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.
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.