I know that your latest book The Girl Under the Olive Tree is one close to your heart. Tell us what inspired you to write it.
It’s lovely to be here again with a chance to talk about my latest book. This is the story I once jokingly called: Captain Corelli meets The Island. It’s been ten years in the making born out of our very first visit to Crete and discovering its wartime history. Once I found out some of the true stories I was hooked.
So how did you set about the research?
Leah researching military artefacts in Crete 2011
This is quite a complex story based on a true event, did you do much planning before you started writing?
I don’t start writing until I feel sure all the research is composted in my head but I had to keep a strict map and timeline of real events as this is the back bone of my imaginary narrative.
Which would you say is your favourite character in the book, and why?
My favourite character is Rainer Brecht, the German officer. I found researching him very revealing and challenging. He is a sympathetic character but a soldier of his time with complex motives and passions. He also is making his own pilgrimage back to the island in search of peace in old age, having to come to terms with what atrocities were done there.
I rather liked him too, and really do hope he keeps that promise he makes. Which did you find the hardest part of the novel to write, and how did you get through that?
The hardest part to write was the round up of the Jews in June 1944. Using eye witness accounts and by now knowing where each family lived and worked in the Jewish quarter, I had to relive this and imagine the terror of their fate as best I could. The fact that the restored Etz Hayyim synagogue remembers its lost community each year and being present at these memorials, helped me tell their tragic story through the eyes of one imaginary family.
The story is set in two time periods, do you write first one then the other?
The story being in two time periods wasn’t a problem to write. I took my characters round NW Crete as if they were on holiday but at every significant place that triggered off a memory, we slip back into past time. So you also get a mini tour of interesting parts of Crete.
I believe you won an award for your last book: The Captain’s Daughter, do tell us how that came about.
Leah in Rome being presented with her award
Can you say something about your wip?
Look out for The Postcard, out next year. It’s the story of four generations of a family who are linked by a mysterious postcard. Thank you for inviting me again.
“The Girl Under The Olive Tree” is out in paperback on June 6th 2013 ( Simon and Schuster). It tells the story of a British woman who returns to the island in 2001 reliving her wartime experiences. Alongside a Jewish nurse she met in Athens, Penny found herself stranded on Crete during the battles of 1941. Both hide with resistance fighters during the 4 years of occupation to face danger and separation. This emotional return is a holiday journey with a difference for an old woman with a secret past.
Thank you for sparing time to talk to us today. We wish you continuing success with your books.
Best wishes, Freda
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Interviews on the RNA Blog are carried out by Freda, Henri and Livvie. They are for RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org