Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Shining a bright Release Day Book Spotlight on The Loose Thread by Liz Harris #HistoricalFiction #NewRelease #Jersey @lizharrisauthor @cathiedunn

Release Day Book Spotlight 

The Loose Thread

by Liz Harris

Publication Date: February 27th, 2024
Publisher: Heywood Press
Pages: 359
Genre: Historical Fiction

The Loose Thread is Rose’s story.

Early in 1938, with the threat of WW2 little more than a shadow on the horizon, Rose Hammond marries Tom Benest, whom she hardly knows, and leaves London to go to live with Tom on his family’s farm in Jersey. There, she’s welcomed by his parents as she attempts to adjust to her new life, but meets with open hostility from Tom’s sister, Kathleen.

Less than two years later, the lives of the family are turned upside down when Jersey is cut loose from British protection. The Germans move in and seize control of the island, forcing the islanders into a perilous situation that will test their endurance and resourcefulness.

As the German Occupation tightens its grip on life on the island, Tom and Rose are torn apart in a situation of unimaginable heartbreak, which calls for the greatest of courage, and a powerful determination to survive.

  Oh, brave new world!

I always feel a tremendous sense of excitement when I start a new novel, and starting The Loose Thread was no exception, even though it will be the nineteenth novel I’ve written!

But no matter how many novels an author’s written, a story can still take the writer by surprise, and The Loose Thread did just that. I had been intending to write an historical romance, but my research led me along a slightly different path, and I’ve ended up with a novel that’s historical fiction, with a romantic element, but not a romance as such.

When I look back at my initial conception, it’s now obvious to me that when writing a story set in the five years during which the Nazis occupied the Channel Islands (1940-1945) – five years during which the Third Reich had a foot on British soil and the islanders had to dance to Hitler’s tune – if the novel was going to be true to the history, it could never have been otherwise.

It might surprise you to know that I was encouraged to write The Loose Thread by two German people. The first was the German translator of five of my novels. She mentioned in a letter that this was a part of their history with which many Germans today are unfamiliar, and she felt it would interest German readers. As the German market is a buoyant one and my German editions are selling extremely well, not surprisingly my ears pricked up.

Such an interest was also echoed by a German friend, who visited England just over a year ago. She confirmed that very few Germans knew that they had controlled the Channel Islands for five years, and if they did, even fewer knew what had happened there during that time.

Asking around, I found that a great many British people, too, didn’t know this, and I began to write.

My novel was going to be fiction, of course, as are all of my books, so although I wanted to shed a light on the history of that period, my focus in the book was the characters. Each of the three stand-alone novels in the series Three Sisters tells the story of one of the Hammond girls, the daughters of John Hammond, owner of three haberdashery shops in Kentish Town, London. 

The Loose Thread is Rose’s story. I decided that her story would begin early in 1938. This was because she was going to marry and go to Jersey, so it had to be at a time when many people in Britain were confident that it was unlikely there’d be another war, that Hitler would obey the ultimatums he was given and that peace would prevail.

So two days after her wedding, newly wed Rose went to Jersey with her husband, Tom, a man she hardly knew, whose family owned a farm near St Aubin’s Bay, and that became her home.

St Aubin Harbour

To learn about the history, I did a huge amount of research, all of it absolutely fascinating. Prior to that, I had known very little about the history of the Channel Islands, despite doing ‘A’ level history, and I was gripped as I followed the events of the five years of the Occupation.

As always, books were my first port of call. I’ve lost count of how many books I bought and borrowed from the library. Here are a few of them.

Research books

I also used the internet. Provided that one is aware that Wikipedia and other internet sources can make mistakes, it’s an invaluable source of information, both in the body of the content, but also in the Wikipedia footnotes, which frequently refer the reader to original documents and papers. The BBC WW2 People’s War archives were also extremely interesting. In them, people who were alive at the time, tell their stories.

Nothing, of course, beats going to the location in which the events took place, and I was lucky enough to go to Jersey early last year a wonderful few days, and to lose myself in my on-the-spot research. 

I flew to the island and hired a car so that I could get around more easily. At 9 miles by 5 miles, Jersey isn’t a large island, although it’s the largest of the Channel islands, but I was anxious to make the most of my time there so having my own transport was a must. The excellent hotel in which I stayed, the Somerville, was my starting point each day.

I took the photo below in the Channel Island Military Museum at St Ouen, which was a source of much fascinating information. Despite the museum being quite small, I was in there for more than three and a half hours as there was so much to see. Also to hear. I asked for a chair and sat and listened from beginning to end to the overhead tape that was being played continuously.

Photo from the Channel Islands Military Museum

I also spent a considerable amount of time in the Jersey Museum & Art Gallery in St Helier, the Hamptonne Country Life Museum, and the Jersey War Tunnels, which included an underground hospital. The tunnels were a vivid step back into time.

Photo from the Jersey War Tunnels

The advantages of going to the location when writing a novel are numerous. That’s not to say, however, that personal experience can’t sometimes backfire. It can. And as an author who often travels to the location of her books, I have to keep possible pitfalls in the back of my mind and try to avoid them.

For example, when writers go to a town or an area for research, they may also be looking for houses for their characters, and for the town or village in which to locate their story, and for possible locations for scenes. When they find what they want, they’ll come home and try to capture every detail on the page so that readers can see the scene or the house for themselves.

But the reverse can easily happen, and the reader can end up confused. In trying not to omit a single feature of the chosen house, the writer can unwittingly obstruct the reader’s vision with far too much detail. Less is definitely more in such a case.

I made this mistake when describing a house in Jersey that I found both interesting in shape and attractive. I decided that this would be the farmhouse owned by Tom’s family, and it would be where Rose and Tom started their married life. I took a photo of it, and back home, with the photo at my side, started to describe it.
Could I capture the house so that readers could easily visualise it? No, I could not! I made a real mess of it. I was so anxious not to miss a single distinguishing feature that I put in far too much! In the end, I deleted the lot, and simplified my description in a way that I thought would bring it alive for readers. I hope I succeeded. You can tell me if I did, if you want.

Liz Harris

Born in London, Liz Harris graduated from university with a Law degree, and then moved to California, where she led a varied life, from waitressing on Sunset Strip to working as secretary to the CEO of a large Japanese trading company.
Six years later, she returned to London and completed a degree in English, after which she taught secondary school pupils, first in Berkshire, then in Cheshire and finally in Oxfordshire.
In addition to the eighteen novels she’s had published since her debut novel The Road Back, Liz has had several short stories in anthologies and magazines.

Liz recently moved to Windsor, in Berkshire. An active member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Historical Novel Society, her interests are travel, the theatre, reading and cryptic crosswords.
To find out more about Liz, visit her website at: www.lizharrisauthor.com 

Connect with Liz:
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