Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 1 year ago

Friends & Fiction with Ariel Lawhon & Jennifer Robson

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

The Fab Five continues the Women's History Month celebration with TWO fabulous author guests. Join in as we welcome Jennifer Robson, international bestselling author of six novels set during and after the two world wars, including THE GOWN, and her brand-new release OUR DARKEST NIGHT. Jennifer is joined by Ariel Lawhon, the critically acclaimed, New York Times bestselling author of four novels including her latest CODE NAME HELENE, out now in paperback. https://www.ariellawhon.com/ https://jennifer-robson.com

Welcome to Friends and fiction. Five best selling authors and the stories Novelists Mary Kay Andrews, Christine Harmel, Christie Woodson, Harvey, Patty Callahan Henry and Mary Alice Munro are five longtime friends with more than 80 published books to their credit. In 2020 they created friends and fiction to provide author interviews and fascinating insider talk about publishing and writing and to highlight independent bookstores. These friends discuss the books they've written, the books they're reading now and the art of storytelling. If you love books and you're curious about the writing world, you're in the right place. Hi, everyone. Happy ST Patrick's Day. But more importantly, Happy Wednesday night. Friends and fiction. I'm Mary Kay Andrews and I'll be your host tonight. I'm Christine Harmel. I'm Christie Woodson Harvey. I am Paddy Callaghan, Henry and Mary and Mary. Alice is frozen, is beautiful. Oh, my gosh. Frozen a glamour shot like an author photo. You've got to drink at least at least at least with you're not with your mouth like this. Yeah, that would be That's how I always freeze salaries. How do you the other day said I have a great idea. Looks like that's okay. while we went from Arial is too thought it was awesome. Um, you know, if I seen sleep deprived tonight, that's because I'm still suffering from a book hangover after spending the week in binge reading area law Hans and Jennifer Robson's latest historical fiction novels, which had me convinced I was living in World War two era France and Italy instead of sunny spring like Atlanta. I know all of us. We can't wait to discuss these powerful books with both authors. I'm sure you guys have a lot of questions, too. So drop those in comments and I promise we're going to try to get to as many of them as we can. Yeah, at friends and fiction we love when our partners partner just like y'all do out there. You partnered and built a book club. You've made friends with each other. Well, now our partners have partnered. So this is what has happened with Mama Geraldine's and Page one. We are so thrilled to let you know that the April subscription boxes from Page One will include Guess what delectable cheese straws from Mama Geraldine's so subscribe now and get in on this chance to support both of our partners. And remember, you can order cookies and cheese straws on the Mama Geraldine's website with a 20% savings with the code. Fab Five. Once you try them, you'll be hooked just like we are. And just like Page one is. Mm. Speaking of Page one Friends and Fiction, it is time to mobilize the troops. You guys know that Page One is our amazing partner. They have been nominated for the best book subscription box by USA Today and 10 best, and they are currently sitting at number 12, which we think is completely unacceptable. They are not page 12. They are page one and a small female owned business. They are number one in our hearts. So let's get out and vote. We want to come together and help them hit number one by voting every day until March 29th. We're gonna put the link where you can vote for them on our Facebook page. Um, but we love them and we want them to be number one. So thank you to page One for partnering with friends and fiction. And remember, you guys can get 10% off of subscriptions with the code Fab Five. All right, so I know we just had Patties. Big launch for surviving Savannah last week. Um, and if you weren't here for it, I'm telling you, you have to go back and watch that, because, I mean, there was Oscar worthy acting, I think. But fast forward. You're my parts. Oh, you're fantastic. I mean nothing. You know, I still have my beard sitting right here. That gives you any idea. So anyhow, but our Patty has another surprise of her sleeve. It's the cover reveal for her glorious novel. Once upon a wardrobe. I am so excited for this book. And I know that you are all going to be so excited to Patty. Can you let our viewers in on this secret project you've managed to pull off. Absolutely. But first I want to say thank you for last week. Y'all were incredible. I think every event I did half of it at least was was y'all friends and fiction crew and my Fab Five. It was an extraordinary week, but meanwhile, we always want you to be the first in the No. So are you ready?...

Because here is the cover for the first time on the Internet for my winter book out in October, called Once Upon a Wardrobe. It's so beautiful, It's so beautiful. I will be telling you so much more about it in the coming months. But this novel is very much a story about a story. The year is 1950 the book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has just come out and a little brother is obsessed with it and asks his mathematical genius sister, who goes to school at Oxford to track down the author, C. S. Lewis, and asked the only question that matters to him. Where did Narnia come from? And that's all I'm gonna say for now because I can't wait to talk to our guests about their historical novels. Goose. I know. Wait, Yes. So tonight, as we mentioned, we've got two best selling authors whose books all five of us have loved. And champion Ariel Lahan is the author of four novels, including her latest code named Elaine, now out in paperback, and My dear Friend Jennifer Robson, whose newest release, Our Darkest Night, is her six work of historic fiction. Sean, can you bring the ladies in please. Hi. Hi. I double waving to see you. So good to see you guys. Thanks for coming, You got You have to let you know the aerials Aerial down here. There she is. There she is. It seems glitchy. That's because it is glitchy It wouldn't be with. I'm on my phone. Well, anyway, welcome, ladies. We don't care how you got here. We're just glad you dead. And we're happy you could join us in the middle of Women's History month. Now I happen to have some inside info that both of your books, which are set in World War Two era France for Ariel and Italy for Jen were inspired by true stories. And we want to hear more about that. So I thought it was genius timing that Patty's column last week for Parade magazine was about having that light bulb moment and doing something about it. And Mary Alice is Parade column. This week is about making your own luck. Unfortunately, she couldn't make her own lunch tonight because she Internet gave out. Anyway, she's not a remote island, literally on a remote island. Um, but I think both of those elements about making your own luck in that light bulb moment. Or maybe there's elements of those stories I love to hear you explore. Jen, I know. I remember you telling me that your husband are you telling me that your husband bought it? It's probably for his inspiration for our darkest time. But can you tell us about the moment you knew that the universe was nudging you to write it? You know what? It coincided with my my coming to the point. I've been working on a totally different book that was not coming together. We all know that terrible feeling. You put some time into a book and it's just it's not jelling. The characters aren't talking to you. And my son had come to me, you know, with this question. Were the stories about, um, my husband's grandparents in Italy? Were they true? It was it true that, uh, they had helped to shelter, uh, fellow Italians, Jewish Italians during the war, and I couldn't tell him. I mean, I mean, I thought it was true, but I couldn't point to any real proof that I had, So I used that as an excuse to stop working on the other book. You know, I'm sure every writer here and listening understands, but that's like, Oh, this this is so much more important than the working president. And basically five minutes after digging into it, I knew I had something. Uh, it wouldn't actually focus on my husband's family for many reasons. It just felt too close. But also I couldn't I couldn't get all the details that I wanted. But if you make up the characters, uh, you know, there's there's worlds to be created within the kind of the confines of the known history. And that was the ah ha moment when I thought, Oh, I can tell this story but from a different point of view, Uh, and that's where the character in Altadena my heroin came from. So, Ariel, I seem to recall that you knew the story of Nancy Wake for some time before you actually tackled this book. What was that light bulb moment for you? And the moment that you knew you had to make your own luck and go ahead. Yes, thank you. And I hope I hope my phone cooperates. I actually had never heard of Nancy Wake until two...

