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On Tour with Madame Fiocca

This week I’m on tour with my latest release, Madame Fiocca. For those who don’t know, it’s about Nancy Wake, the infamous SOE heroine, journalist and French Resistance courier. Here’s a piece I wrote for Viviana Mackade’s fabulous book blog today. To read the entire piece click the link below:

Finding Nancy

by Suzy Henderson, author of Madame Fiocca.

I first read about Nancy Wake and her role in World War Two several years ago, while researching another story. I recall thinking how commendable, but I read on, discovering other heroines of SOE including the American, Virginia Hall, the first female operative in France. What is even more remarkable is that she had a prosthetic leg. While working with the Special Operations Executive in France, Virginia had to escape over the Pyrenees, quite literally at one-point crawling part of the way. It was an incredible achievement and so courageous.

One day I came across an article about Nancy Wake, and it mentioned her husband. That caught my interest, so I bought a biography of Wake written by Russel Braddon. Suddenly, Nancy was on my mind and I wanted to know more, such as where she grew up, and her life before France. Braddon’s book was wonderful, but it didn’t cover much of Nancy’s life in Australia. I then bought Nancy’s own biography, written at a later stage in her life. Once again, not much in there about Australia, so I decided to go digging on the internet, turning to genealogy sites as I looked for family ties. Well, after many hours of searching and triple checking the facts, I discovered her family tree, unearthing British, Maori and French roots.

I discovered through Nancy’s own words in her books and tv interviews, that her father had abandoned her and her family at an early age. And there was something else that stood out every time Nancy spoke of her war times. She vehemently denied ever being afraid, saying things such as she was far too busy to be scared. I found this interesting, because I’ve also heard of soldiers and airmen who have said exactly the same. And then I’ve heard dozens more state that any man who said he wasn’t afraid in war is a liar!

The fact is, Nancy was the consummate actress, quite forward, openly flirtatious with German soldiers in order to bluff her way through check points for instance. She could probably do just about anything and so painting on a brave face was a simple task. Like a chameleon, Nancy was changeable and adaptable to any situation or environment.

The French men she fought with and led loved her. They thought she was amazing, and formidable. Nancy made many firm friends for life, and one of them, Henri Tardivat, once stated: “She is the most feminine woman I know, but when the fighting starts she is like five men.”

Food for thought indeed. My take was that Nancy would have been afraid. Fear is a natural response after all, but Nancy had a strong spirit and the strength to push on, doing what she needed to do despite the risks.

There’s a lot to consider when writing about a real person, and the fear factor was important to me because I knew it existed, and I didn’t wish to write a person who was completely without it.

Re-reads of the biographies gave me more insight – it’s funny what you miss when reading something the first or even the second time. Piece by piece Nancy was emerging before my eyes.

Having gone from learning about a New Zealander, raised in Sydney, who became a guerrilla fighter with the Maquis in France – a great leader of some 7000 men, I was suddenly facing a woman who bore her own emotional scars, who did admit to feeling worried at times during the war, and who was a true lady with the heart of a lion. She was a born leader, involved in dangerous courier work for Resistance groups from the very beginning in France, and well before she joined the Special Operations Executive. It was during this time that the Germans became aware of a woman operating in southern France, and they dubbed her “The White Mouse”, offering a bounty for her capture.

Her real story reads like something out of Hollywood, and I was hooked, and I knew I had to write about her, to enable people to see the real Nancy. She was a wonderful human being, kind, incredibly generous, the greatest friend to have, and incredibly patriotic and brave.

Nancy Augusta Wake began life with very little, and went on to marry a wealthy man, Henri Fiocca, living a millionaire’s life, only to lose it all through war. At the end of it all she had to start again. It’s a tragic story, but she eventually found happiness and perhaps some peace later when she met and fell in love with John Forward. They married and settled eventually in Australia.

Nancy never got over the loss of Henri. He was, as she often remarked, the greatest love of her life, and his selfless sacrifice was her one regret from the war years.

Henri was arrested in May 1943 and tortured by the Germans, but he refused to give up his wife’s location. On October 16th, 1943, Henri Fiocca was executed by firing squad. And to the end of her days, Nancy always declared that “the only good Nazi is a dead one”.

Nancy Grace Augusta Wake 30 August 1912 – 7 August 2011

Book Linkmybook.to/MadameFiocca

From March 11th, the book will be available worldwide from all sellers including Kobo and Apple.

fiction, historical fiction, Novel, Uncategorized

New Year New Books Fete & Prize & Giveaway

N.N. Light’s Book Heaven New Year New Books Fete running throughout January.

