to send me to college, would I do such an impetuous thing?
Novel PASTimes: What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
Kate: During World War II, we talked about “doing our bit” for the war effort. She Did Her Bit would work just fine. But in a broader sense I might rather have my tombstone say, “Forgiven.” What a powerful word! My treks through the wild back country of
Southern France taught me a lot about what it means to be forgiven—and to forgive.
When Eugene, the radio operator of the first circuit I worked with, betrayed us all to the Gestapo, I don’t think forgiveness came to anybody’s mind. Who knows how many suffered—even died—because of his treachery? You can imagine that as the years have passed, I’ve never forgotten him, and often wondered if he understood the amount of pain he caused.
Novel PASTimes: What are you most afraid of?
Kate: I’m afraid of disappointing people. When I say I’ll do something, I want to keep my word to the last letter. I don’t want to have it said that my link in the chain is the weakest one.
When Gail Kittleson’s not steeped in World War II research, drafting scenes, or deep in an edit, she does a limited amount of editing for other authors. She also facilitates writing and creativity workshops, both in Iowa and Arizona, where she and her husband spend part of the winter in the amazing Ponderosa pine forest under the Mogollon Rim. Favorites: walking, reading, meeting new people, hearing from readers who fall in love with her characters.
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