...1015. I was sitting in a hotel room in Buffalo, New York, all by myself. I was on book tour for my second novel, and I got an email from an old friend and she'd sent a link to an obituary for Nancy Wake, who passed away in 2010. That's not a spoiler. Um, and my friend was from Australia and she said, Ariel, I don't know if you've ever heard of needs the wake, but she's a legend down here. We love her. I think she'd make a great subject for a novel. And if you don't write about her next, we can no longer be friends. Um, ask my real matter how good I am doing as I'm told. So I I actually did not write about her next, mostly because I was in the middle of a novel about Anastasia Romanov. But as soon as I finished my Anastasia novel, I went back to that email. I went back to that obituary, and as it did the first time I read it, all the little hairs sit up on the back of my neck, and I read This story is amazingly brassy, bird raising woman who left her husband at home to hold down the home front, and she went off to war. And I thought, This is it. This is my next story. That's great. You know, each of the five of us pleaded new novels this past year, and and we're all hard at work on upcoming projects. So I thought I would ask all of us to tell us briefly when and where was your lightbulb moment in the process. And I will tell you that with the newcomer, my book that comes out in May I had a light bulb moment when I read a story in The New York Times about illegal Airbnb s in New York City with millionaire landlords who were literally testing, turning very high rent condo buildings into literal hotels because they were running out all these units as Airbnb. And so when I when I read that story, I knew I had, um I knew I had a way into, um, my protagonist meeting the man who ultimately changes her life and not in a good way. How about you, Christine? Um, you know, it was kind of a double light bulb for me. Uh, first had a friend that, um, was telling me about how she had these frozen embryos left over from her last round of IVF. And, um, she didn't know what she wanted to do with them. And it was something she never thought about. And she said, You have to write a book about this. And it was one of those things that I kind of put in a file, but I just couldn't get the story. I had list after list of, like, it could be this or it could be that or I don't really know what the story is. Um and so I was trying to figure out it was after, um, I just finished Peachtree playoff series. I was finishing up. Feels like falling. And I was like, What am I gonna right next? And I was actually gonna write something different, um, than under the southern sky. And I had a friend call me on the phone and we have been discussing this and she said, You know, that embryos story you want to write and I was like, Yeah, and she said, I just delivered my first baby. She was in her residency, Um, and she said it was for a man whose wife had died five years ago. And he, um, used a surrogate and just had a baby with the embryos. They froze before she died. And I was like, Okay, well, that's I'm writing that story. So sometimes the universe is like, No, this is what you're writing next. So it's not always that obvious, but actually I was putting on a four leaf clovers are, like, kind of a big symbol in the book. And I was sitting on my four leaf clovers tonight and I was like, It's perfect for ST Patrick's Day. So yeah, it's It's, uh it's cool to hear you saying that, Christie, because I loved your book so much, and I know it comes out. Gosh, and almost exactly a month, right a month and date. So it's cool to hear the inspiration for that. And then, um, Mary Kay, I just finished your book. I think two days ago I emailed you and told you how much I loved it. So it was really cool to hear your lightbulb moment to it. Was the newcomers awesome? Um, so my lightbulb moment, I kind of had to moments that piece together the book of last names. Um, one was not a light bulb. It was kind of a slow burn from my last two books. Um, I began to really wonder who these document forgers were. You know, I was talking about document forgers in both books about the French Resistance, but I had no idea how you got to be a document forger who did this kind of work. So that was this little question in the back of my mind. But I would say, instead of a light bulb moment, I had a striking the match moment that lit that long fuse. And the striking The match moment was seeing an article in The New York Times which my literary agent sent to me actually about Nazi looted books and the search to return them to their rightful owners. And I read that, and I thought, That's the story to wrap around the story. And that's what I needed. It was like the final piece of the puzzle fell into place. So cool, such a good bug. I'll tell you, I think tonight you know that the ST Patrick's Day, the lepre cons like to play tricks,...

