It's the last days of World War II. Cities are in ruins, and everyone—especially any Nazi hoping to escape retribution—is trying to get to anywhere that's not Europe.
How will they escape?
One word: Ratlines.
Ratlines, according to writer Katie Fetting, are "an Underground Railroad for really bad people." Roads and paths, partially created by do-gooders like the Catholic church and the Red Cross's international arm, were swiftly being used by scared Nazis to flee the chaos they had created.
Occasionally, they crossed paths with those they were persecuting, similarly trying to escape. And such a run-in would make for one hell of a story.
It's a story that Fetting is dying to tell. By day, she's a vp and creative director for TeamWorks Media, an integrated marketing agency that works primarily with higher education clients, museums and athletic event accounts.
On the side, she's attempting to fund and create her own graphic novel based on ratlines used at the end of World War II. She believes in Ratline graphic novel so much, she even donated $5,000 of her own money into her IndieGogo campaign.
"Graphic novels are a very inclusive medium for non-contemporary eras and non-traditional heroes," said Fetting. "It's still collaborative, and there's more creative control."
The plot is, broadly, about how tyrannies are "often the effect of people abdicating personal responsibility for the greater good," according to the IndieGogo page, and how that darkness might be in all of us. It's the combination of two strong people who believe they're each following orders. A mix of spies, loyalty and real history comes to life on the pages.
Fetting spent the early years of her career in Hollywood as a screenwriter, where, she says, "you often have little to no control over the finished product."
Perhaps it's that notion, of gaining control back and presenting your clearest vision, that drew Fetting into the marketing world while still getting to play in the world of fiction on the side.
"The problem with World War II is that it's probably the single most covered historical event, artistically," said Fetting. "I've been obsessed with World War II for as long as I can remember. Something about the potential of humans to do wonderful and terrible things."
Wanting to tell a unique story about such a well-represented span of history put her on the hunt for a new spin on things, and that process was equally helpful for her day-job.
"I think of my job as being unwaveringly creative in all work, whether it's based on my personal interests or a client's goals," she said. "By having a steady paycheck, I can be fearless in my personal work. By creating personal work, I can stay inspired and current for my clients."
Getting to use your creative muscles for your own projects can lead you to thinking beyond the usual range of ideas for clients or your office job. It can also help you focus on issues that you're personally passionate about.
"From the beginning of my creative career, I've championed female main characters," said Fetting. "There were these fantastic women in World War II, who in many cases proved hardier (and heartier) than the men. People need to know about them."
Her protagonist is described as "a composite of a bunch of badass female spies from the World War II era including Violette Szabo, Christine Granville and Virginia Hall."
Trying to convince friends and fans to donate to a campaign for a graphic novel with that storyline has taught Fetting even more about her job., she said
"It's helpful to test tactics without the pressure of a client contract," she said. "I've learned so much about crowdfunding and social targeting, primarily by making mistakes. I'm more likely to forgive myself for these mistakes than a client might be."
Since this campaign is crowdfunded and seems to be falling short of its goal, Fetting isn't quite sure if the project, in this iteration, will survive. Her hopes are for her and her collaborator, artist Mark Reihill, to create the book and take it to local comic stores while approaching comic distributors. If that all goes well, she's got a prequel and a sequel in mind, perhaps breaking into the Cold War.
"If the campaign doesn't raise the money, I'll work with Mark to chip away at it, a page at a time, until I'm 98," said Fetting. "That gives me 59 years to convince Emily Blunt to sign on."
(Her main character, Hanna, has been described by Fetting as a "hotter Emily Blunt," thereby making Fetting's biggest hope: "Already hot Emily Blunt signs on to play hotter Emily Blunt in the motion picture. Oscars follow. A tryst with Colin Farrell. World peace.")
No matter what direction her side job takes off in, Fetting will continue to make "spiffy content" for her brands and partners.
"I'm lucky that I work for a company that values its employees' time," she said, "both inside the 9-to-5 and outside of it."