It is a pleasure to welcome Christine Wells to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews for A Tea Break with Mrs B, an author interview series. To help celebrate the release of Sisters of the Resistance we sat down for a chat. Thanks Christine!
What is your drink of choice as we sit down for a chat about your new book?
Thank you so much for inviting me to tea, Mrs B! I am enjoying a skinny flat white from my local coffee shop.
Can you give us an overview of your writing career to date?
I started out writing historical romance for New York publishers, Penguin and Pan MacMillan. Then an editor at Penguin Australia asked me if I’d be interested in writing historical fiction for her. That book became The Wife’s Tale, a dual timeline about a female novelist in the eighteenth century whose husband uses the legal system to ruin her, and the way she wields her skill at writing to fight back. It was a new experience to base a book so heavily on real people and I relished the challenge. Since then, I’ve published more historical fiction: The Traitor’s Girl, The Juliet Code, and now, Sisters of the Resistance has come out with William Morrow in New York and HarperCollins Australia.
How different was the experience of writing Sisters of the Resistance compared to your other releases?
The significant difference with Sisters of the Resistance was that many of my central characters were real people, most importantly, Catherine Dior. As I explained in the author’s note, I tried to stay as true as possible to what I knew about Catherine’s wartime experiences. There was scant information available, so I made the decision not to write the book from Catherine’s point of view, but to ensure that all the essential points in her story actually did take place. Her interaction with the main protagonists, Yvette and Gabby is all fictional, of course.
Can you tell us what inspired the creation of your new book, Sisters of the Resistance?
I first read about Catherine Dior’s involvement in French resistance in occupied France in an article on Jezebel.com in about 2017. I was stunned at this woman’s bravery and sacrifice and intrigued by her obviously close relationship with her brother, the couturier Christian Dior. I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of Catherine Dior’s story before and felt it must be told as widely as possible.
What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing Sisters of the Resistance?
The most surprising and shocking discovery to me was that in 1944, the Nazis, perhaps conscious of needing deniability when prosecuted for war crimes, deputised criminal gangs to do their dirty work, giving them powers of search and seizure and arrest. The Bonny Lafont and rue de la Pompe gangs rounded up resistance agents, tortured and sometimes murdered them, all under orders from the Nazis. Many of these gang members were French.
Did you have strong connection to one of the characters in Sisters of the Resistance and why?
I think Yvette, the young, impulsive sister who longs to do her part for the resistance is who I would like to be. And of course, Yvette gets to model for Dior! But her older, more cautious sister is the one I probably identify with the most.
What issues do you explore in Sisters of the Resistance?
There have been many stories about the French resistance but in this novel, the Nazis, while a constant threat, are not the antagonists. When writing Sisters of the Resistance, I wanted to make it clear that joining the resistance was not the default position for most French people, and certainly not early on in the war.
The degrees to which the French people themselves co-operated or outright collaborated with the Nazis is a theme that runs through the book. Every single character in this novel must make that difficult choice, sometimes on a daily basis. I would like to think we can feel compassion for honest citizens who were caught in a terrifying bind. But all of this makes the courage of someone like Catherine Dior even more remarkable.
What do you hope readers will take away from the experience of reading Sisters of the Resistance?
I hope people will ask themselves, what would I have done in that situation? Would I have joined the resistance, or just tried to keep my head down until the war was won?
When you are not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
I love reading, obviously, and when I’m writing the first draft of my historical novels, I will often read psychological thrillers or contemporary fiction so that it’s a contrast to what I’m writing. I enjoy baking, and I am a bit lapsed at the moment but I do enjoy running, too. I love to travel, especially to research my books, but the beach is my happy place. I look forward to our vacation on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast every year.
What writers inspire you?
The ability of writers like John Le Carré and Margaret Atwood to tell a cracking story in brilliant prose inspires me. I also admire the work ethic of writers like Nora Roberts and James Patterson. I often hear Nora’s voice in my head: “You can’t fix a blank page!”
What book is next on your reading pile?
Next up for me is The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
What are you working on writing wise at present?
Currently, I’m working on a book I’m calling “Moneypenny”, about the real inspiration behind the character of Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond novels. Paddy Bennett worked with Bond author Ian Fleming in Naval Intelligence during World War II and took part in one of the war’s most eccentric and effective operations, Operation Mincemeat. Tentatively titled HER SECRET WAR, it should be out next year.
Thank you for the lovely tea break and chat Christine. Congratulations on the release of your new book Sisters of the Resistance.
Thank you for having me, Mrs B! It’s been a pleasure.
One of PopSugar’s Best Books of June!
Two sisters join the Paris Resistance in this page-turning new novel inspired by the real-life bravery of Catherine Dior, sister of the fashion designer and a heroine of World War II France—perfect for fans of Kate Quinn and Jennifer Chiaverini.
“As dazzling as a Dior gown! With a gorgeous blend of fashion, heartbreak, heroism, and love this book will transport you to France…” —Natasha Lester, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Secret
Paris, 1944: The war is nearly over, but for members of the Resistance in occupied France, it is more dangerous than ever before. Twenty-five-year-old Gabby Foucher loathes the Nazis, though as the concierge of 10 rue Royale, she does her best to avoid conflict—unlike her bolder sister Yvette, who finds trouble at every turn.
Then they are both recruited into the Resistance by Catherine Dior and swept into a treacherous world of spies, fugitives, and intrigue. While Gabby risks everything for the man she is hiding from the Nazis, Yvette must decide whether to trust an enigmatic diplomat who seems to have guessed her secret. As the threat of betrayal draws ever-closer, one slip could mean the deaths of many, and both sisters must make choices they might regret.
Paris, 1947: Yvette returns from New York to reunite with Gabby and begin life anew as a mannequin for Dior, who is revolutionizing fashion with the New Look. But first she must discover the truth behind Catherine’s terrible fate, while Gabby finds that there are many kinds of courage, and that love is always worth fighting for.
Sisters of the Resistance by Christine Wells was published on 7th July 2021 by HarperCollins. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
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