...and I think they're playing a lot of tricks. I apologize for disappearing so quickly. I'm back now and I really I love being to be all happy saint pads. Well, my lightbulb Mama always comes from nature. You all know that. So for the summer of Lost and found, I was sheltering a place up in the mountain house up in North Carolina, and at that time the pandemic was just beginning and I was paying attention to what was in my own backyard. You know, the exotic that he was often neglect to pay attention to. And I knew all of us would be facing a lot of isolation coming up in hardships. But oh, you know, there are great moments of listening to the cardinal sing and the then identifying trees and taking long walks and even a bullfrog. So right now, one of the reasons why I probably went offline sides and lepre cons as I am staying at a pristine island called ST Phillips in South Carolina, and it's a match, a national natural landmark. It's an amazing place, and it used to be the home of Ted Turner, and now it's part of the South Carolina State park system. So today I saw an eagle, a rookery of egrets, aligators galore and a boneyard beach, which is really just felled trees dead on the beach. And I'll tell you right now, the light bulbs going off like crazy. That's great. Mm. Um, I know an area when you said that about that tingle. We've talked about that a couple times this week. About that, you feel it right here on the back of your neck, right or down your arms. Did we lose Ariel and I'm talking. I know you this leopard, but you feel a buzzy feeling and you've all heard the story. But now you don't need to hear it again. But for the my lightbulb moment for surviving Savannah was when I realized I was researching a ship that a shipwreck hunting company found that we were both researching the same ship at the same time. But for once upon a wardrobe that you just saw the cover to. It was when I realized that I was asking myself this question over and over in the question was, where did Narnia come from? Where did Narnia come from? Where did Narnia come from? And I realized if I wanted to know that bad, then I was going to make my character go find out. But it was very much like a boot. Well, if I wonder somebody like, but it's interesting to hear how each story has its own little seed, I want to remind everybody that if you haven't already, you want to make sure that you go to parade magazine dot com So you can read Mary Alice's beautiful essay this week about making your own luck. So now back to Ariel and Jennifer, you know, I binged your books back to back our darkest hour and named Alan again. And honestly, I found myself so immersed in your worlds in Italy and France during the war that I'm not kidding you when I tell you, I see Nazis behind every tree. I was in the shower and I was coming. I was feeling guilty for taking a hot shower. Oh my God. My husband and I went out to breakfast and I thought, Nina and Nancy are back there in Europe, choking down, you know, make believe coffee and water down. Turn up soup a polenta. Lots of polenta. Polenta? Yeah, they got no pasta at all. Jen, what's up with that? You know, they just was so expensive. It was one of the think my husband's family. That's one of the things that kept saying to me, his elderly like the CIA, his zeal, Lucia and some of the other aunts and uncles that talk to me. They said, We never read. We didn't we couldn't afford bread. It was just polenta, polenta, polenta. So right, Yeah, and it's like, you know what it is. It's grits. Basically, I think again, I'm from Toronto. But I feel so Brits are basically the same thing as polenta. J Yeah. Adjacent. Yeah, exactly. You know, saying grits with nothing like no salt, like nothing for breakfast every morning. Yeah. Then why don't you tell us a little bit about our darkest hour? So it's it's set. It begins more or less in Italy in 1943 in Venice, where a young woman called Antonio Mazza, uh, she lives with her elderly father, who is a physician, one of the few physicians still practicing medicine in the Jewish Quarter of Venice. And he has to do so covert covertly because Jews have been barred from all the professions. It's a really dire, dire time. Um, and her mother lives in a in a rest home. She's had a stroke and is very infirm, and her father comes to the very reluctant conclusion that Antonina has to go into hiding. Uh, the Germans, rather than Nazis, are...

...specifically, or I have begun their occupation of Italy. And, uh, and he has found a sanctuary for her with an old friend of his, who is a parish priest in a little village called Metz Hotel in the in the countryside, in the foothills of the mountains. And so all to Nina very reluctantly goes, uh, and not to live with Father Bernardi, but with one of his parishioners, a young man called Nikolai Girardi, Uh, and his family. And she has to pretend to be his wife. That that's the only way that she can survive is to hide in plain sight as the Catholic wife of this of this peasant farmer. And so not only is there the whole fish out of water element, she's a very cultured young woman learning how to become a physician herself. but she's never lived the life of of anything close to what the Gerardi family endures in a day, day in, day out basis of which is hunger. Um, grinding labor. Um, and and so she she has to learn how to how to how to make a new life for her there. But there's also this this net, uh, slowly, slowly closing in on her. Uh, the constant presence of Nazi officers and soldiers always vigilant and also, um, just the local fascists. And one Nazi official in particular begins to get very suspicious of her. Uh, he's an old grudge against Niccolo, and I'm not going to tell you any more than that, but things get done, Terry. Dark, very dark. Thinking of really dark stuff. Aerial. Um wow. Because your protagonist literally parachutes into France in the middle of the night. And now tell us what happens. Uh huh. Uh huh. We're hoping she's gonna unfreeze. Oh, the leopard cons again. They're at it tonight, huh? The computer left lexicons are real weight. Is that the leprechauns typing that to us? Do you think? Are they like they're coming from inside the house? Hey, Mary Ariel, I wonder if you could, Um, we can't type the comments. She could type her answer, and I could, and we could read it. What do you think, guys? Yeah, area. Let us do that. Where? Area wave, if you can hear. Oh, she's on her phone. She can't type and just like I can hear me. Oh. Okay. Well, I just heard you ask a question for Jennifer and give her time to get back on Ariel, can you Are you on pros? Mhm. Now, Okay, we're gonna go over to John again, and we hope we can get back to a real. Are you there? She keeps waving in and out. Okay. I guess it's the gent, though Tonight. I hate. Okay, so here I can hear you. Okay. So tell us about code named Alan. See if we can hear you were dying to hear it go. I think there's a delay. Yeah, Okay. I'm here. I'm here. There is No. Yeah, well, I can I can tell a little bit about it. Maybe she'll come in in a moment. So code named Elaine is about this amazing Australian woman, Nancy Wake. Um, she is in Paris. Um when the Nazis really start to close in. And, um, she's married to a Frenchman and she decides to, um, he they are living in Marseille by then, and he she decides to join, not only join the French resistance, she gets recruited to organize and mobilize, Um, the members of the resistance in the countryside and And she goes to England. She's working for the English, Um, and she goes to England and parachutes into in the middle of the night, into the countryside in France, and it's only the second time she's ever parachuted. So it's an amazing, amazing story, and I hate that she is having problems, but we're gonna go over to Jennifer. Um uh, Mary. Alice, you've got a question, right? Yeah, I do. And hopefully we'll see Ariel again in a minute. Jennifer, Your previous novels novels were set in England and France, and they alternated between World War One and World War Two.

