Author interview of John Winn Miller
The "Hunt for The Peggy C" follows a merchant ship captain who agrees to help a Jewish family escape Amsterdam during WWII. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?
Strangely, the inspiration for the novel was a dream from years before. When my daughter Allison was young, we watched a terrible action-adventure film together — I don’t remember which one — and I kept telling myself I could write a better screenplay. That night I had a dream, and when I woke up, I knew the first and last scenes and the name of the ship. That was all.
So, like Michelangelo used to say, I knew there was a figure in that block of stone — in my case, a story — and all I had to do was spend years trying to chisel it free. The “Hunt for the Peggy C” screenplay and other scripts and TV pilots I wrote attracted some interest in Hollywood but no sales. So, when Covid hit, and my wife Margo and I were stuck at home, I decided it was time to live up to the dream that had been the reason I had become a journalist: to learn how to write so I could become a novelist.
Miriam is a woman with strength. What do you think makes her a valuable and worthy heroine?
Miriam, the oldest daughter of the Jewish family being rescued, was a medical student until the Nazi-occupiers kicked all Jews out of universities. She is a bookworm–like our hero and her love interest, Captain Jake Rogers–as well as a healer who is frustrated by men’s cowardice. She is the moral backbone of the story and the one who has to courageously save Jake and the others.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
There is a fine line between honor and immorality. Does doing your duty and fighting for your country mean there is no limit to the atrocities you can commit? Does not doing your duty and defending your country mean you are a coward? And what are you if you refuse to make a choice and remain indifferent? The bottom line is that it takes real courage to do the right thing.
What is the next book that you are working on and when can your fans expect it to be out?
I stunned myself when I immediately started writing a sequel after selling "The Hunt for the Peggy C" to Bancroft Press. I was even more stunned when I finished what I’ve titled “Captain Rogers’ Long Watch,” which will be published by Bancroft Press in October 2024. I am now working on the third volume with many of the same characters in different phases of World War II.