The Beekeeper's Ball, Wiggs’s second in her Bella Vista Chronicles series (after The Apple Orchard) juggles a modern love story with a heart-pounding chronicle of the Danish resistance in Nazi-occupied Copenhagen.
What got you interested in the story of the anti-Nazi underground movement in Denmark?
A lot of times writers doesn’t know where their ideas come from. But I had such a moment—I was in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. seeing [a boat from the fleet that helped rescue Danish Jews] changed my whole view. I thought “Wow! The [resistance fighters] were ordinary people that just knew they were not going to [allow the Nazis to] make off with the Jews of Denmark.” It was one of the few bright spots [of the war] and it resonated with me. I love that I actually remember the moment! It was a visceral sensation, and the start of a big research project. I cut my teeth writing historical romances so I always did love the historical research. But what was different this time, is that [the period] is still in living memory.
You also explore a very different area of conflict The Beekeeper’s Ball—that of sexual abuse and one character’s brave decision to confront her abuser. What led you to this issue?
That was not a choice that I made until I was in the book. I knew that I wanted Isabel to realize that she really needs to change her life because she’s way too much in the safety zone. And then I saw [that] theme emerge. Sometimes I come at themes through the back door!
You also explore two women from different generations who both make decisions about having babies and then giving them up. What interested you about those choices?
The theme that emerged was the element of choice. Annelise had to survive, but Jamie had choices. I wanted to make that clear; Jamie made a choice based on her personal needs and beliefs. I wanted to define sharply how the world had changed.
You venture into a love story between an older couple with a long but unromantic history. Did you have someone in our family who served as a model for Magnus and Annelise?
Not in my own family, but my folks live near me, and I’ve been spending time at their retirement home. It’s kind of beautiful, seeing older people making friends again. It puts a certain youthful spark into people who don’t think that they can’t fall in love just because they are old.
You hint at the end of The Beekeeper’s Ball that the Johansens harbor more family secrets, which haven’t yet been revealed. How far ahead do you plan your series?
I’m totally focused on whatever book I’m writing, but there’s a little corner of my mind where I think, “This could go this way…” So I love world-building.
How do you juggle the Bella Vista Chronicles and the Lakeshore Chronicles?
I’m in love with both of these streams of novels that I’m working on, the cozy East Coast small town in the Lakeshore Chronicles and the sun-drenched California of the Bella Vista series. So far I have toggled back and forth—I like that rhythm.