Mastodon The Writing Desk: Book Launch Guest Post by Deb Stratas, Author of The Code Girl from London - A WWII Historical Fiction Novel

9 May 2024

Book Launch Guest Post by Deb Stratas, Author of The Code Girl from London - A WWII Historical Fiction Novel

Available for pre-order

England, 1944. On a classified Navy base situated atop the cliffs of Dover, telegraph operator Katie Kingston toils day and night intercepting and translating enemy transmissions in Morse Code, hunting for the next piece of information that will give Britain the edge in the ongoing war.

I'm pleased to welcome author Deb Stratas back to The Writing Desk to talk about her latest book:

Tell us about your latest book

The Code Girl from London is the third historical fiction in my 'Kingston Sisters' saga, following Tillie and Maggie’s WWII London adventures in: The War Twins of London and A Burning London Sky. Starting as Lyons Corner House Nippies, the girls are swiftly thrown into the dangers of wartime service - Tillie as a London ambulance driver, and Maggie as an anti-aircraft gun operator. Throughout the Blitz and into the hard years of the war, they struggle to serve, while seeking love and post-war happiness – no matter how far away that seems.  

The Code Girl from London picks up the story where A Burning London Sky ends – on the eve of D-day. The heroine of this story is the youngest sister, Katie, who has always felt lost in the shadow of her glamorous older sisters. 

As a Naval WREN, Katie finds her confidence growing as a wireless telegraphist, taking down essential German messages to help the Allied effort. She is immediately drawn to Irish paratrooper Ciaran McElroy - but he is about to embark on the most dangerous Allied mission in the war – a coordinated attack on French shores to take back the occupied territory from the Germans. Both triumphs and tragedies follow for the Kingston family until the ultimate victory and joyous celebrations on VE and VJ Days. 

Katie comes into her own as the love affair between her and Ciaran slowly develops. Tillie and Maggie face their own challenges in London, as their families grow. Christmas 1945 has the family together again at last, although still grumbling about wartime rationing. Will a Christmas wedding cap off the adventures of the brave Kingston sisters?  

Why did you write a sequel to The War Twins of London and A Burning London Sky?

Katie Kingston lurked in the background of my first two books – the spunky younger sister, full of cheek and a tad reckless. Her story emerged and needed to be told. I wanted her to be a WREN (Women’s Royal Navy) with a job in Special Forces. Many women signed the Official Secrets Act, swearing never to tell anyone of their secret and vital work. I loved researching these fascinating roles and wanted to feature them in the Kingston family saga. 

I also wanted to continue Tillie and Maggie’s journeys as they settled into war work and marriages, as a new generation of Kingstons came into the world. It was important to tie up everyone’s stories (with some surprises along the way!) as the war came to a jubilant end with a complete Allied victory.  

What have you learned about writing a series? 

A huge lesson I learned about writing a series is to keep it simple. When I first started The War Twins of London, the Kingston family had two parents, four children, and other close family members. By the end of the third book, with all the love interests of the Kingston children, friends met along the way, and new babies – I had so many characters to juggle that it was sometimes overwhelming. I even created a spreadsheet to keep track of all their birthdays! Next time, I will focus more on the main characters and keep the others more in the background. 

I also focussed on the growth of each of the main characters. It was crucial that I showed that Maggie, Tillie and Katie had matured, changed, and grown significantly as individuals throughout the war years.

Are you still interested in interested in the brave women of WWII England?  

YES! The more I research about the courage and fortitude of the women in WWII England, the more I want to write about them. Whether it was in the services – army, navy, air force – or in vital roles in the land army or factories; or at home taking care of their families while their husbands and sons were in serious danger, they carried on no matter what. Facing the terror of constant bombing, evacuation of their children to the country, the drudgery of queues, cooking with rations, and making do and mending, they valiantly looked after their families and made huge contributions to the war effort. 

As these real-life heroines are passing out of living memory, telling their stories and keeping them alive is even more important. We must never forget the sacrifices made by so many for freedom for us all. 

How did you conduct your research for The Code Girl from London

I was lucky enough to do lots of on-the-ground research in England. The most exciting aspect was visiting Dover Castle in Kent. The castle itself is amazing, but I really loved the underground rooms that are open to the public. I walked the halls that a WREN like Katie would have followed on her way to an ops room. I saw an ack-ack gun pointed towards the sea. And looking over the White Cliffs of Dover towards France brought the dangers of D-Day to life. Churchill’s War Rooms and the Imperial War Museum in London were also key research sites. 

As always, I read many books on wireless telegraphy and the role of women in difficult message-taking and codebreaking. There are too many online resources to name, but I found first-hand accounts and videos that gave rich historical detail of D-Day and VE Day to ensure the ultimate realism in my novels.

Is this the end of the series for the Kingstons? 

No! I had planned all along to write a Christmas book as I wanted to delve deeper into the highs and lows of the Christmases throughout the war. I’m delighted to announce that Wartime Christmas with the Kingstons (working title) will be published later in 2024. The book spans the years 1938-1946, exploring the Christmas seasons for each of the Kingstons. I’m thrilled to report that it has been shortlisted in the Historical Novel Society’s First Chapters Competition. Watch for it this fall! 

Deb Stratas
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About the Author

Deb Stratas tells well-researched and highly readable stories about powerful women in extraordinary circumstances. Readers are transported to other times and places, inspired to be authentic in their own lives. In 2023, Deb signed with ReadMore Press to re-launch her WWII Kingston Twin series: The War Twins of London and A Burning London Sky. As The Kingston Twins, Bravery in the Blitz, the first book was a finalist in the regional fictional category of the 2023 Next Generation Indie Awards.  2023 also saw her enjoy her fourth intensive research trip to London (her happy place!) and complete the Cheshire Novel Prize Summer School and Advanced course. She is based in Oshawa, Ontario, and when not researching or writing, she cherishes spending time with her two amazing adult children, their spouses, and two sweet grandchildren. Find out mor from her website and follow Deb on Facebook and Twitter @deb_stratas

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