I have loved reading about History since first memory and later immersing myself in Historical Fiction by age eight. If I saw a swashbuckler film first, I wanted to read the book it was based on and non-fiction to learn how much was true. No Tom Sawyer for me, I preferred Mark Twain’s Prince and the Pauper and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, both of which were made into films.
My novel Close to the Sun follows the lives of two Americans and a German from childhood through the end of WWII. As boys, they idealize the exploits of WWI fighter aces known as chivalrous Knights of the Skies.
Hank Milroy from Wyoming learns his first flying lessons from observing falcons. Karl, Fürst von Pfalz-Teuffelreich, aspires to surpass his father’s 49 Luftsiegen accumulated during WWI. Seth Braham falls in love with flying during an air show at San Francisco’s Chrissy Field. The young men meet exceptional women. Texas tomboy Catherine “Winty” McCabe believes she is as good a flyer as any man. Princess Maria-Xenia, a stateless White Russian, works for the Abwehr, German intelligence. Elfriede “Elfi” Wohlmann is a frontline nurse. Mimi Kay sings with a big band.
Flying fighters over Europe, Hank, Karl, and Seth experience the exhilaration of aerial combat victories and acedom during the unromantic reality of combat losses, tedious bomber escort, strafing runs, and firebombing of entire cities. Callous political decisions and military mistakes add to their disillusion, especially one horrific tragedy at the end of the war.
Why did I write Close to the Sun? A sentient boy during WWII, I admired the fighter aces and their sleek planes. Over time I was given access to many documents from both the Allies and the Axis, and I met and conversed with aces from the USAAF, the RAF, and the Luftwaffe. A novel formed in my mind and I sat down to write.
I wanted to create a fictional USAAF fighter group and its squadrons for my fictional composite American characters against a realistic background. It took some time to find numbers that had not been used. For the Luftwaffe, I chose to use historical unit and bases.
My next challenge was to create composite characters. I wanted the two Americans to represent country and city, with a secondary character who had all the negative traits of certain fighter aces. I found it easier for purposes of the novel to make the Luftwaffe ace an aristocrat. The history of the air war over Europe carried the narrative.
I did not want Close to the Sun to be an all-male story, so I added four female characters. Winty McCabe was easy to create because she was the embodiment of all women who wanted to fly and who served as a WASP, Women’s Airforce Service Pilot. A Russian princess who worked with the anti-Nazi faction in the Abwehr, German Intelligence, gave me the inspiration for Mariya-Xenia. Given that some U.S. fighter aces wed actresses and big band singers, after a while I came up with the singer streetwise Mimi Kay. Last of all, I added Elfie, a German combat nurse for purposes of story.
My publisher has asked me for a sequel to Close to the Sun, which I have begun, and many more HF novels have been written in my mind.
Donald Michael Platt
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About the Author
Donald Michael Platt is the author of four other novels, ROCAMORA, HOUSE OF ROCAMORA, A GATHERING OF VULTURES, and CLOSE TO THE SUN, Donald Michael Platt was born and raised in San Francisco. Donald graduated from Lowell High School and received his B.A. in History from the University of California at Berkeley. After two years in the Army, Donald attended graduate school at San Jose State where he won a batch of literary awards in the annual SENATOR PHELAN LITERARY CONTEST. Donald moved to southern California to begin his professional writing career. He sold to the TV series, MR. NOVAK, ghosted for health food guru, Dan Dale Alexander, and wrote for and with diverse producers, among them as Harry Joe Brown, Sig Schlager, Albert J. Cohen, Al Ruddy plus Paul Stader Sr, Hollywood stuntman and stunt/2nd unit director. While in Hollywood, Donald taught Creative Writing and Advanced Placement European History at Fairfax High School where he was Social Studies Department Chairman.After living in Florianópolis, Brazil, setting of his horror novel A GATHERING OF VULTURES, pub. 2007 & 2011, he moved to Florida where he wrote as a with: VITAMIN ENRICHED, pub.1999, for Carl DeSantis, founder of Rexall Sundown Vitamins; and THE COUPLE’S DISEASE, Finding a Cure for Your Lost “Love” Life, pub. 2002, for Lawrence S. Hakim, MD, FACS, Head of Sexual Dysfunction Unit at the Cleveland Clinic. Currently, Donald resides in Winter Haven, Florida where he is polishing a dark novel and preparing to write a sequel to CLOSE TO THE SUN. For more information please visit Donald Michael Platt’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter @donroc.