Welcome to the blog today, Linda. What is the inspiration behind your story?
After reading Sarah Sundin’s Sunrise at Normandy series about the three Paxton brothers, I decided to write a series about three sisters. Because of a long career in Human Resources, I am intrigued by the impact WWII had on women in the workplace, so I read lots of memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies. I wanted the sisters to hold atypical jobs to shine the light on some of the lesser known ways women served during the war. While perusing my bookshelves to figure out what direction to take with my story, I saw my copy of Sisterhood of Spies by Elizabeth McIntosh who joined the Office of Strategic Services in 1943 and conducted operations against the Japanese in Burma and China. Having written a book set in occupied Paris last year, I decided to go back to that location with my spies.
What was the catalyst for your interest in writing?
I’ve been writing since I was about seven or eight years old when my parents gave me a huge notebook (featuring a bouquet of pencils on the cover) and a package of pens. I filled that notebook and continued to make up stories. I even ran a family newspaper for a little while. I love the process of crafting sentences to create an image or thought.
Do you have a day job? If so, how do you find time in your day to write?
I have a full time job as the dining and catering manager for a boarding high school. I’m a morning person, so I make time to write before I leave for work. I’m usually at my desk by 6:00 giving me about ninety minutes to write. Fortunately, I only live three miles from work, so I don’t lose time commuting. On Wednesdays, I work the night shift, so I write until lunchtime. Editing is done in the evenings, and blogging on the weekends.
Who was your favorite character to create?
I loved writing Emily. She’s a conglomeration of people, one of whom was in the Netflix reality show “Churchill’s Secret Agents: The New Recruits” that aired in 2018. In the program, fourteen contestants went through the same training as Britain’s Special Operations Executive spies, and I found myself rooting for one young woman who everyone was convinced wouldn’t make the grade. She had a tenacity and grit that made up for her lack of physical stature, passing the course with flying colors. She immediately came to mind when I was thinking about the characteristics I wanted Emily to have. As the youngest of the three sisters, Emily also has a lot to prove, giving her additional gumption.
How did you come up with the names of your hero and/or heroine?
I own several 1940’s high school and college yearbooks that I use to find character names. Yearbooks are one of my favorite used bookstore treasures.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m definitely a plotter. I create an extensive (15-25 pages) scene by scene outline that includes point of view, date, day of the week, weather, events of the time period, and “hook.” That’s not to say my characters don’t occasionally wander off in directions I didn’t plan, but for the most part my story follows the outline. I also create a spreadsheet for the main and secondary characters that includes personal histories, physical characteristics, hobbies, likes, dislikes, and fears.
What are your three favorite books?
The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof, Until June by Barbara Britton, and Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. All three of these books moved me to the extent the characters have remained with me. I’ve reread The Lady and Redeeming Love several times. Until June just came out, but I know I will also reread it.
What’s next for you as an author?
In addition to Love at First Flight, a WWII romance that released on September 15, I’m excited to share that I’m part of several multi-author projects which are series of books written by numerous authors and connected by a common theme. Legacy of Love is part of the Keepers of the Light series and comes out in November, and A Bride for Seamus is part of the Proxy Bride series and will be out in December. Both are set in the late 1800s. During 2021 I’ll be publishing more World War II era books as well as participate in additional multi-author series.
Here is the stunning cover of Love at First Flight, along with an excerpt for you to enjoy:
Gerard Lucas swallowed a grin. He couldn’t let Emily Strealer see how much he enjoyed her discomfort. Since seeing her name on the roster two days ago, he’d had time to adjust to the knowledge of their paths crossing again. Stunned at the thought of the gorgeous young woman parachuting behind enemy lines, he reviewed her file to determine why the agency selected her.
He’d recognized the woman’s intelligence on the plane, but her record spoke volumes about her potential. Her language skills and knowledge of the French people were impeccable, and her aptitude scores were higher than every student. Her fine motor skills exceeded his own. She excelled on the intuition tests and passed the psychology evaluation with flying colors.
All well and good, but would she be able to kill a man with her bare hands?
Probably not. Her timidity on the plane during takeoff and the turbulence incident didn’t bode well. Better for her to fail here and sent home than to put her in a situation from which she couldn’t recover.
