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Archive for the tag “historical fiction”

The final moment has come

victory girls show card + me in france

UK edition

And so the final moment has come! VICTORY GIRLS, the sixth and final book in my Lavender Road series, is published today. In hardback in the UK and as eBooks in the UK and USA. The Audio versions will follow very soon, and the paperbacks later in the year.

I can hardly believe that after writing over a million words, I have finally brought the series to an end. And although everyone is asking for more, I really do think a million words is enough! The series starts in 1939 just as the Second World War began, and it finishes in 1945 on VE Day just as Victory in Europe is declared. I like the symmetry of it, six books over six years. And I very much hope all my readers will feel that I have brought the story to a satisfactory end. I will of course miss my long suffering characters, Jen, Joyce, Helen, Molly, Louise, Katy and Mr Lorenz (not to mention the ever gorgeous Ward Frazer, Henry Keller and André Cabillard!) but they will be there in print, and on our Kindles, for perpetuity, available for revisiting and rereading at any point.

me and us victory girls

US edition

So all I am going to say now is that I very much hope you enjoy VICTORY GIRLS, and hope that if you do you will post reviews and star ratings on Amazon and other social media or historical fiction groups. And, if you have time, for the earlier books in the series too! It really does help, and might even persuade me to write the next book!!!

 

VICTORY GIRLS is published by Headline in the UK and TSAP Books in the USA on 19th April 2018. (Click here to find it in your local Amazon store.)

It’s August 1944. Allied forces are finally making headway in Europe. But continuing rocket attacks on London are a chilling reminder that the war is not yet won. Victory may be just round the corner, but the fighting is far from over for the residents of Lavender Road.

 Sweeping from London to France and on into Germany as Hitler’s army begins to retreat, Victory Girls is full of emotion, excitement and suspense, which will hold readers on the edge of their seats.

  Praise for the Lavender Road novels:

 ‘A tale of ordinary people living extraordinary lives.’ Inside Soap

 ‘Told with real excitement and a passion for the foibles of character and behaviour.’ Andrew Rissik

‘I never got so involved in the lives of book characters as in this series of books.’ Amazon review

 ‘Helen Carey’s Lavender Road novels are written with a lightness of touch, an emotional integrity and an historical accuracy which has brought her respect from critics and readers alike.’  Louis de Bernières

 ‘Funny, poignant, emotional and un-putdownable!’ London Evening Standard

 ‘An incredible tale of bravery, love and trust. A must read.’ whisperingstories.com

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Research – reality or virtuality?

Twelve years ago, when my editor, Rosemary Cheetham at Orion Books originally asked me to write a series set in the Second World War in London, I was delighted because I was actually living in London at the time. Plus I had countless museums, libraries and World War Two ‘attractions’ within easy access. The research would therefore be relatively easy, I thought. And relatively speaking it was. I had great days out at the Imperial War Museum (wading through French naval history books in search of ships moored up in Toulon harbour in Nov 1942), at the Florence Nightingale Museum (where I found a terrifying wartime matron on whom I based the character of the indomitable Sister Morris) and the Concert Artists and Actors Club in Soho where I met the wonderful Mary Moreland, who had sung and danced her way through the war.

Twelve years on and I am once again researching the Second World War, this time for the fourth novel in the Lavender Road series. This time things are completely different. I am not living in London but nor do I need to take lots of days out on research errands. This time (unlike twelve years ago) I have Google, Wikipedia and the internet. At the click of a mouse I have the whole wartime world and its dog at my fingertips.

It’s so much easier. Or is it?

As always, the problem with research is knowing what you need to know. The amount of information I found last time was daunting enough, this time it is overwhelming. One click leads to another and soon I am awash with detail, recollections, personal histories, eye witness accounts, reports, military lists, lists of battles, bomb sites, casualties, I could go on and on (and often do …!)

How can I possibly remember it all, let alone include it in my book?

The truth is I can’t. Nobody could (at least not if the resulting novel was going to be remotely readable).

The trick is not to worry about forgetting things. Just having known them briefly is often enough – enough to add a tone of authenticity. A tiny appropriate detail here or there adds so much more than reams of facts. Atmosphere, a sense of reality, of being there, is what historical novelists should be striving for. My method it to take an overview of the period, enough to let me find a really compelling story, and then I can focus in on the details I need. Which is why I am off to Italy tomorrow (at least that’s my excuse!) to find the one thing the internet can’t give me – a real sense of the place and the people.

It is important to get the details as correct as humanly possible but even the most meticulous and comprehensive research won’t make up for a lacklustre story or unbelievable characters.

Is romance getting harder?

Is romance getting harder? No, no, no, I’m not talking about 40 Shades or any other semi sado nonsense, that’s not romance, that’s just mindless titillation when compared with the enduring, gut wrenching, emotional tension of a well written love story.

Living in an open, tolerant (well, all things are relative) society is great, but it’s not so good for contemporary romance writers. Because powerful fictional romance isn’t about the protagonists being together, it’s much more about keeping them apart. The term ‘star-crossed lovers’ gives a clue. Love stories hinge on the concept of ‘what’s to stop them?’ and in our current ‘anything goes/who cares’ society, frankly, there’s not much to stop anybody doing anything.

Open-mindedness, ease of travel and (comparative) affluence has clearly made life much more difficult for contemporary romance writers. They now have to work much harder to create plausible constraints (emotional not physical) and friction (emotional not physical) to keep their lovers apart. But if they want to achieve the ‘tears on the pillow’ and ‘page-turning power’ of a real enduring love story that’s exactly what they have to do – they have to create two great, thoroughly believable characters who ultimately belong together but cannot actually get together for equally great, thoroughly believable reasons.

And finding those reasons isn’t easy. As a society we have moved on from those good (in the fictionally useful sense) old days of class conflict, xenophobia, faith incompatibility, virgin bride, anti divorce, homophobia, feuding families and so on. It’s certainly not always easy for couples nowadays, but these kind of ‘cross boundary’ liaisons rarely engender the stigma and taboo they once did.

A few prejudices do inevitably linger on, but on the whole they are more likely to generate a few raised eyebrows or even a giggle than ostracism, disinheritance or danger of death at the brother’s hand. When it comes down to it, there is very little now to stop him and her, or her and her, or him and him, getting together.

It’s so much easier in historical fiction where the writer can summon up chaperones, invading armies, fight to the death religions and brutal, all powerful fathers at the touch of the pen (or mouse).

Yes, of course there are still the conventional old chestnuts for contemporary romance writers to fall back on, the mistaken identities, the lost email, the huffy misunderstanding, even, in absolute desperation, the natural disaster, but it’s hard to string these along for 100,000 words without the reader flinging down their Kindle, turning to their foreign, cross-dressed, age-gapped lover and saying, ‘Oh for goodness sake, why don’t they just get on with it!’

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