Sometimes the best fiction, in my humble opinion, is inspired by a real story. I am fond of taking real historical stories and using them as a starting point for my own novels. I have called on historical facts and figures for several of my books, including Terezin Twilight, Unsinkable, The Blue Butterfly and the three books of my Louvre Trilogy, Hiding Mona Lisa, Finding Fritz Gerhard and Rescuing Rembrandt.
I did not blog much about my Louvre Trilogy. There’s a great story behind it and while my characters are fictional the events that inspired it are all true and an amazing story. In 1939, as Hitler was quietly taking over countries and WWII had not yet been officially declared, the museums of France began to worry about their national collection of art. Hitler had already launched his plans for the building of his Furhrermuseum in Linz, Austria and was making his way across Europe, talking whatever works of art he wanted, from museums and from private collectors, many of whom were Jewish. Fearing that the Louvre especially might be in danger, the director of the Musees Nationaux, Jacques Jaujard, began to put into effect a plan for evacuating the contents of the Louvre before Hitler could reach Paris. I first found out about this remarkable feat by accident when I showed a video about the history of the Louvre in my middle school art class. What Jaujard did is awe inspiring. He led his staff in packing up every art treasure in the Louvre’s collection, including the Mona Lisa and carried it out of Paris to the chateaux of the Loire Valley. When Hitler arrived at the Louvre all he found was an empty shell. Jaujard managed to keep the Nazis at bay for the duration of the war and every work of art returned safely to the Louvre after the war. Some people refer to movie stars and Disney characters as ‘heroes.” To me, a hero is someone who does something remarkable without thinking of himself and his own personal risks. That is what Jacques Jaujard did- he saved the contents of the world’s greatest art museum as well as the people who worked under him. I ended up putting Jacques in the books as a tribute.
This story has stayed with me for many years. I have shared it with several classes since then, but in the back of my mind I was always trying to figure out a way to incorporate it into a story. I hesitated in part I think because I do seem to write a lot about WWII and Nazis…I can’t help it, I’m like Mel Brooks and they seem to find their way into my work, probably because of all those Facing History classes. One day on a run, where, believe it or not, much of my writing occurs, the idea came to me. What of there was a plot to steal the Mona Lisa and a curator with a mysterious past and the characters meet against the backdrop of the evacauation…and Hiding Mona Lisa was born.
I hadn’t meant it to be a trilogy, but I got into the characters and there was so much left unfinished. So I kept writing. Three books later and I think there could be another book that takes place a few years later, one which would stand alone but have the same characters.
But for now, it remains a trilogy of which I am very proud. You can find it at my website, http://www.booksbylynnmurphy.com or on Amazon.