Today I would like to introduce all of you to the lovely Helen Carey who talks about why her novels are set in the Second World War.
Why do you set your novels in the Second World War?
I have always been interested in the Second World War. My uncle died in it as a glider pilot in the Sicily landings and my father had often told me about his experiences including how he kept chickens at his army camp and sold the eggs to his fellow officers! I had also met a wonderful neighbour who had lived in the same house in London right through the war. I happened to mention this to my agent and soon afterwards I was commissioned to write three wartime books, which became the LAVENDER ROAD series.
It all happened really quickly and at first it seemed a daunting task, but after months of research I began to realise that the Second World War is an amazing period to write about. So much happened during those six traumatic years, especially in London. As well as the bombing and the fear of invasion, there was also a kind of breaking-down both of class, and of traditional male/female roles. People, who previously would never have met, were thrown together, often in unusual circumstances. The privations of war and the constant anxiety for friends and family put extra pressure on everyone, and people coped in different ways.
I quickly realised that all of this makes a fantastic background for a novel. I have always been interested in the way people often show unexpected strength in difficult circumstances. The war offered me so many avenues to explore, whether it be a wannabe actress fighting for the chance to get into ENSA, or a girl determined to reopen her parents pub after it was bombed, or a society debutante deciding to put her languages to good use by volunteering to join the SOE.
My research gave me a plethora of stories, some poignant, some tragic, some funny, and led me to meet so many wonderful people who had lived through those difficult and challenging years.
Sadly many of those people have now passed on. And it was their memories that I found the most interesting element of my research when I first started writing the Lavender Road books. Yes, historical records are great, but nothing compares with someone telling you at first hand what it was like to be caught in an underground station when a bomb severed the water main, or to crawl through the cellars of a collapsed building searching for a trapped child, or to take a tiny riverboat over to rescue stranded soldiers at Dunkirk, or to be parachuted into occupied France. And it’s not just the big events, it’s the small memories too, Americans soldiers sticking their chewing gum on the door of a hospital ward while they visited injured colleagues, a precious pound of sugar carried in a tin helmet, the terror of a war office telegram, the delight in a fresh egg.
Last year I interviewed a ninety year old doctor who, as a medical student in Oxford in 1941, had been shown the laboratory where a little team of scientists developed the first ever usable penicillin. He told me they were having to use bedpans to grow the cultures in, they simply didn’t have anything else available.
Later on in our chat, he casually let slip that when he was crossing the Atlantic in 1942, the ship he was on was torpedoed at night, and he spent several hours tossing about in the dark on a makeshift raft in his dressing gown and slippers, before eventually being rescued.
That is one of the odd things about the war, people who lived through it often look back as though it was all quite ordinary. But it wasn’t, it was extraordinary and it forced people to show extraordinary amounts of courage and resilience. That’s what makes it such a fascinating period to write about.
About Helen Carey
Novelist Helen Carey is best know for her World War Two novels Lavender Road, Some Sunny Day and On a Wing and a Prayer, which has recently been voted the winner of the e-Festival of Words Historical Fiction Award.
Helen’s two contemporary novels, Slick Deals and The Art of Loving, are also available as e-books.
As well as writing Helen likes to paint and works from a small studio in a converted goat shed on the small Pembrokeshire coastal farm where she lives, and which she and her husband run as a wildlife haven. She also teaches creative writing at Trinity Saint David and Aberystwyth Universities.
Helen has recently signed a fabulous deal with Headline Books. Her new novel, London Calling, the fourth in the Lavender Road series, will be published at the beginning of 2016.
Helen’s website: http://www.helencareybooks.co.uk
Helen’s blog: http://helencareybooks.wordpress.com
Or join her on Twitter: @helencareybooks
Or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/helencareybooks
Find Lavender Road on Amazon: http://viewBook.at/B0066DLQGM