There’s one thing you should know about me: I love history! I love reading about it, visiting historical sites, letting my imagination reside there for longer than it probably should and, of course, losing myself in historical fiction.
I think the progression of a shift toward writing fiction after years of historical romance is an entirely natural one for me, especially in regard to the WWII era which has always been a favorite of mine to read. I have always found it fascinating how even in such dire times, the most incredible heroes rose from unlikely places, how some sacrificed to save strangers and through it all, how people were able to hold onto hope.
Britain, for example, was subjected to the Blitz where the Nazis rained down bombs for seven months with the heaviest damage having been sustained in London. At the start of the Blitz on September 7, 1940, London was bombed for 56 consecutive days. This happened not only at night, but also during the day. That was almost two months of their nights spent in crowded, uncomfortable shelters rather than their beds as well as their daily lives being interrupted by the air raids, all while under the constant fear that wherever they were might be a bomber’s next target.
During the seven month bombings on Britain, over 40,000 civilians were killed and over 100,000 injured while millions left homeless. Of those horrifying figures, nearly 30,000 of the casualties were in London as were 60% of the destroyed homes.
Many Londoners assumed volunteer positions at night after their day job in an effort to do their bit for Britain, taking on positions as nurses, fire fighters, Air Raid Precautions Wardens or even manning mobile cantinas to bring tea and comfort to those in need.
A backdrop such as this is an incredible inspiration for a WWII historical fiction, especially after I learned about a particularly brutal bombing of the publishing district on Paternoster Row at the end of 1940 when over 5 million books were destroyed. In such horrific events, it is often that we find ourselves coming together as a community to overcome our struggles and, in my opinion, there is no better community than one centered on books.
As a lifelong reader, I can attest to the number of difficulties books have helped me through. And so the idea of a small bookshop bringing together the people of London in such trying times came about.
In addition to sharing the experience Londoners endured during the Blitz, I also wanted The Last Bookshop in London to be a celebration of reading. It is entirely for this reason that I made the heroine, Grace Bennett, not much of a reader when the book first begins. Hers is a journey of discovery, not only of what she is capable of in such desolate times, but also into the magical of reading. It is through her eyes that I want readers to recall those delicious moments where that one perfect book throws open the doors of one’s imagination and pulls them into the incredible world of reading.
Writing The Last Bookshop in London was an incredible experience for me, one I hope readers enjoy as they share in Grace’s experience through the war and through books and finding hope through it all.