Categories
Uncategorized

Today’s the Day! Launch of The Lifeline #WW2 #Fiction

Confession. I have never been to Norway. I have never been to Shetland. Normally I would have done both. When writing and researching a book I like to do as much ‘on the ground’ research as possible. But this year it just wasn’t possible, because of the virus.

This book takes place in Nazi-occupied Norway, and though I could have visited Norway, my experience of it wouldn’t have been the same as those who lived through the occupation by the Nazis in WW2. In one sense, the past can never be revisited, and every historical fiction author must supercharge their imagination to conjure the past into being. In this instance, I relied on archive material, books, websites, memoirs and facebook interest groups, as well as a native Norwegian to guide me through the research.

research by Deborah Swift for The Lifeline

Shetland was a lot closer to home, but visitors from the mainland UK, especially virus-ridden Lancashire, were still not exactly welcome. So, I was indoors much of the time finishing my research from my desk, and watching videos of men fishing in the Northern waters, or Shetlanders farming the windswept Shetland hills. In depth research is as much to do with the quality of attention that you pay to it, and how you use it, as to do with what you actually see.

One of the pleasures of writing historical fiction is that you learn so much about the events of the past that might have been forgotten or overlooked, and you can bring these back to life for other people to marvel at and enjoy.

So The Lifeline is out today, published by Sapere Books. I hope it will give people an insight into what life was like for ordinary teachers caught up in the Nazi indoctrination machine, and how they risked their lives to rebel against it.

And I hope more people will get to know about the brave Norwegian men who risked their lives in bringing arms and intelligence to the Resistance across icy waters and under enemy fire.

The Lifeline by Deborah Swift

BUY THE BOOK

Categories
Blog Featured writing life

The Lifeline – characters who brave mountainous seas, enemy fire, and below zero temperatures

The Lifeline by Deborah Swift #WW2My new novel, The Lifeline is now ready to pre-order, and is the third in my series of WW2 books. I became interested in it because I discovered a book about The Shetland Bus in a second-hand bookshop when I was browsing the WW2 shelves.

I had never heard of The Shetland Bus, but started to research, and find out more about the brave Norwegians who helped their country by supplying the Resistance with arms and intelligence from Scotland.

You can find out more about The Shetland Bus here at the Scalloway Museum There is a video and a documentary on their website which explains how the men who operated these small fishing boats between Shetland and Norway were recruited and trained, and about the dangers they faced. Enemy fire, mountainous seas, dark cold winters with below freezing temperatures – all in a night’s work for these courageous men who were a vital part of Norway’s resistance against the Nazis.

The Lifeline
Wikicommons Scandinavian archive

As the story developed I realised that I wanted to include a male point of view character, as I had in my previous WW2 books. My main male character in The Lifeline is Jorgen Nystrom, a Norwegian wireless operator trained in Scotland. He becomes involved with the Shetland Bus missions, and eventually must set off to rescue his girlfriend, Astrid, from Norway.

Other male chracters I enjoyed writing were Isaak Feinberg, a German Jew who came to Norway to escape the Nazis, but now finds himself trapped by them once more. And finally, Karl Brevik, a Norwegian agent for the Nazis.

The Lifeline - Quislings in Norway
Quislings (Nazi sympathisers) in Norway

Karl Brevik was interesting to write because he’s a mercenary – a man with a shifting moral compass, who has learnt how to win through competitive ski-ing, and to him, winning and survival is all that matters, and at any cost. He’s a man easy to admire, but hard to understand.

Writing an untrustworthy character relies a lot on the use of body language. What Karl says, and what he is thinking are often at odds with each other, so his true intentions need to be conveyed in a way other than words. The fact he makes others uncomfortable, for reasons they can’t articulate, also helped me to make him more believable.

People lacking any moral compass are also hard to empathize with, but I did want readers to empathize with Karl, and for him to form some kind of friendship that would have value for him. For me, writing WW2 fiction is all about exploring moral boundaries, on both sides.

My female characters are Astrid, a teacher who resists teaching the Nazi curriculum, and is persecuted for it, and Morag, a secretary working for the Special Operations Executive in Shetland.

Shetland Bus
The Shetland Bus via The Scalloway Museum

The Lifeline will be published by Sapere Books on 5th January 2021. but is available now at a special pre-order price.

ORDER THE LIFELINE

Categories
Blog Reviews

Two books with #WW2 connections

Of Darkness and Light is an engaging mystery of art and artists set in WW2 Norway. Heidi Eljarbo has certainly given herself a challenge – to write two historical periods in one novel which flow seamlessly from one to another, but the narrative works well and the two timelines inform each other beautifully. We begin the story in WW2 Norway where Soli works in an art shop. We see the shock of the invasion of Norway by the German army and what that means for Soli’s close family and friends.

