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Heidi Elijarbo on her Whitney Awards Finalist novel,
Of Darkness and Light
What was the inspiration for your Whitney Awards finalist novel?
There were several factors that formed this story in my head. I love art history – with a passion! My parents were married in Oslo in 1944, and I’ve heard stories… I am fascinated by the courage and strength of the female resistance workers. Add a plot with a mystery and a little romance – and voilà – to me that was the perfect novel. Also, I have come across the personal journal of a young woman who was a spy during WWII in Norway. Several passages in The Other Cipher are inspired by her writings, especially the part about ciphers, code breaking, and chiffer machines.
What was the tipping point that turned this novel from “just an idea” to a project you HAD to complete?
It was a story and a mystery that I loved so much – I hoped my readers would enjoy it, too. This book is the second in the Soli Hansen Mysteries Series. It’s a dual timeline and follows art historian Soli during WWII in Oslo and switches back to the beginning of the seventeenth century to tell the backstory of the art Soli is trying to save from the Nazis.
How did this book evolve into the final story? Did it end up the way you thought it would, or did the plot or characters change along the way?
Sometimes, when I give my characters freedom, they start saying and doing things I had not planned. In “The Other Cipher” the resistance woman Heddy has some secrets of her own. I ended up writing several chapters from her POV, and I liked getting to know her better.
Who is your favorite secondary character, and why?
Heddy. She’s brave, loyal, and giving, and she’s a wonderful leader for the resistance group called “The Art Club”.
If your book was made into a movie, which scene would you want to be a background extra in?
Perhaps the scene where they go to a crime scene and look for clues. Trying to figure out what happened was fun to write, and it would have been interesting to “live” it.