If you’ve read my blogs before, you’ll know that I’m an avid bicyclist. That’s why I’m thrilled with the cover of my newest book, “Chasing Shadows,” which releases June 8. The windmill reveals the novel’s setting in The Netherlands. The low-flying airplanes, the model’s clothing, and her concerned expression hint that it takes place during World War II when the Nazis invaded that peace-loving country. But best of all, in my opinion, is the bicycle!
I have loved cycling since I was a girl. I still remember my first bike, a clunky, secondhand single-speed with coaster brakes that I repainted red. My sisters and I would ride into the countryside in rural New York State where we grew up, or to the ice cream stand in a neighboring village, three miles away. And my love of biking has only increased with my age. One of the deciding factors in choosing our new house was the bike trail right at the end of our driveway. It goes for miles and miles in both directions. It’s an easy six-mile ride into town to go to the library or the farmer’s market or for lunch with friends. And only 1 ½ miles to the beach on Lake Michigan.
Our vacations are chosen with biking in mind. We spent the month of February in Florida where we accumulated 400 miles. Ken and I bought new bikes last August and already maxed-out the odometers at 1,000 miles. In 2019 we joined friends from church on a cycling tour around Lake Constance, traveling through Germany, Switzerland and Austria. My most memorable day was in the Austrian Alps where we ferried our bikes up Mt. Pfander in a gondola, then cycled back down the nearly 3,500-foot mountain. It was equal parts thrilling and terrifying! Of course, I want to do it again.
The Netherlands, where “Chasing Shadows” takes place, is filled with bike-loving people like me. The first time my Dutch publisher invited me on a book tour there, I was astonished to see how many bicycles there are in that tiny country. A huge tangle of them greeted me outside every bookstore, their owners all waiting inside to hear me speak. Bicycles whizzed through every village and city, often at breakneck speed. Dutch bike paths even had traffic circles at busy intersections to keep people from crashing into each other.
I’m told that there are more bikes in Holland than people, and I believe it! It’s a common sight to see professional men and women commuting with briefcases strapped to their bikes. Thousands of bikes are parked at every train station, some perched in double-decker bike racks to conserve space. I can’t imagine how people ever find their own bike again at the end of the day.
Naturally, bicycles play an important role in “Chasing Shadows.” Lena de Vries relies on her bicycle to travel from her farm to the nearby village, often with children perched on the handlebars and rear fender in true Dutch fashion. Her daughter Ans rides home from her townhouse in Leiden to visit her family. Later, Ans uses her bike for her dangerous work with the Dutch Resistance. I traveled to The Netherlands to research this book, and my husband and I rented bikes in Leiden to ride out into the countryside like Ans would have done so I could research settings for the de Vries family farm.
Here’s a sneak-peek at the Dutch version of the cover. Naturally, it also features a bicycle.
I doubt if my bicycling hobby will ever coincide so perfectly with my novel-writing research again, but it certainly worked out nicely for this book. I hope you’ll enjoy journeying into the past in “Chasing Shadows” and visiting the bike-loving Netherlands. And watch for a great deal on pre-orders, coming very soon!