11 March 2022

Special Guest Post by Pam Lecky, Author of Her Secret War

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

May 1941: German bombs drop on Dublin taking Sarah Gillespie’s family and home. Days later, the man she loves leaves Ireland to enlist.

Historical Fiction: Researching and Writing in a New Era

When my agent suggested I explore the possibility of writing a WW2 novel with a strong Irish flavour, I was at first unsure, but my antennae began to twitch. Up to that point, my books were set in the late Victorian era which I know well at this stage. But I do like a challenge, so the idea began to appeal. My only reservation was the amount of WW2 fiction already published. If only I could find a unique angle…

Luckily, I had plenty of material to delve into, and I soon had an outline for Her Secret War, the first book in the series. Both my family and local history inspired the novels. My mother and her sisters left rural Ireland to work in Britain during WW2. 

My Mother, 1942

One aunt followed her boyfriend, who had joined the RAF, and she worked in a munitions factory. Another aunt wanted to study nursing, and my mother was a ‘clippie’ (bus conductress) on the Birmingham buses. Neither book is their story, but there are glimpses of their experiences hidden throughout the fiction. The German attack on North Strand, which opens the book, happened only a few miles from where I grew up. As a young child, I passed the bombed-out sites regularly, knowing nothing about them. I was in my late teens before I heard about the bombing and the relevant history.

I have always been interested in the world wars and tend to watch anything related on TV, such as documentaries or movies. For me, the greatest challenge was getting up to speed on day-to-day life. I knew a lot about the overall timeline and events of the war, but it was the nitty-gritty details of life on the Homefront which would ground the stories in reality. Essentially, I had to read a lot and, thankfully, there is an enormous amount of material out there, from eyewitness accounts and books to newsreels. 

Then I was lucky enough to come across a wonderful website dedicated to the people who had worked at Supermarine in Hampshire, the company who made the iconic Spitfire plane. The owner of the site was amazing, providing a huge amount of background material which enabled me not only to build a picture of Supermarine, the facility and the workers, but also helped with some tricky aspects of my storyline.

Essentially, the stories are about spies and fifth columnists, a subject covered in some depth by Tim Tate in his book, Hitler’s British Traitors. This was the source for much of my background information and threw up a few plot ideas too (always a bonus!).

My heroine, Sarah Gillespie, is Irish, and the first novel in the series begins with the infamous bombing of neutral Dublin by the Luftwaffe in May 1941. The opening chapters take place during the bombing and its aftermath before the story moves to England. Like many Irish, Sarah has family living in the UK. They welcome her to their home when her own family is killed. Without giving away the plot, Sarah’s nationality leads to complications, and she is forced to decide where her loyalties lie. The complex relationship between the Irish and their ex-colonial masters interests me, and I explore it to some extent in both novels.

Luckily, Avon Books UK/Harper Collins snapped up the rights to Her Secret War, and the sequel entitled Her Last Betrayal. Delighted, I set about writing the second novel, only to come up against a brick wall. Her Last Betrayal continues Sarah’s story. She is now working for MI5 and along with a colleague, a US Naval Intelligence officer, they are trying to track down IRA members who are facilitating British fifth columnists and Abwehr agents entering and leaving the UK. 

Again, I referenced Mr Tate’s excellent book only to find that the port was only alluded to as being in South Wales. I knew the UK National Archives document reference number, but the text in question was only available to view in person, not online. Because of Covid, I could not travel to Kew to look at it. So, in the meantime, I had to make an educated guess (Fishguard seemed likely as it connected Cork and neutral Lisbon at the time—a possible route). 

As the deadline for finalising the book approached, however, I panicked and took a chance and messaged Mr Tate directly through social media. A few weeks later, he responded and emailed all the information I needed. But, as it transpired, the identity of the port used remains a mystery. The document Mr Tate had seen only mentioned South Wales. And then the bombshell: the British Secret Service had destroyed the other file which identified the exact location. Although disappointed, at least I had an answer. And let’s be honest, a bit of mystery is music to the ears of a writer of espionage!

Her Secret War was published in October 2021 and is available in all good bookstores and online. Her Last Betrayal will be published on 14th April 2022 and is currently available to pre-order:

Available for pre-order from Amazon UK and Amazon US

London, 1941: After losing her family to a Nazi bomb attack back home in Ireland, Sarah Gillespie joins the British Secret Services 
to bring them justice.

I am currently working on the third novel in the series, as yet unnamed.

Pam Lecky

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About the Author

Pam Lecky
 is an Irish historical fiction author with Avon Books UK/Harper Collins. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, The Crime Writers' Association, and the Society of Authors. She is represented by Thérèse Coen, at the Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency, London. Pam has a particular love of the late Victorian era/early 20th Century. In November 2020, Pam signed with Avon Books UK/Harper Collins in a two-book deal. The first book in the historical thriller series, Her Secret War, was published in October 2021; the sequel, Her Last Betrayal, will be published in April 2022. Her debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, was awarded the B.R.A.G Medallion; shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize 2016; and longlisted for the Historical Novel Society 2016 Indie Award. Her short stories are available in an anthology, entitled Past Imperfect, which was published in April 2018.  June 2019 saw the release of the first book in the Lucy Lawrence Mystery series, No Stone Unturned, a fast-paced Victorian mystery/crime, set in London and Yorkshire which was awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion. The sequel, Footprints in the Sand, set in Egypt, was released in March 2020. The third book in the series, The Art of Deception, was published in December 2021.  Find out more at Pam's website https://pamlecky.com/ and find her on Twitter @pamlecky

Hear Pam Lecky read an extract from Her Secret War:

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