“Welcome, everyone. Congratulations on making it this far. You’re among the brightest America has to offer, and we appreciate your willingness to serve. Most of your training has been book learning, but that’s about to change. The next five weeks will be the most physically challenging of the course, probably more demanding than you’ve ever experienced.” His gaze swept the room, then he zeroed in on Miss Strealer. “This training will make the difference between whether you live or die in the field.”
Her eyes widened, and her eyebrows shot up.
He had to give her credit for maintaining her composure. She didn’t gasp or go pale like some of the other female students. Did she have the fortitude for this after all?
“Anyone want to back out? No one will blame you if you’re unwilling to put your life on the line.” He pointed to a pair of women in the back who had exchanged a fearful glance. “How about you ladies? Want to stay?”
“Yes, sir.” They spoke in unison.
They wouldn’t last the week. “Fine.” He gestured to a smug-looking young man lounging in his chair. “What about you, tough guy? Think you’ve got what it takes?”
“Absolutely. I’m from the Bowery. Nothing more dangerous than that.”
Gerard narrowed his eyes. “We’ll see.” He sauntered forward until he stood inches from Miss Strealer then peered down his nose at her. “And you? Can you handle crawling in the dirt, running for hours wearing a pack, or escaping detection from tracker dogs?”
She sat up, ramrod straight, and glared at him. “Yes, sir. Any reason to believe I can’t?”
“That remains to be seen.”
Her face pinked, but she continued to stare him down. She seemed to have gumption, but would her grit and spunk be enough to keep her alive longer than the six-week average lifespan of a radio operator?
He rubbed his hands together. “All right, enough conversation. Let’s get cracking.” Gerard clicked on the overhead projector then dimmed the lights. Moving to the screen, he poked a photograph of a small building. “The first topic we’re going to discuss is how to attack an enemy-occupied house. Needless to say, surprise is crucial in these situations. Without it, your mission has a great chance of failure.”
Holding up his thumb, he said, “First, there must be a detailed preliminary reconnaissance of the approaches to the house and the house itself.” His index finger went up. “Second, there must be a definite plan of action to which everyone adheres. No mavericks, no gunslingers.” Gerard shot a look at the New Yorker. “Got that, Bowery?”
The recruit nodded.
Gerard clapped his hands, the sound sharp in the silence. “Now, if the group is going to avoid casualties, speed and aggression must be used as soon as the action begins. Lastly, it is essential that every allowance be made by the leader for the original plan to go awry. Be prepared for the worst, because if something can go wrong, there’s a strong possibility it will. That’s when your real mettle comes into play.”
With a flourish, he stabbed the windows and door on the house’s image then swapped the Mylar sheet with a photograph of the back of the building. “Lots of ways into this place. Who has an idea about the means of ingress?”
“One of the windows in the back?” A timid suggestion rose from the middle of the group.
“Nope, you’re dead. No one can enter quickly, and you’re an easy target as soon as you get in. More often than not, you have to jump down when entering through a window.”
“The roof. Definitely the roof.”
“Excellent, Bowery. It’s the most advantageous route because you can drive the enemy lower, and he can’t roll any grenades on top of you. However, before you congratulate yourself, be aware it’s next to impossible to get there undetected because you’re bound to make noise. So, you’re probably dead, too.”
Miss Strealer raised her hand.
“What say you, Miss Strealer?”
She licked her lips.
He blinked so as not to stare at her alluring mouth. Get a grip, Lucas. “Well?”
“Uh, the back door because it’s less likely to be defended, at least as strongly as the front?”
“Is that a question or a statement? Seems like a definite maybe.”
Her left eyebrow rose, and her chin jutted out. “A statement. Most times the back has better coverage because the landscaping isn’t as trimmed or well cared for.”
“Very good. If you can’t enter via a skylight in the roof, the back door is your second best option.” He tossed a glance at her. “Congratulations, Miss Strealer. You’re not dead…yet.”
You can buy this wonderful story here: Purchase Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B086696351
Where can readers find you online?
Newsletter signup (receive a free short story): https://mailchi.mp/74bb7b34c9c2/lindashentonmatchettnewsletter
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Linda-Shenton-Matchett/e/B01DNB54S0
Readers, Linda is giving away an ebook copy of her book to one lucky commentator! Do you read WWII fiction, and what have been your favourite books so far?