Open internationally.

Runs January 1 – 31 2020.

Draw to be held on February 1, 2020.

Calling all readers! It’s a brand new year and I’m ringing in 2020 with N. N Light’s Book Heaven New Year New Books Fete. 39 books from multiple genres featured plus a chance to win one of the following:

Enter to win a $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card

Enter to win a $25 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card

Enter to win a $10 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card

I’m thrilled to be a part of this event. My book, Madame Fiocca, will be featured on 2 January 2020. I even talk about my resolutions/goals for the new year. You won’t want to miss it.

Bookmark this bookish get-together and tell your friends:

https://www.nnlightsbookheaven.com/bookpromos/categories/new-year-new-books-fete

Direct link to giveaway:

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/92db775044

Good luck and happy reading!

fiction, historical fiction, Novel, Uncategorized

The Moments that Define Us

People often ask me when I began to write and why. Well, the answer is, it crept up on me. My first desire to write cropped up during my English lit degree with the Open University. For those of you familiar with the OU, one chooses which module they wish to study from a selection of courses relevant to the degree. I was in my third year, and at a crossroads. None of the options appealed to me, so I chose creative writing. Well, I thought I love to read, so why not? And that was that. With my love of history and a particular interest in WW2, I was hooked.

For me, it was a defining moment and I have not stopped writing since my degree years. It is fascinating how even the smallest of events define us, often altering our life’s path, encompassing great change. Perhaps we are drawn to the historical past because many events, situations remain current, and so people can identify with the past, and feel a certain connection.

Paris at night

My interests in military history range far and wide, but having come across an old biography written in the 1950s, about Nancy Wake, I was mesmerised. Later, I bought the memoir she wrote herself, published in the 1980s. While it was a captivating read, it mainly detailed her life in France on the eve of war and during. I learned about her time as a journalist in the 1930s, her first encounter with her future husband, Henri Fiocca, a wealthy industrialist, her courageous work as a courier with the Resistance, and finally, her life as an SOE agent.

All accounts talk of her war work, and I often read about this fierce Guerrilla fighter, a leader of seven thousand maquisards, who could drink any man under the table and still be sober enough to recall every detail. But instinctively I knew there was more to this fearless lady. Yes, she was strong-willed, she was angry, so ferociously angry with the Germans, and for a good reason. Mad enough to have the will to do something about their cruel ways.

Nancy was a lady who enjoyed the finer things in life, beautiful clothes, and dining. She was as far removed from the fighter she became when she first stepped onto French soil in 1933. Once I’d read all about her, a picture formed in my mind, but it was one mined with gaping holes, where secrets lay, buried, forgotten, and I had to uncover them to get to the heart of this amazing woman.

Nancy Wake was a frivolous, decent, young woman when she decided to study journalism in the early 1930s. She’d left her home in Sydney, unhappy with family life, embarked on a cruise, docked in England at the finale, and had to make a living. So, having completed a six-month course, armed with the basics in reporting and typing, she was fortunate enough to be offered a post in Paris, working with the Hearst News Group. In the beginning, life was idyllic.

She had suitors, dined out, and enjoyed the jet-setting lifestyle of a reporter, travelling the breadth of France, venturing across borders into Europe. It was her travels where she began to hear and see for herself, the ugliness metered out by the Nazi Party. Like so many at that time, she was intrigued by Adolf Hitler, but when she finally witnessed the brutal treatment of Jewish people by the SA in Vienna, she’d seen enough. It was a turning point in her young, gentile life. A defining moment. Hatred of the Nazis began to burn in her soul, one that would burn until her dying breath. What she witnessed in Vienna defined her in a heartbeat, and she would seize her chance when it sailed along, making a decision that would change her life forever.

The Nancy I went searching for, was a young girl in Sydney, having moved there with her family at the age of two. Originally born in New Zealand, her mother was descended from the French Huguenots and Maoris, her father from the British. Nancy had a tough upbringing, and her parents divorced when she was six years old. Sadly, her father sold the family home, effectively leaving his wife and children homeless. A new home elsewhere beckoned. Nancy was the youngest of all of her siblings, and so childhood was lonely at home. But when she went to school, she found friends and was a bit of a tomboy by all accounts.

It was this innocent child that drew me in because I began to picture a girl who had been shaped by hard family life, disappointment, rejection, an apparent lack of parental affection, and scarred by the absence of her father. As she once said, ‘I adored my dad, but he was a bastard.’ Nancy never saw her father again.

