Interview with Steven Burgauer

“Nazis” and “bayous” are two subjects which most people would not ordinarily associate together. Yet these subjects are the foundation on which Nazi Saboteurs of the Bayou are built. How did you come to put them together for this historical thriller?
It was not until I visited the National WWII Museum in New Orleans that I came to grasp the central role that city played in winning the war. The steel-ramped landing boats that made beach landings possible at Normandy and North Africa and on every Pacific island were designed and built in New Orleans by the hundreds each month and mostly with unskilled labor. While it is a well-established fact that Nazi saboteurs targeted East Coast steel mills and boat assembly yards as part of Operation Pastorius, I theorized that the Higgins boat plants might be targeted by the Nazis as well. On this premise I built the central storyline. The idea began to take shape as I studied the full-scale model of a restored Higgins boat parked in the lobby of this wonderful American museum.
Many historical novels have been written about World War II. What makes Nazi Saboteurs on the Bayou unique?
Other World War II stories, both fictional and nonfiction have been written about Nazi efforts to undermine the Allied war effort both at home and abroad. But most of the stories that take place in the U.S. focus on Operation Pastorius, where Nazi commandoes targeted manufacturing facilities in the northeast, New York, New Jersey, those areas. I believe my book to be one of the few books — if not the only one — to center the story on the Higgins boat plants in the New Orleans area. Also, while not unique, I have introduced the role of the Sicilian mob, both in the Allied war effort as preparations for the North Africa amphibious landings got underway, and their out-sized influence on the labor markets where Andrew Higgins had to find his factory workers.
Historical novels often require a great deal of research to complete. How did you conduct your research for this book and did anything you discovered in your research surprise you?
Sometimes I forget how little I actually know. When I begin a project like this, much of the fun and intellectual enjoyment comes from unwrapping the onion, so to speak. This story takes place in New Orleans, a city I barely know. Enter the librarians. Not to belittle the power of Google and all its electronic brethren, but for a writer no better resource exists than the libraries and librarians of this great country of ours. They are a dedicated lot. Plus, their memory is better than any search engine. Case in point. Having ridden the electric street cars in New Orleans circa 2016, I began to wonder how people got around in 1942. If there were streetcars back then, where did the lines run? How often each day? What was the fare? My search for answers began with Wikipedia, then to the footnotes at the bottom of the page, then to a book, then to a library to find that book. An astute librarian (actually, an archivist) at the New Orleans Public Library directed me to a digital edition of a New Orleans city guide published by a division of the WPA toward the end of the Great Depression. Not only did I not know such guides existed, without the help of that librarian I would never have been able to lay my hands on a copy. It was 500 + pages long and described in exquisite detail everything there was to be known about New Orleans in 1940, the sights, the food, the parks, the entertainment, and yes, the streetcar system. As it turns out, the fare was 7 1/2 cents, rather expensive for the time, even more expensive than San Francisco, where streetcars are legendary.
The cover of your new book Nazi Saboteurs on the Bayou contains many intriguing items. Where did you find them and why were they chosen for the cover?
I am glad that you asked that. The cover photograph was itself a labor of love. The elements of the cover had been forming in my mind from the earliest days of the plot layout. I wanted to include on my cover visual items peculiar to the time that spoke to the story, if at all possible. Some of these items, by the way, are better seen on the Kindle version of the cover than the print version. Authentic German dynamite. These sticks of dynamite are actual stage-props used in the movies. As the story centers on an attempt to blow up the Higgins boat plant, dynamite seemed appropriate. The city guide to New Orleans with its actual 1940 cover. It plays a central role in the book. Also, the Blue Book, a guide to the city’s whorehouses. The Green Book, a travel guide used by people of color to find safe places to lodge overnight when on the road. Blueprint-style drawings of the Higgins landing craft, a valuable piece of intelligence to German operatives. A 1940s-style looking glass meant to draw attention to the center of the photograph. The anagrams, which provide the mystery. All set against a background of a 1940s topographic map of that part of the parish. Oh, and look closely at the pencil. It says “Luftwaffe 1939,” an authentic reproduction of actual pencils used by that branch of the service.
You have also written quite a few science-fiction novels. In what way is writing historical fiction different from writing science fiction?
Aside from science fiction being forward-looking and historical fiction being backward-looking, they are more similar than you may think, especially when you consider the type of science-based science fiction that I write. This may come as a bit of a surprise to some readers, but it is true. Exhaustive, in-depth research is the common denominator between the two. When an author writes science fiction of the fantasy stripe, there are no rules of physics to obey. Magic trumps Sir Isaac Newton and all that. The writer can have a flying horse with wings simply by invoking magic and mysticism and by spreading around enough fairy dust. But to achieve a flying horse when one writes hard science fiction, the author has to invoke physics and genetic manipulation, perhaps biological implants. Two very different worlds. If I were to research the physics of a genetically modified horse, it would entail hours of careful study and consideration. The same is true of historical fiction. If a German national had to surreptitiously make his way from Nazi Germany across the ocean to New Orleans during World War II, how would he do that? What route would he take? How long would the trip take? Would he fly? Take a boat? Seek passage aboard a U-boat? These are questions not easily answered at a distance of 75 years in the past.