As the book progresses, the art shop where Soli works is frequented by Nazi collectors of fine art, although the owner does his best to hide the most precious works from these men. When a murder happens right outside the shop, Soli finds herself irresistibly drawn into the mystery of who killed her colleague and why, and the puzzle deepens when Soli discovers that the victim, who she thought she knew well, is also known by another name.

At the same time a painting is missing from auction and Soli must uncover what has happened to it before the Nazis do. I can’t reveal too much of the plot without revealing all the twists and turns, but suffice it to say, Soli and her Art Club are drawn into the Resistance in their bid to save the art world’s cultural heritage from being stolen by the Nazis. Soli is an engaging protagonist, with the skill to tell a real painting from a fake, and the author makes the most of Soli’s ‘eye’ in giving us detailed descriptions of people and places. The reveal of what is inside the walnut and gilded frame is a highlight for me in descriptive writing.

As well as finely drawn detail within WW2 Norway, We are taken back to 17th Century Valetta, Malta, to the studio of Michelangelo known as Caravaggio, and his model Fabiola, again all described in sumptuous detail. If you love the art world and a good mystery, you will really enjoy this well-written book which has plenty of excitement and intrigue to keep you turning the pages.

Find out more about Heidi and her other books.

Endless Skies by Jane Cable is a contemporary romantic novel that harks back to memories of WW2. Archaeologist Rachel Ward’s relationships with men have always been a disaster.  Short-lived, and lacking in commitment. This novel begins to unlock why by gradually letting us into her past. Brought up by her grandmother, Rachel has a natural empathy with Esther, an elderly woman in a care home near where she is working. I really enjoyed the character of Esther, and thought she was drawn well without too much sentimentality.

The men in Rachel’s life are the dreadful, manipulative Ben, one of her students, and Jonathan, who is a property developer. An affair with Ben was always going to be a bad idea, but it also causes Rachel to look back at why she always makes such bad choices. Jonathan asks Rachel to do some work surveying what used to be a local airbase. This links up to Esther’s story, but I won’t give too much away.

One of the delights of the book is the atmospheric setting of the flat Lincolnshire countryside, and the deserted airfield which contributes to the idea that the ghosts of the past still have a bearing on what happens in the present. A thoroughly enjoyable read with multiple interesting strands.

Read more from Jane about the book.

Categories
Blog

Forged in Ice – what inspired my new Viking Saga by Ken Hagan

 

Today I welcome Ken Hagan to tell us what inspired his new novel, the first in a Viking Trilogy.

Ken: My thanks to Deborah for inviting me as guest author. 

Forged in Ice is set in 27829574._UY500_SS500_960AD. It tells the story of a boy and his family who leave the Norse Kingdom to live in the sparsely populated colony of Iceland — risking their lives in a hazardous voyage across the Atlantic.

My interest in the Viking Age was first aroused during my university days in Dublin, a city steeped in Viking history. The Viking settlement, on which today’s city centre is built, has yielded significant archeological finds, including ankle-fetters and neck-irons that were fastened to slaves. The infamous slave trade centered on Viking Dublin will feature in the second book of the trilogy to be published later this year.   

Reading the Icelandic Family Sagas really got me hooked. In them I discovered a new dimension to the Viking Age. Here was humdrum family life, the struggle of men and women to survive in a hostile climate, petty disputes between neighbours that erupt into feuds, stories of fraud and double-dealing, but also feats of sporting prowess and courage, honest intentions, love and loyalty.

Women are strongly portrayed in the Sagas. We see to what lengths they will go to assert their rights, and what influence womenfolk have on the outcome of events. It is not hard to understand why some commentators have argued that women were the sources for many of the original spoken sagas.       

During 1990s I travelled on business to Sweden and Norway and, while there, I was able to expand my knowledge of Viking culture. Visits to sites of Viking graves revealed sophisticated spiritual constructs of the afterlife. And elsewhere, beautiful full-size replicas of longships demonstrated for me how truly advanced, by comparison with the rest of Europe, was the technology of Viking shipbuilding.

I am indebted to Professor Neil Price, Uppsala University for my understanding of the Viking mind, for my insights into the Viking view of the world, many of which I have tried to weave into the tapestry of my books. Dr. Price is Chair of Archeology at the University of Uppsala, Sweden. Neil.price@arkeologi.uu.se  His major work, The Viking Way: sub-titled – “Religion and War in later Iron-age Scandinavia” (ISBN 978184217265) is regarded as an authoritative source of material and provides rare insights in the field of Viking research.

FORGED IN ICE is published by Endeavour Press.

Buy the Book – Amazon.co.uk  Amazon.com

Where to find Ken: Website Twitter Facebook

Thanks to Ken for stopping by my blog.