As people, we are so complex, and Nancy was no different. It seemed essential that I discovered every detail possible, to truly know the subject of my novel. Not all detail needed to be included in the book, it’s more about finding the person. After much digging and trawling genealogy sites, I’d gathered as much information as I was likely to find. Finally, I’d found Nancy. And she was quite different to the figure in those biographies.

Once we find what we are looking for, we must make sense of it, and things aren’t always as they seem. Nancy was often quoted as saying that she was never afraid. She was too busy to be scared, or her hatred of the Nazis flowed so deep that eclipsed all else. Well, you see, I believe Nancy was afraid, and, quite rightly so. I think what she genuinely realised was that fear would not be a barrier. She really was far too busy to dwell on it, and, like most people, simply got on with things. As a writer, we have an option to exercise some creative licence when writing about real people, while taking care to be as factually correct as reasonably possible.

As any writer of historical fiction knows, the research phase of writing can be exhausting, producing mountains of notes, many of which are never utilised – at least not in the written sense. But much of what is uncovered is used in other ways because the writer is now informed, and such insight informs their writing, characterisation, voice etc. It is the light bulb moment – a defining event. And it’s exciting, and satisfying when that finally happens.

Madame Fiocca is available to buy now from Amazon as an e-book. It is also available to read for FREE via KindleUnlimited – mybook.to/MadameFiocca

fiction, historical fiction, Uncategorized

Serenade To Lost Voices

My love of military history has led me to the most fascinating discoveries – of people and their stories. Of those, one, in particular, stands out from the crowd.

bert

Serenade To The Big Bird was written by 1st Lt. Bert Stiles, of the United States Air Force. Before this, Bert flew bomber missions as a co-pilot with the 91st Bomb Group and was based in Bassingbourn, England. After completing his tour of duty, he had the opportunity to return to his homeland but he had always wanted to fly fighters and so he requested to do so. He had 35 bomber missions under his belt. Incidentally, Bassingbourn was also home to one of the more famous B-17’s, The Memphis Belle.

bert-stiles-fighter

Prior to the war, Bert had enjoyed success with his short stories, selling them to various publications. Throughout his war service, he continued to write. His dream of becoming a fighter pilot was finally realised and he began flying missions late 1944.

Tragically, Bert lost his life at the grand age of twenty-four, when on the 26th November 1944 he became a victim of target fixation whilst chasing an FW-190 in his P-51.

 

This book was published posthumously by Bert’s mother in 1947 and is a collection of his journal entries from his war service. It details his service from the first time he becomes part of a crew right up until their last mission, thus following some of the air war over Europe. However, the way he wrote is so natural and relaxed and very reminiscent of Hemingway.

Bert details life outside of flying, the social side of the air force. He talks about losses, planes and men. He mentions the fact that he finds it difficult keeping the ship in tight formation. He describes flak so thick you could get out and walk on it. It’s rather a warts and all version but without being too gory.

I particularly love one sentence, where he’s just had a gruesome experience. He’s talking about a waist gunner who was killed on a mission. He didn’t know him but he says, “Maybe the guy was a quiet one who taught Sunday-school class, maybe a dreamer waiting for a princess to dance down a moonbeam out of the sky, maybe a drunk.” Such simple words yet powerful and emotive. Bert was poetic, imaginative and an emerging fantastic literary talent.

bert_marker

Stiles is interred in the Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupre, Liege, Belgium. He was awarded the Air Medal (with five oak leaf clusters), the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart. His book, Serenade To The Big Bird, is considered a classic among aviation enthusiasts.

So, if you’ve ever wondered what it was really like for those boys, go grab a copy because I’m telling you, it’s fascinating. R.I.P. Bert Stiles. I salute you.

 

 

fiction, historical fiction, Novel, Uncategorized

New Release: The Betrayal by Award-Winning Author, Anne Allen.

3D Cover x 6.small

Today I’m so pleased to welcome historical fiction author, Anne Allen, whose latest book, The Betrayal, will be released tomorrow, October 20th.

Hello Anne and welcome! Congratulations on the new release! This is a very exciting time for you as you’re launching the sixth book in The Guernsey Novels series and I’m sure you have a number of fans eagerly awaiting the release. 

There’s such a lot involved when you’re an Indie author. Can you tell me how you’ve found the publishing process so far?