You have been writing and publishing for twenty years. What changes in the publishing business have you experienced during those years? How has e-publishing, like Smashwords, affected you as a writer?
As the pace of computing has quickened and the cost of publishing the written word has declined to nearly zero, the business of publishing has been turned on its head. Long gone are the days of linotype. Long gone are the days of rare novelists being published by arcane publishing houses. Software improvements along with the rise of the internet have completely altered the landscape of distributing the printed word cheaply and efficiently. Publishing platforms like PDF software and epub devices allow anyone of even moderate word processing skills to write, sell, and distribute a novel or nonfiction work on literally any subject. The competition for acceptance by a traditional publishing house is keener than ever. Thus, the rise of self-publishers. Even that landscape is quickly changing. Competition by digital POD platforms is changing self-publishing rapidly. For under $200, anyone can format and upload their novel to Amazon and produce a credible Kindle edition of their work. Likewise, the rise of the internet makes it easier than ever for an author to connect with possible book reviewers and with the writer’s potential readers. Indeed, business platforms like Smashwords have revolutionized publishing.
I love to read, but sometimes I have to wonder whether print is dead, or at least dying.
Oh, I hardly think so. Technology has allowed print to flourish, even if it is not all on paper as before. Electronic print displayed on screens large and small has brought the "printed" word to hundreds of millions of people who have yet to hold a conventional printed newspaper in their hand. And let's not forget the impact of video. Sure, some people watch movies instead of reading books. But others watch movies because they have read the book. Still others pick up the book after having seen the movie. My new book NAZI SABOTEURS on the BAYOU has received rave reviews in print and online. But one of the most effective marketing tools I have fallen on to date is a short, masterful video that was broadcast on You Tube and can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQs2pwr89RI . This video has brought my professionalism to a higher level and increased print sales.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers who believe to have that book inside them? For instance, is there anything you would definitely recommend they do and anything they should definitely avoid?
Write one good page every day. That should be your goal. Write one good page each day and be prepared for rejection. Work hard. Don’t give up. Visit libraries and be kind to librarians. Librarians are the keepers of our heritage in words. I have had some success hitting the bricks and visiting libraries around the country to make presentations on topics of interest to local library patrons and where I am allowed to sell my books afterward. Great exposure. Find lots of readers to read and comment on your book, especially those willing to give you harsh criticism. It helps!
Where do you draw your inspiration?
From the ordinary people I meet every day on the street who are heroes in their daily life: The women who make good mothers, great wives, and pursue successful careers. The men who give their all to be good fathers, great husbands, and excel at their chosen trade, whatever it may be. The sons and daughters who make the most of their God-given talents and take the calculated risks in life to make their parents proud and to become contributing members of society.
Published 2017-01-08.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Moon Beam
Price: $1.99 $0.99 USD. (50% off!) Words: 83,610. Language: English. Published: April 10, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Hard sci-fi, Fiction » Adventure » Action
Peril stalked the corridors of the lunar habitat. The killer, a woman, fed on that fear. No one in the lunar station was safe from her wrath, not even the fresh, young team that had just arrived from Earth to erect the first lunar space elevator. The unreeling of the space cable had just begun, when the killer struck a vengeful blow, a catastrophic solar flare flashing overhead,.
The Grandfather Paradox: A Time-Travel Story
Price: $1.99 USD. (Free until Sep. 17, 2020!) Words: 127,510. Language: English. Published: January 14, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Adventure » Action
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Marooned in the present, their only hope for the future lay in the past. But first there was still the small matter of staying alive. The planet was crawling with bird-beasts, large parrotlike carnivores. Now join Andu Nehrengel and his female clone companions on an intense voyage through time. First stop: the Civil War and the Battle of Shiloh. Meet Mark Twain when he is still a river boat pilot.
Nazi Saboteurs on the Bayou
Price: $1.99 $0.99 USD. (50% off!) Words: 111,490. Language: English. Published: November 11, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Historical » USA, Fiction » Adventure » War & military adventure
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A dead German in a whorehouse bed. A pair of bloated corpses floating in a Mississippi bayou. A mysterious notebook filled with unknown codes and hand drawn maps. A Mafia Don helping the Allies seek revenge on the Fascists. A series of anagrams challenging the code-breaking talents of the brilliant minds at Bletchley Park. A Nazi plot to sabotage the production of Higgins landing craft.