And so my question is, what sparked your fascination with that time period, And do you ever see yourself and maybe moving into a novel set entirely in the contemporary time? Good question. Uh, so, you know, in terms of what sparked my interest. I think it really began. I have to give full credit to my father, who is now retired but taught history, Uh, for, you know, from the late 19 sixties until his retirement almost 50 years later. And he's now reluctantly. He did a kind of a semi retirement just to see if he liked it, and he didn't really like it. And then he kept teaching for a while, and now he's fully fully retired. Um, and so, you know, the Great War. Uh, first World War and the Second World War were topics of conversation around the dinner table. Uh, you know, he he was, uh, an incredibly talented teacher. He was the kind of professor who, if you ended up getting him in first year, your your freshman year of college, you'd end up studying history. You just had that kind of magnetic appeal and because I think he was always motivated by the stories of again the ordinary people who get caught up in extraordinary times. And I think that's what sparked my interest, uh, in history. Now, in all fairness, though, when I started college, I did not plan on taking history or becoming an historian. I think I was having a little bit of teenage rebellion. And again I had this incredible professor. In first year. This amazing man called Paul Webb where I went, I was at King's University College at Western University in Ontario and, uh, and he again sparked the this just fascination. And so I went on and did graduate work that focused on the Second World War. Could you not hide your light under a bushel barrel under a bushel and tell us what you studied at Oxford? That you have a doctor? Well, and that's Patty. I can connect like I felt that connection with Patty initially, because here's somebody I can talk to Oxford about who kind of not that other people don't get it. But there's something about the place that is really extraordinary, and I think on the new on the cover of the new book, it's really there's something. I don't know whether the picture is from Oxford, necessarily, but it is, and that's, you know, having spent like four or five winters there, and it isn't snow very often, but when it does, it's magical. It really does feel like you'll turn the corner, open the door and there's Narnia in wintertime. That's wonderful. Uh, yeah. So it's just a lifelong fascination. Um, and you know, I might. I had part of the gown. One of the points of view was set in the modern period. One of the characters, Heather, uh, it was set in 2016, and I love doing contemporary parts, but I feel as if I just keep getting sucked back into the, uh what do you think you'll ever write about Oxford? Do you think you're right about that? Yes. You know, And I mean, there's part of one of my previous books. Has parts of it are set in Oxford after the war is over. There's passages near the beginning and kind of flashback passages when they're like a whole Yeah, not a whole thing, But I do. I really I think there's, you know, and maybe you'll just you know, I'll be inspired to write something that's fully set there. Who knows? Who knows? I mean, it's just such a magical setting that Yeah, yeah, let me describe it. Yeah, I think I've told you and Mary Kay that the story of how this was like This is probably 25 years ago and I was working one of the reading rooms in the Bodleian Library and I was working on that very early clunky Mac laptop and typing away diligently. And I heard some strange noises outside the quadrangle below. And I went over to and look down the quadrangle and, you know, bear in mind that, you know, after you spend a we all know this you've spent a long time working on you're writing or researching. You can feel a little kind of disconnected from the world, Right? I went over to the window and I looked down at everyone in the quadrangle. Was was wearing 18th century clothes and wigs and I would say, But I had a woman for a second thinking. Have I? Have I gone There been some kind of thing and it looks back my laptop was still there, so I thought, Okay, I'm not going to panic to I I don't think that's really happened. And only when I went back to kind of looking out the window did I see the film apparatus and it was actually they were filming the madness of King George. For a moment, I really did think because oxygen is the kind of place where you feel the past is so is so present over its all tangled up...

...together. Yeah, you know, we were talking about, um, lightbulb moments. Maybe that was a lightbulb moment for time travel. You know, maybe. I mean, you know, and I think because I would have moments, I'd be sitting at my my tutor his I was at one of the newer colleges called ST Anthony's, but he was at Merton College, which arguably is the oldest of the colleges. Although they fight over it a little bit over which one you know was founded, you know, the earliest date in the 11 hundreds or whatever, but, you know, and just walking through Merton, for example, and looking around and thinking of buildings that were built before, Uh, just like 1000 years ago, which the inspiring very, very inspiring humbly to I have to say. Oh, yeah. So kind of continuing on that train of thought about time periods and, you know, Mary Alice asked about writing about World War Two. Um, Ariel, can you hear us? So you are you with us? You have to hear us. Uh, perfect. Well, I have a question for both of you, because both of these books that you have both written about World War Two and I write about World War Two. Also, I'm curious to hear what you both think about why World War Two seems to be resonating so powerfully right now. I mean, I just feel like World War Two and you've both written about other time periods as well, but it does feel like World War Two is kind of having a moment. Um, do you agree? And if so, why Ariel? Do you want to start? Yeah, absolutely. And thank you. Hopefully everything works this time. I think this is a proposed for 2021 which a year already. Uh, I think personally that World War Two is one of those evergreen topics. Because there was such a clear, identifiable enemy. We all know who the enemy was. Everyone had to come together to fight them. It was a time when your butcher, your banker, your candlestick maker, your average person had to become a hero. Ordinary people had to step out of their comfort zones and they had to fight this common enemy. And there's something really unifying and really grounding about that idea. So when you set a story within a time frame, when everyone knows who the enemy is and your common average person becomes a hero, it's this. It has this groundswell behind it. I think people keep returning to that in part also because we know who won. And there's a sense of comfort that I can read this story. And even if things are hard for this character in the end, I know everything is going to be okay because we have the scope of history behind us. You can be, Yeah, that's a beautiful answer. And it's interesting to read a story where you know the end of the bigger story, but you don't know the end of the smaller story that plays a role in it. Yeah, that's that's true. Jennifer, What about you? I think I absolutely agree with area like that. That is, I think, probably the most. Um, uh, kind of that's that's in terms of the big picture. I think that's what draws a lot of us, especially right now, right? I mean, I think I find it kind of strangely comforting to read stories set in World War Two. Um, even especially ones that focus on the home front because, you know, all those those, uh, you know, the limitations people had the shortages, they had to deal with the rationing. All of that. Uh, whenever I go back and I think about that it and then I said it against the limitations we we've all had to had to face up to over the last year and a bit it, actually, you know, it makes it a lot easier, I think, to handle Oh, I can't do this small thing. I can't do that small thing when I think of people who year after year after year, had to cope with privations, that in a big, big way, but also even in places that weren't necessarily on the front lines. Even even in North America, for example, people were having to make do, invent, uh, and be very careful with, uh you know, uh, what they purchased, how they how they fed themselves and that contrast between. And so, you know, I will say that my Children are completely, completely sick of hearing me lecture them about how things were in World War Two. And maybe we should not complain necessarily about things. Not that they should have. They haven't been very complaining, but, um, whenever you know, I'm getting some eye rolling over. No, we can't order in food again. Uh, we could make it ourselves. Then I'm just so tempted to say, Well, in the second World War, people like many weeks. Yeah, eggs, like, you know, you and sugar was...