Let’s say it’s not been easy! When I wrote my first novel 11 years ago, I naively thought I’d find an agent and they would, in turn, magic up a grateful publisher. Some years on and I realised this was not going to happen, in spite of some encouraging words from an agent or two. Fortunately, this coincided with the advent of self-publishing, and I took the plunge and used a service publisher, Matador, to launch ‘Dangerous Waters’ onto the unsuspecting, and probably not very interested, world. Since then I’ve established my own imprint and published another 5 titles. The advantage of going Indie is that I have more control and all of the royalties; the disadvantage is that I have all of the work, and the buck stops with me. But, I carry on, as I enjoy the writing process and there’s nothing quite like seeing the fruit of one’s hard work sitting on shelves in bookstores or lined up virtually on an Amazon page. ☺

I understand completely and I have to agree with you – and it’s definitely a lot of hard work but so rewarding as you say. What inspired you to write this story?

My latest in The Guernsey Novels series is ‘The Betrayal’ and is dual-time, split between the German Occupation of Guernsey in WWII and the present day. Two separate historical facts inspired the story: Renoir’s visit to Guernsey in 1833 when he painted numerous views of Moulin Huet Bay and the forceful deportation of Jews on Guernsey to concentration camps by the Germans.

That’s so fascinating – I love how the art concept captured your imagination and how you weaved it so seamlessly into the story.

Can you tell us a little about The Guernsey Novels?

All the stories take place predominantly on Guernsey and are linked by characters popping up from one book to another. I see them as together offering the ongoing story of a ‘village’ spread, so far, over 6 years. Each book is standalone with fresh new lead characters with their own links to the Occupation years having an impact on the present. A mix of mystery, family drama and love story and influenced by my love of the island where I spent many happy years. Guernsey itself is always a main character in the books, offering a gorgeous backdrop to all the sorrows, joys and tragedies I describe.

Place is such a vital element in a story, evoking mood, tone and memories for instance and it certainly shows that you know this place very well.

Are you a full-time author?

Only in that I don’t have another job! I was a psychotherapist for many years and started writing when I moved back to England and had few clients. For the past 4 years, I’ve decided writing is much more fun than listening to people’s problems every day ☺

Well it sounds as if you had a fascinating previous occupation and I’m sure that’s proved helpful in some ways to your writing.

How do you approach your writing and research? Do you plan strategically or do you wait to see where the muse takes you?

I have to have a plan, even if it’s a little hazy at the beginning. I always know the starting point and where I want to end up, or rather, where I want my characters to end up. My last two books have been dual time, which complicates the planning, but makes it more interesting. Most of my research is focused on the earlier time frame, WWII, as I’m pretty well up on modern Guernsey unless police procedure is involved and then I phone a policeman! I enjoy the research aspect but have been known to get carried away and forget I’m writing a novel which may only need a little background information. Shades of my days as a student studying history!

I empathise over the dual timeline and the difficulties of planning – something I’ve recently discovered for myself.

Have you ever been tempted to write in another genre?

As my books are cross-genre, I feel I’m dipping in and out of different genres anyway. I couldn’t write horror, fantasy or sci-fi, but perhaps one day I might be tempted to try psychological suspense or crime. Having said that, my books are littered with bodies…

What are you working on now?

‘Working’ is probably an overstatement as I’ve only started playing with the overall idea for book 7, ‘The Inheritance’. This will take me into new territory as part of the story will be set in late 19th Century Guernsey, the home of Victor Hugo for 15 years. He actually finished Les Miserables during that time, as well as publishing a number of other works. My character, Eugenie, is employed as his copyist and it’s her story I shall be telling. The other part of the dual time is set in the present and concerns a young woman, Tess, who inherits the house once owned by Eugenie, and goes on to discover family secrets.

That sounds amazing – looking forward to book 7 already.

What’s the hardest part about writing a series?

Not repeating myself! As the books are set in the same location of Guernsey, it’s difficult to find something fresh to say about the island in the present; not so hard when writing about the past. As characters pop in from book to book, I also have to remember what’s happening in their lives – partners, children etc. I really need to set up a spreadsheet!

I know – it’s only when I came to write novels that I discovered how unorganised I am! There’s so much to keep track of.

When you wrote the first book in this series, did you know it was to be a series from the beginning or was this something you realised after completing the book?

It took until the third book, ‘Guernsey Retreat’, to realise this was a ‘proper’ series, as opposed to books set in the same place. At that point I had new covers designed to form a brand, making all the titles instantly recognisable.

I love your brand – it’s something that’s vital, especially if you do write a series.

What part of the research process do you enjoy most?

