This week on Mystery Mondays we welcome Elinor Florence. I met Elinor about a year ago, and since then we’ve been sharing our writing and publishing experiences over lunches.
Here’s what Elinor has to say about genres and her debut novel, BIRD’S EYE VIEW.
My wartime novel Bird’s Eye View isn’t a classic murder mystery – although I have seen it shelved in the Mystery section of one bookstore – but rather, a whole series of mysteries.
You see, in my novel the serial killers are the Nazis, and my detective is an aerial photographic interpreter. Rose Jolliffe is an officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Like Sherlock Holmes, she uses her magnifying glass to study aerial photographs for clues, trying to outwit the enemy.
Along the way, she tackles a number of baffling mysteries:
- When the Allies bomb an important railyard behind enemy lines, why don’t the aerial photographs taken the next day show any damage?
- Is that charming French village real, or is it an elaborate camouflage created by the Germans to disguise an aircraft factory?
- Most importantly, what is the secret revenge weapon that Hitler says will win the war — and where on earth is it?
Rose examines aerial photos to the point of exhaustion (since there was no colour film, she is literally studying fifty shades of gray), striving to solve these and other mysteries – painfully aware that her failure will cost thousands of lives.
She is suffering from personal strain as well. Her brother Jack is flying a Spitfire, and she fears for him every day. She is in love with her commanding officer, who unfortunately already has a wife. And she is desperately homesick for her farm on the Canadian prairies. She keeps in touch with the home front through a constant flow of letters from her parents and her best friend, June.
Bird’s Eye View is the only novel ever written in which the main character is a Canadian woman in uniform. I find that very sad, considering that there were fifty thousand of them in World War Two alone. They were just as patriotic and dedicated as the men, but we know little about them. I wanted to shine a light on women’s contribution to the war effort.
To create my characters, I drew heavily on my own family. My mother lived through the war as a teenager in Canada, and her home town of North Battleford, Saskatchewan was an air training base. Her beloved elder brother was killed in the war. My father served in the Royal Canadian Air Force, as did my uncles. So I had access to a gold mine of personal anecdotes.
I was also intrigued by that fascinating but little-known branch of Allied Intelligence called photo interpretation. During the war hundreds of trained interpreters studied the aerial photos brought back from Europe – literally spying on the enemy from the sky. I read as much as I could about the subject, and travelled to both England and Germany for my research. Every incident in the book is based on fact.
Since the book was published a year ago, I’ve received hundreds of positive comments. People often tell me that my book enlightened them about our own Canadian history, especially the role of women. One former bomber navigator told me that he combed my book looking for errors and couldn’t find any – that was music to my ears! Others tell me that my book moved them to tears. Touching people’s hearts is always a good thing.
By far the most typical comment, however, is this: “I couldn’t put it down!” That’s the best compliment of all.
Elinor Florence is a career journalist who grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan, a former wartime airport. She wrote and edited daily newspapers and magazines across Western Canada, including Reader’s Digest. Married with three grown children, she now lives in the mountain resort of Invermere, British Columbia. Bird’s Eye View is her first novel. It’s available through bookstores or online from Amazon, and as an ebook. Order it here: http://www.amazon.ca/Birds-Eye-View-Elinor-Florence/dp/1459721438/ref=sr_1_1_twi_1_pap?ie=UTF8&qid=1429642038&sr=8-1&keywords=Birds+eye+view
Thanks for reading…