...rationed. And so that's that's one thing I also think we're coming up against what I think is really hard for a lot of us, uh, to contemplate is that we're really looking at the last generation of people who lived through World War two with us. And we've already seen the passing of the great generation that lived through this before. Um, and you know, I'm old. I'm 51. I'm old enough to when I was in my late teens, I worked as a museum guide at the Actually, Really, it was a guided the memorial at Vimy Ridge in France, and I got to meet veterans of the first World War when I was there that was 1989. There were there were still quite a lot of them just coming off busloads of them at that time. I mean, very elderly, but they were, you know, the pretty hale and hearty for for their age. And they're all gone. They're all gone now. And when I contemplate another 20 years and then we won't have any, uh, any witnesses direct witnesses to what happened? That is really sobering. That's something that makes me want to ask as many questions as I can, um, and learn as much as I can while while we still have people who are alive to directly recall those times. Ariel, you know, I was so taken with Nancy wakes not just bravery, but her outrageous, um, leadership. You talk a little bit about Nancy. We kind of skipped over that I don't want to do that because she's such an amazing character. Oh, yeah. Thank you. She was so much fun. I've written a number of novels now, but Nancy was fun. And one of the funnest things, as I researched her, was bringing the personality that already existed to the page. This was a woman whose husband in the early days of their marriage taught her to drink and the curse like a sailor, specifically so that the men of France would not be able to take advantage of her. And she did not know this, but going into battle many years later when she was a military leader, those skills helped her keep control of the 7000 French resistance soldiers that she was in charge of. They would argue with her, and she could berate them better than their mothers. They would try to take advantage of her in negotiations for weapons. They would try to out drink her, and she was always the last man standing, and she she wore red lipstick into battle. She was the lone woman in a forest filled with 7000 Frenchmen, and this is a woman who led those soldiers into battle against the Germans on the eve of the war. And you don't run across those type of women very often in life. And I remember in the early days of writing the story as I was researching Nancy, she kind of left her way into a reporting job for Hearst Newspapers and one of her first assignments was to go interview the newly appointed chancellor, Adolf Hitler. That was one of her first assignments, but she's fast forward 10 years later and she kills a Nazi with her bare hands. So how does a woman, a young woman, go from being a green journalist to a seasoned warrior? And it was that that transition and I was really fascinated with How does this woman become that woman? And for me, at the heart of the story, that's what it was. How do you take a young Australian expat and turn her into one of the most decorated women of World War Two? Yeah. You have me wanting to read her autobiography, which I know you You have? Great, by the way. Thank you. Yeah. Okay. So you all know that as part of our mission when the five of us started friends in fiction almost exactly a year ago, a big part of our mission was to support independent bookstores tonight or spotlighting Parnassus Books in Nashville. I know that is aerials Hometown bookstore. So if you'll use the code friends Fiction 10, you can receive 10% off on featured titles, including new and recent books by Carol and Jennifer, as well as those of all five of us. Now, Carol, I know Parnassus is located in Nashville, where you live. Can you tell us a little bit about what makes that store so special to? I mean, it's close. It's the only independent bookstore that we have. And, of course, it's owned and operated by Ann Patchett, who is amazing. But it's also co owned and operated, I should say, by a woman named Karen Hayes, and she was in sales...

...for reigning house. I believe for a long time, and they work the store together, and I know everyone knows about an and has read her books, and she's wonderful. But if you ever get the chance to go in visit with Karen as well, because she is a book maven and she's wonderful and she's the exact kind of person you want in your local bookstore, she's passionate about books and authors and the art of bookselling and the art of running an independent bookstore. And together they make this really phenomenal powerhouse. So when you know every time I come, the first thing we do is go there together. But so we talk about research a lot, you and I, when we're when we're talking about our books and how to research and about the balancing act. And I know you had to retrace because I went through it with you. Nancy wakes journey from Paris to London, back to Marcel and then to the Forest of Art. A name I can't say. Our Denny's are. Denise are obvious. Thank you. So I've seen your wall and anybody who follows, um, Ariel on Instagram has seen her wall in her office Behind her is she paced pages of her manuscript to the wall. Um, so do you research that way? Do you research in chunks, like, do all the research and then write or you Do you integrate them together at the same time? All of the above. I usually start with the research, and I read as much as I can about my character, the timeframe, the setting. Usually until my brain is so full. I can't hold another fact. And then I begin to right. And from that point on, if I need something, once I begin the writing process, I will put it in brackets and the manuscript find out such and such the French word for pantaloons or whatever it is I need. And then I'll come back to it the next day when I sit down and write so but my wall, you can't see it right there. It's pages of the manuscript that I'm working on, that I'm trying to make better. It's pictures. It's bits of research. Right now it looks sort of very much Russell Crowe, circa a beautiful mind. It's a mess. There's red String connecting this idea to that idea and pictures and character profiles. Sometimes I just have to see it when I get to the point of my novels, and I'm deep in it. If I sit at my desk and I looked directly at its physical representation, it helps me. When I opened the word when I began to write, Wow, I love that because we're always talking about how to integrate the research without falling down the research rabbit hole. Jennifer, I know you go through the same thing so that we all do all seven of us, and so then you you always have got area of this great way of knowing when to stop the research and when to start writing and when to dive back in. And so I wanted to know how you did it up front or behind or oh, my, uh, my theory on suffering as you, right? Yes, that's why you have to pay out. Tell it, tell us you're very Most writers know that you're either a panther or you're a plotter. It's what we call it you either right by the state of your pants. Which means you sit down at the computer and you go and you have so much fun and everything is a discovery or like me, research up front and you plot a front and you know where everything is going and you build the story meticulously on the front end. That is what I do. I enjoy that. It works for me, and I think you're one of the other. There's no point fighting it. You you do one or the other naturally, but what most people never tell you is you're going to suffer either way, my friends that are panthers do most of their suffering at the tail end of a project. They do it in the edits and the revisions when they figure out. Oh, I have 57 threads and none of them are connected. Yeah, you are. You stand for a plotter, Uh, like Ariel, a plotter down down to like, my fingertips. Just I think the the history nerd, quite often it dictates that I have to know that I have to have the scaffolding in place of the history in order to build my story on it. Um and so I tend to I do the whole, you know, the layered, layered researches Digging, digging, digging. Um, and there's a I typically reach a kind of a tipping point where, uh, like Ariel said, my brain feels so full that I can't really absorb any more, and and then I just have to. And also, there's also that those handy deadlines that your editors will occasionally, uh, send an email saying So how's it going? And that's usually the point where I think Oh, God, I Yeah, this is due again, Lord, and uh and then I'll Then I'll plunge into the writing. But I always have these moments where I have to stop or I try...

