As the author of seven cozy mysteries, beginning to write a historical novel was like hiking an unexplored trail.

A mystery writer constructs a fictional puzzle and uses small revelations and a bit of misdirection to build and maintain suspense – none of which seemed like the right tools to unpack for a historical World War II journey.

‘Winter’s End’ was born to me when I read a true story about teenaged sisters Truus and Freddie Obersteegen, who joined the Dutch Resistance during the last months of Nazi occupation. Among other heroics, they flirted with half-drunk Nazi officers in smoky Dutch taverns, luring them to their deaths at the hands of Resistance leaders who robbed them of their uniforms and identification for use by Jews and others fleeing Hitler’s wrath.  

Somehow, the sisters morphed into one as gutsy Evi Strobel, who moved into my head, threw down her keys, and refused to leave until I told her story. Evi, who lived on a houseboat with her tough-spirited mother, hauled aboard her alternate story tellers – the resourceful veterinarian Zoe Visser, and Mila Brouwer, the beautiful daughter of a German collaborator – composite spirits drawn from the true-life stories of Dutch Resistance heroines like Hannie Schaft, Corrie Ten Boom, Tina Strobos, and others who found ingenious ways to feed the starving and flirt with danger to outwit their Nazi oppressors.

While the relationships of my characters are largely fictional, their adventures are based on fact, and I felt it was important to keep the timeline of the war accurate; to know the position of the Allies at certain points during the war, to understand how military actions, Resistance strategies, and sometimes even the weather could change the course of history.

I have been to Amsterdam twice, but I wanted to return – to see the fields of tulips, walk the streets of Haarlem, steer a houseboat on the Spaarne River. But I wrote the book during the pandemic, when travel was out of the question, so I closed my eyes and scoured my memory for visuals I could resurrect.

I scanned non-fictional accounts of the period, online and in books. Wikipedia was a treasure trove for zeroing in Dutch geography, specific incidents, even illustrated uniforms and artillery.

Through Holocaust survivor’s groups, I talked with an elderly Dutch woman who lived through the occupation as a child hidden from the Nazis by non-Jewish families. While she was too young at the time to remember much that was helpful, it was from her that I picked up a few phrases, like, ‘my hiding mother,’ that I think add realism to ‘Winter’s End.’

But it was Evi, and the times and characters we explored, who propelled me through the journey. I wrote the last scene in my head so many times in the middle of the night, that when it was finally time to write it, I simply could not type fast enough.

In all, it was a journey I am game to repeat when a new character moves into my head – a character-driven tale that puts me and my readers into another compelling time and place – a time and place I cannot yet imagine, but very much look forward to exploring.

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Winter’s End (available in August 2024)

At once a World War II love story and a tale of incredible bravery, “Winters End traces the missions of three young women of the Dutch Resistance from the cobblestoned streets of Nazi-occupied Holland to a remarkable denouement more than 70 years later and a world away.

Award-winning novelist Faye Kellerman calls it, “a gripping page-turner filled with honest characters that capture both heart and soul.”

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Barbara Pronin saw her first byline in a community newsletter at age eight and was forever hooked on writing. She has worked over the years as an actress, a probation officer, a news editor, and a substitute teacher, the last of which inspired her first book, a non-fiction guide to effective subbing that is still in print more than 30 years later.

Her earlier mysteries, including three as Barbara Nickolae, earned kudos from such best-selling writers as Mary Higgins Clark and Tony Hillerman, and have recently been republished. Her latest mystery, “The Miner’s Canary,” was published last October. Her newest work, a World War II historical titled, “Winter’s End” will be released in August 2024.

A lover of dark chocolate, Greek sunsets, and Dodgers baseball, Barbara lives and works in Orange County, Calif., where she writes on real estate for RISMedia and is eagerly waiting for the next cast of characters to take up residence in her head and demand that she tell their story.

5 thoughts on “THE WRITING OF ‘WINTER’S END’ by Barbara Pronin”

    1. Carol,
      Appreciate you stopping by today. Considering Barbara’s various written pieces – cozy, journalistic, etc., it is fascinating to see how her mind worked for this character driven piece.

  1. Nancy Miller-Borg

    I went to Amazon to preorder but found only her other books. Several books with the name Winter’s End but not Barbara’s. Sounds like a book I want to read.

    1. Hi, Nancy – thank you for your interest in Winter’s End – but the book will not be available until August 2024. You can check in with me at for the latest updates.

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