Talking to people who have the specialised knowledge I can draw on. For example, with ‘The Betrayal’ I had long phone calls with a policeman and a funeral director. Makes for interesting conversations!

Can you tell us your latest news?

I was chuffed when ‘Echoes of Time’, book 5, won The Diamond Book Award 2017, a prize for Indie authors. It was also a finalist in the Readers Favorite Award an international award for all authors.

Congratulations on that news, Anne – that’s so wonderful for you. Thank you so much for chatting with us today. It’s been a pleasure and I wish you much success with your latest release. All best wishes to you.

New ReleaseAnne AllenThe Betrayal

Paperback & ebook available to buy from October 20th, 2017: Amazon

Blurb

Treachery and theft lead to death – and love

1940. Teresa Bichard and her baby are sent by her beloved husband, Leo, to England as the Germans draw closer to Guernsey. Days later they invade…
1942. Leo, of Jewish descent, is betrayed to the Germans and is sent to a concentration camp, never to return.
1945. Teresa returns to find Leo did not survive and the family’s valuable art collection, including a Renoir, is missing. Heartbroken, she returns to England.
2011. Nigel and his twin Fiona, buy a long-established antique shop in Guernsey and during a refit, find a hidden stash of paintings, including what appears to be a Renoir. Days later, Fiona finds Nigel dead, an apparent suicide. Refusing to accept the verdict, a distraught Fiona employs a detective to help her discover the truth…
Searching for the rightful owner of the painting brings Fiona close to someone who opens a chink in her broken heart. Can she answer some crucial questions before laying her brother’s ghost to rest?
Who betrayed Leo?
Who knew about the stolen Renoir?
And are they prepared to kill – again?

Reviews

I have now enjoyed all of Anne Allen’s novels, and I’m becoming a big fan. She is a very The Betrayal 3D Cover‘lively’ writer who seems to enjoy giving her readers a wonderful set of characters in a soft, almost velvety setting. Her books also offer a strong historical element, most often World War Two when the Germans invaded the island.
In the sixth novel in the set, Fiona and her twin brother, Nigel, discover hidden artwork in the walls of an antique shop. They attempt to discover whom it belonged to but, when Nigel ‘supposedly’ kills himself, Fiona attempts to discover the truth.

I must say that The Betrayal has a very different feel to it than the other novels in the set. The island is still lovingly described, the characters just as interesting and well developed, but the underlying mystery is so prominent in this story; in fact, in parts, it is almost a thriller. The pacing is faster right from the opening chapter with Teresa and Leo deciding whether to run from the invading Germans or not. And the ending is just as exciting. All in all, totally unputdownable!

To sum up, this is a wonderful novel, with tons of pace where pace is needed, and a setting so lovingly described, it is almost a character in the book. I am happy to recommend this story, in fact, all of them, to anybody who enjoys a well-plotted mystery populated with convincing and always credible characters.  A ‘Wishing Shelf’ Book Review.

3D Cover x 6.small

5-Star Review

Source: Advanced reader copy received from publisher.

Having read Anne’s last book, Echoes of Time, I couldn’t wait to read her latest, and I wasn’t disappointed. The novel alternates between WW2 and 2011 and is set on the beautiful island of Guernsey. The Betrayal features twins, Fiona and Nigel, who discover a Renoir within the walls of their antique shop in 2011. When Nigel is found dead, and suicide is suspected, Fiona refuses to believe that her brother would end his own life and she sets out to uncover the truth. Unravelling the mystery will carry her on a journey back to 1940, and to the dark days of the German Occupation and the deportation of Jews.

The story is well crafted with beautiful scenes of the island of Guernsey springing to life and all things WW2 perfectly portrayed. Historical facts are seamlessly interwoven into the story which is well paced with realistic, well-developed characters set within a fascinating plot with twists and turns. All in all, it’s an engrossing read and one that will sweep you away to war, mystery and romance. I can highly recommend it. ∼Review by Suzy Henderson

About Anne

Anne Allen lives in Devon, by her beloved sea. She has three children, and her daughter Iphoto for emailand two grandchildren live nearby.  Her restless spirit has meant a number of moves which included Spain for a couple of years. The longest stay was in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns.

By profession, Anne was a psychotherapist, but long had the itch to write. Now a full-time writer, she has written The Guernsey Novels, five having been published and the sixth, The Betrayal, is due out in October 2017.

For all the latest book and writing news, be sure to follow Anne here:

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Universal Buy Link: Amazon