...not to stop, but I make notes for myself. Oh, there's and it's more the detailing things that I pick up at that stage. But one thing I I I'm sure we all have experienced this where I think I plotted it out. And I think I know what my characters are supposed to do. And there's a certain point at which it doesn't happen in every book, and the degree to which it occurs varies. But sometimes the characters start to take over, and I've had scenes where I thought that somebody was going to be dead at the end of the scene, and then they're defiantly still alive. At the end of the scene. I'm sitting there going, I'm not. I thought I was in control here. So how is it that this character is not doing what I want them to do? It feels it's almost an out of body kind of feelings, but I've learned to listen to them. It's taken me a while, but I've learned to listen. That's my favorite part about writing. Yeah, but I'm a total panther, so that moment happens for me the whole time, and I pay on the back room. We know that our lively and involved viewers have a ton of questions for the two of you. Mary. Alice, can you ask? Um, one of the questions are Yes. Okay. I'm gonna ask a crazy one. Dallas Gardner at Mitchell. Asked. Jennifer, can you please share the color name of your nail polish this color? You know what? I don't I don't know what it is. I had a i as a treat. It was my little girl's birthday last week, and and we were very We were able to go and get our nails done very carefully. We're trying to still under kind of a modified lockdown, but But you can you can, uh, we actually happen to be out of town. And so we very we were definitely obeying all the rules, but we had these done, and, uh and I don't know what it's called. It was it was one of the o p I c o p. D. I say I agree with her. I'm very jealous. I haven't had a mani pedi forever. Yeah, it was like we were in a full kind of gear. Um, and the only thing that was poking through the little shield were our hands, Um, and Uh, yeah, the first. And it was quite shocking. The state that my my hands, my hands over. Thank you. Um, I have a really fun one. I love this. Um, So Aaron Row wants to know. Have you ever had a light bulb moment to write a story while researching and while researching, you have another light bulb for a different look? Okay, so the question is, do you stop one and start the other or do you keep going? I have a good story for you on that. Good. So my not code named Helen, But the novel before that is called I was in East Asia and it's the novel I never meant to write. I was deep in the process of beginning a book about Alcatraz, and it was a Friday afternoon. I had all my research material. I had most of the book clotted out. I had not started writing, and I was on the Internet looking for something. I don't even remember what it was to do with my Alcatraz novel. And I randomly came like I just fell down a rabbit hole and I came across this detail about this woman floating in a canal in Berlin two years after the Romanov family was murdered and how this woman went on to become the most famous imposter of anesthesia. Romanov or so she was called and again all the little hair set up on the back of my neck. So I emailed my literary agent, and I said, This just happened. This idea is great, but I need you to tell me to get back to work on the thing. We all agreed that I was going to write next. So just tell me to stop it, and I'll re focus on the other thing. And she responded right away. And she said, Um, I think we need to talk to your editor. And that began this long conversation back and forth between Alcatraz or anesthesia. And I actually did shift gears midstream, and I went with anesthesia and it was the right choice. It's the only time it's ever happened. But it does happen sometimes. That's the battle of the A's station. Yes. Mhm. Jennifer, what about you? Yeah, it happened, actually, with our darkest night, Uh, and I alluded to it earlier. I was working on I spent months working on this other book that, uh and I may I don't know. I may still write it. Uh, and it took characters from kind of the, uh, one of my previous books, uh, secondary characters from goodnight from London. And I sent one of them to Golden Age Hollywood. And, uh, to be honest, I can't really remember much more than that at this stage, which probably tells you just how likely I am to write that book about Golden Age Hollywood.

And it just wasn't coming together. It wasn't sticking, really. And as soon as I I had this other ha moment, it was prompted by my son's question. It just sent me off like a rocket. And, um, my my hesitation in the beginning, though, was I've never written anything. I've never written anything said in Italy, I didn't have really any level of specialist knowledge, but Italy in World War Two. So I had to do it. I really a fairly fast paced, um, just a deep dive into the background history, which, you know, is there again. It was it was intense, but, um but I was able to start work fairly quickly, and and there was really again. As soon as I called my agent and told her about this idea I think agents and editors to Well, they have, you know, their antenna will come up. They can hear something in our voices. When we found the idea that is setting us on fire and they respond to Yeah, yeah, you know, winning have so much we want to ask you. But you know what a funny thing is? So many of our viewers want writers tips. So, ladies, I I have one that I think I almost alluded to a minute ago. And then I pulled myself back, which is when I'm on a roll writing and, like, you know, again so many of us, you're pushed and pulled in every direction. And especially when you're at home and everybody's in the same house as you and and how to focus, right? And if you're on a roll, you have to respect the role and don't let yourself be pulled out of it. And and I don't know who told me this, but this is years ago, and I do it all the time. If there's something I don't know as I'm writing and it's either. It's a it's an adjective that I can't think of, or it's it's a detail or a date or just something that can be filled in. Later I write, I put T and K next to each other TK, which is a copywriters term, but it has the great advantage of not appearing anywhere else. The two letters T and K don't appear anywhere else in conventional English next to each other. So if you write down if you type in T K, it's very easy to find later on and you keep going. And so then later once, once you know one of the kids coming and interrupted you, or or you know, the phone rings or whatever happens and you've lost your stream of, you know, being in the moment, you can come back later and fill in the TKs. But But that that that role you're on, you haven't interrupted, and that's I feel, honestly, sometimes that's the only way I can get. Books done on deadline is just to let myself go and then pick up the little bits later. And sometimes you realize you didn't need that little bit like that. Whatever that detail was your You would have otherwise spent 15 minutes an hour a day chasing down. You don't actually need that detail, right? How about you era? You have a quick tip for us? Yes. My best writing advice is the advice I tell myself every single day which is finished the book. There is no finished book. Without the finished book. There is no deal without the finished book. There is no career. There is no really fun time on friends and fiction without the finished book. And it is the first and most vital stage. And you never finish every time. Every time I start over, finish the book, Ariel, That's your job. Yeah, I like that. I'm going to put that in calligraphy. I think our agents are going to edit going to send us an email all tomorrow morning with that piece of it. I finished the book. You cannot go wrong. When he finished the book. I love exactly So I know the five of us and you to Ariel and Jennifer have groaning to be red shelves on our night stands. But what are you both reading and recommending right now? I am recommending It's lovely book. Yeah, An Unexpected The Peril by Deanna Rayburn in his book Six in the Series and this series is called The Veronica Speed Wells Theories is that in Victorian England, and she is Detective lady detective, way of reading books. Six. Just came out, and I'm taking it one chapter at a time. Mhm. Her covers are so good I'm always the base of her color. Yeah, they always have that really nostalgic feel to them. How about you, Jennifer? Um, so it's not quite yet. It's coming out in April, and it's a debut. Uh, work of historical fiction by Kristin Beck...

