Go Forward with Courage

Sometimes book titles can literally be the hardest part of writing an entire novel. You can spend months or years thoughtfully creating characters, putting them into situations that create drama or suspense for your readers, and crafting dialogue that feels natural and realistic. But once the book is finished, finding the perfect title that feels worthy of the story can be elusive–nothing seems quite right. If you’re lucky, you’ll come across something that strikes like lightning, and you’ll know you’ve landed the perfect title.

That was the case for my latest novel, Go Forward with Courage. A central part of the novel deals with Michi and her family, who are forced to relocate to an internment camp in Arkansas after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. For the thousands of families impacted by the Executive Order to remove all citizens of Japanese ancestry from the west coast, every step of their journeys to these camps took courage. But it didn’t end there. When they were finally allowed to leave at the war’s end to return home, what were they returning to? It varied of course, but for many of these displaced persons, they had nothing tangible to return to.

The title, Go Forward with Courage comes from a quote by a Native American Chief after his realization that he had no other choice but accompany his people to a reservation.


“When you are in doubt, be still, and wait; when doubt no longer exists for you, then go forward with courage. So long as mists envelope you, be still; be still until the sunlight pours through and dispels the mists — as it surely will. Then act with courage”.

Pocono Chief White Eagle

When I came across this quote while writing the novel, the similarity of the plight of the Japanese-American citizens displaced from their homes to the Native Americans generations earlier seemed incredibly relevant. My character Michi, and the thousands of others like her, would need courage to face the unknown waiting for them when they returned “home” after the war. Some of the images captured from that time period, express more than my own words ever could.

I have so much admiration for the people who rebuilt lives after having them interrupted during the war. The courage it took is inspiring, and I hope that my story does them justice.

A picture is worth a thousand words? Yep, I can buy that!

The balcony on the back of the house.
The balcony on the back of the house.

One of my favorite things to hear as an author is, “I could picture the story as I was reading it.” I get chill bumps when I hear someone say that, because that is literally my main goal as a writer of fiction. If my readers don’t come away from This She’ll Defend with a clear image of Carmen and Ed’s life in Germany, then I’ve failed them. 

So just for fun, I thought I’d put up some pictures of the actual places around Darmstadt and Erfelden where the majority of the novel is set. I’d love for people who’ve read the book to comment on the pictures. Is that how you pictured Carmen and Ed’s house? 

One picture depicts the balcony off the living room and master bedroom which was the inspiration for a dramatic moment Carmen shares with Ethan in the novel (no spoilers!). 

Namur, Belgium was a hidden treasure that Carmen’s family discovered on a trip. Can you see why she was so enamored with this lovely place?

Chime, in and let me know what you think. Pictures are wonderful, but hopefully you’d formed your own pictures as you read.