...called Courage, My love. I keep hearing it is beautiful so that that cover you know, there's an amazing, uh, photograph from, I think, the 19 forties, uh called Walk to Paradise Garden by W. Eugene Smith. And he's it's his two little Children, uh, just walking together, and it kind of threw underneath some trees. And for whatever reason, this cover really reminds me of of that photograph. I just think it's it's beautifully done, and so it's, it's it's set in Rome. There's it's two very different, uh, Italian women. Um, just their characters are so beautifully drawn and they're both drawn there, pulled into the resistance. Um, but I have to say, when I read it, I and I know Kristen, but I thought, Well, maybe maybe she's Italian and background. Maybe her family's Italian Or she, um you know, there's some connection because the Italian women in particular, were so convincing and so real to me. And I belong to an Italian family. I'm I'm, like, fully mantra because they would call me. But I've been part of an Italian family for more than 20 years now, and the women I just thought were so I just I could see them. I could hear them. And but she's not. She just does a really good writer. So hats off to Kristen. I mean, for a debut book, I I just thought it was spectacular. Awesome. It sounds good, and I'll always root for a Christian. That sounds exactly so. Ego centric. When are we having Kristen Hannah on again? We can I know. I know. You've clicked off the other Christie. You like the only Christian Exactly. All right, just a couple announcements before we ask one more question for aerial and Jen. First, we want to say a big, huge congratulations to Lisa, Brenda and the Friends and Fiction Official Book Club for hitting 5000 members today, which is such a while, you know, right? Yes, you're going to be doing an awesome giveaway over on the official book club page. So if you're not already a member head on over there enjoying, um, they have lots of fun books coming up, which I can say, because there are books that friends of fiction of their books, but it's a great group. I also have to remind you that if you want one of those gorgeous jute friends and fiction totes, it comes free with your friends and fiction. First box from Oxford Exchange in Tampa, which is still available. Um, you can find a link on our Facebook page, or you can also get that same tote bag when you submit your pre order form from any store at all for all five of our books. So that includes if you bought it in e book form if you bought an audiobook form. If you bought all five books in any form, you can submit a form and get that get that. So that is also available through our Facebook page. Um, and there's even a video that Christie made that explains how that works very easy. I'm It's always fun to watch one of Christie's videos. Okay, next week I'm the very lucky host of an author we know you're going to love. Nancy Joon Kim and her book, The Last Story of Nominally, was a Reese Witherspoon pick and an instant New York Times bestseller, and it tells the tale of an unconventional mother daughter relationship. And we love those. So that's this coming Wednesday at 7 p.m. Okay, and we hope you all are tuning in to our new podcast. It's not just the show anymore. We are now featuring original interviews with authors and book influencers. This week we posted podcast with my Interview with Robin Crawl and Carol Fitzgerald and Mary Kay Andrews, and Kristin chatted with thriller writer Ton of French and she's from Ireland. And so we posted that today in honor of Ireland, and you can listen to the friends and fiction podcast in all the usual places and just a quick reminder to support Mama Geraldine's historically good cheese straws and a woman owned company as well as Page one books. There are two partners, and as we mentioned at the top of the show, they are partnering together a little bit. So our worlds are colliding, which is great, but you can use the code Fab Five on both sides to get you 20% off at Mama Geraldine's and 10% off your first subscription at Page One books both links around our Facebook page. Okay, ladies, Jennifer and aerial. In both your books, you acknowledge what seems like a pretty powerful and amazing circle of writer pals. And the five of us on friends of Fiction have relied on each other. And you, Ariel, for support during the pandemic. So I want you to talk a little bit about how you're a writer. Friends have lifted you up during this time. Do you have meetups rituals? Jennifer Monica First...

I have I have a text thread. I've actually multiple text threads with my group of writer friends. We unofficially call ourselves the Coven. People have looked at this like, really, um, and we're all based in the kind of Toronto area, and, you know, there are women in the group. Karma Brown, Who's amazing both recipe for a Perfect Wife was a big hit last year. She's part of the group, and this is stopped Lee and and and just it's you know what? It's I've just found having people who understand the weirdness that goes on in my head as a writer is wonderful. And I, you know, I mean friends in general have been really what's kept me going this year, uh, being able to reach out to people. But, you know, in those times where you can't actually meet people and go for a coffee or or or or have dinner together, Um, you know, we started doing a lot of zoom things, but now it's really it's a lot. It's phone calls and text threads. The text threads, though I wake up every morning and there's karma is one of these people who writes at 5 a.m. Starting every day. I haven't I've been able to embrace that, and so there's always a few texts informa that helped get me going, and I feel very grateful. Yeah, I don't know how we would do without that. Whether it's meeting How about you, Ariel? Same there. Several text threads. You're on one of them. You're on you and another writer friend of ours. We from the beginning of the pandemic have texted and just encouraged and sent ideas or Oh, my gosh. So stuff on this plot? Yeah, like I want to burn the book down. I want to use the book as cat litter like I'm going to kill the book. And then your friends say, No, don't do it. And then we actually have a semi regular zoom meeting. We'll all pour a glass of wine and we'll sit down. We'll talk about how many words we wrote that week or what we're struggling on in our particular book. And Zoom is hard because you're not in the same room. We can't hug your friends, but it's better than nothing. And to see those faces every once in a while has been really helpful. So I think we're all doing what we were doing before is just forced us to use our technology more. We're all clinging to our writer friends and trying to keep our communities intact and remembering that we're not alone even though we have been alone or in a house with four teenage boys. Oh, my God. You are I just having one teenage boy was was enough to break me before. Well, that's just involve the gold starts. Yeah, not to resort back to the like your dad a lot. That's the only reason. I'm still saying, Oh, you know, last week we were all about the ship puns, but really, I think we all are clinging to each other because we are each other's life Raft 100%. I can't believe it's that time already. I know we all have a ton of questions we wanted to ask you to. We went over. I'm speaking for all of us. And I know for all of our viewers out there we can't thank you enough for being with us and to everybody watching. Thank you for joining us. We love being with you on Wednesday nights. Don't forget, meet us back here next Wednesday night. Uh, when Mary Alice is hosting Nancy Jo Young Kim. In the meantime, join us on Facebook on instagram and on our podcast. That's all, folks. Thank you, Ariel Thing through those leopard cubs let you thank you I'm so glad. I'm so glad I finally worked at the end. Uh, yeah, yeah. Those stupid lepre cons. I didn't get to see your promo. I you didn't see the cover. It is. I need to get back on. Isn't it beautiful? Pretty? Oh, I was so lucky. So already. It's, uh so I do have to say halfway through. Sean, I know you can hear us. Um, Sean, Sean wrote in the chat. I get it. Peach PCH. It's your A use your Yes. I'm smart. You know, We come and I were at lunch in the on the top. Yeah, there's only one really island hangout place for lunch, as far as we're concerned is Sunday Cafe. So we were there and an old friend came by the table and said, Do you know how old I was when I figured this out? And we're like, Okay, what? Ron? He said I was 78 years old...

...when I figured out that I'm mad. Damn, it is the same backwards as forwards. I'm mad. Oh, my gosh, I never I never figured it out. I was 66 years old when I found out I'm mad, dammit. Hey, that was fun. They are so easy. I mean, I have problems, but at least we got to hear from her. I know. I had so many more questions I would have liked to have asked, you know, um, when um, John was talking about the age of the oldest, the greatest generation how old they are. These World War two vets, Um, Tom and I a few years ago, there's a great World War two museum in New Orleans that Tom Hanks actually helped fund. Oh, wow. Yeah. And the day we were there and I guess a lot of days, maybe before covid They have World War two vets sitting at tables with their scrapbooks. Uh, anybody and usually with their caregiver, they're in wheelchairs or on walkers, but they're sitting at tables. They have their scrapbooks from the war, and people could sit down and ask them questions. Uh, and this is something Kristin you really should do. I took a riverboat cruise from Viking from Paris to Normandy, which we did. Uh huh. Yeah. And when we were in Normandy, we actually saw the Normandy beach that were bombed. And then we had a special ceremony for a number of of World War two vets who had taken the crews just to go. It was so moved to tears by being there and the gratitude of the people. And it was so to this day, still found that I was so moved. I had no idea. Kristen, you've got to take that cruise. It's just funny when cruises are safe again. Exactly. Exactly. People July, actually. And so they know how patriotic. Wow, A lot of the house we passed with flying American flags. That's so cool. That's awesome. Yeah, This summer I lived in Paris. I was 22 or 23 and there was this young man that I was dating at the time who of French young French man. And he offered to bring me on basically on that trip just to drive up there because his family commune from that area and his grandfather's had fought in the war. And it had been this tradition of gratitude passed down the gratitude Americans and the British and, you know, realizing that we were kind of all in this together. Um, and that's one of my greatest regrets from that summer. Is that I said no to it. I was I was being so cautious and I was like, I don't really know him that well yet. And I don't know if I want to get in a car with someone in a country that I don't know. You know what I mean? Like, it was like all the reasons not to. But he and I are still friends, and it's still a great regret that I wasn't the right time you were listening to you. So when I was 22 I was working night shift at the hospital and you were in Paris. So there you go. But I was 22. I was working as a reporter for the Savannah Morning News. I was working 2 to 11, 2 to 11 shift, and a big night out was going to Shoney's. But you know, one of the things that was so beautiful in Normandy they have the Museum of the War, and then they have a little booth where you can go in and they have the face and the voice of individual servicemen. That's cool of what they experienced. That's really cool for a reason. But before we sign off tonight, and I know we probably have to Hey, kudos to anyone else. There is still sticking with us. I just wanted to snake Patty how proud we are of you. We didn't We didn't have time to get to it in the episode tonight, but it's just, uh yeah, your book had a wonderful first. You and we, um we all love you so deeply. And we're so proud of the success you've had with this car, and it's just been wonderful. And I know this next one is going to be even huger. I mean, I get that. I just got those goose bumps and we're just so happy to be team Patty Teen Patti forever. Thank you. I'm happy to be team you guys you guys made this week beyond. I know I made that video for you guys and for friends and fiction. But if y'all didn't see it, I am beyond grateful. Alright. Dinnertime, teen. Patti, Did you see John? You're cracking me up tonight, Sean. I think we're having model gs for dinner to listen to this. Tom went to a ST Patrick's Day party with our friends. Susan. They had a date and they left me home Wrong. How wrong is that? You tell Trocheck Lord...

I'm gonna have a little chat with him. All right, guys, I love you guys. Happy ST Patrick's Day? Yeah. Good night. Yeah. Thank you for tuning in. Join us every week on Facebook or YouTube, where our live show airs every Wednesday night at 7 p.m. Eastern time. And please subscribe to our podcast and follow us on Instagram. We're so glad you're here. Yeah.

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