Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Sue Perkins and her latest book 'BLITZ.'

Today it's my pleasure to welcome Sue Perkins to the blog. Sue has published books in diverse genres from fantasy to YA and romance. Although Sue now lives in New Zealand, she originates from Devon and it is her parents experiences in Plymouth during World War II that inspired her latest book. So without further ado....over to you Sue.

Seventy years ago in March 1941 and April 1941 the city of Plymouth, Devon was intensively bombed for two or three days at a time. The period went down in history as the Blitz. This year the people of Plymouth have been remembering the Blitz with exhibitions and memorial services for those who died in these horrific raids. My novel “Blitz” is set immediately prior to the outbreak of World War II and during the troubled years of fighting.

Velma and Jack fall in love and plan a future together. Her sisters try to force Velma to take things slowly. For the first time in her life Velma shows she will not be bossed around any more. She is determined to show her family she is an adult.

Jack’s life in the Royal Army Service Corps often separates the young couple. The absence of her love makes Velma to question Jack’s commitment to her. Both of them are concerned by the dark clouds of war gathering on the horizon. Will the turmoil break them apart for ever?

My original inspiration for this novel came from my parents real life romance. My mother lived through the blitz of Plymouth and, although she didn’t talk much about the war, she did mention some of the hazards she endured.

Dad went overseas like most of the fit young men of that era. He visited many countries and experienced several different cultures. His travels took him to the battles in Europe, Africa and the Far East. Both parents experiences are woven into my novel, but the majority is fictional.

I have written many romance novels, but this is the first historical story. Inspired by my parents lives during the war, I wrote the first draft as the events came to mind. I stuttered to a halt at various times when dates and details needed to be checked. I had grown up in Plymouth so most of the history was familiar. The internet is a good tool for research and my sister, who still lives in Plymouth, also became a source of information.

The amazing aspect of the research came from looking into things I thought of as part of my life. I could envisage the ball and the prows of four ships on the top of the War Memorial on Plymouth Hoe, but I had no idea they represented the four winds. The roads and green spaces have also changed with the years. Again I had to research to find out how Plymouth looked in the 1930s and 1940s.

The British monarchs visited Plymouth during the war. The Queen during World War II later became known as the Queen Mother. To introduce the visit I had to research the station they arrived at, when they came, how long they stayed. Speech patterns also differed from the words used now. The word “Okay” did not come into common use in England until after the war. I believe the American GIs used it and the English copied the word.

I have to admit research is not my favorite pastime. Funnily enough I enjoyed looking into the history of Plymouth. Mainly because I could relate to the details I uncovered.

Thank you so much for hosting this part of my blog tour and I hope your readers enjoy learning about World War II in Plymouth.

Bomb disposal in wartime Plymouth.

"Can I help you?" Velma didn't glance at the customer on the other side of the counter. She concentrated on putting the last of the screws into their respective boxes.
"I hope so." Startled by the unexpected, Velma looked up into Jack's smiling face.
"What are you doing here?" she hissed. "You'll get me into trouble." "Sorry. I had to see you." Jack didn't seem at all sorry. How could he when he had a wide grin on his face?
"Can't it wait until lunchtime?" The happy expression disappeared to be replaced by a worried frown. Fright rushed through Velma. What had happened to make him so unhappy?
"Can you grab a few moments? I have to speak to you." Velma glanced around to find her supervisor. To her dismay the woman stood glaring at her from the end of the counter. The store discouraged talking to friends during working hours and Mrs. Harris followed the rules to the letter. Velma's mind desperately sought for an excuse to exchange a few words with Jack. Nothing came immediately to mind. Jack must have seen her glance towards the supervisor. Velma watched in horror as he approached the woman. He spoke a few words to Mrs. Harris who turned to beckon to Velma.
"This young man is apparently related to your sister, Miss Field." The woman looked disbelievingly at Velma.
"Yes, Mrs. Harris. Mr. Stanley is my sister Florence's brother-in-law."
"Apparently he has an urgent message from your sister so you may take a few moments to speak to him. I shall expect you to deduct this time from your lunch hour."
"Thank you, Mrs. Harris."
Velma ducked through the counter opening and walked to the stock lift entrance where she and Jack could talk privately.
"What on earth did you say to her? There usually has to be a death in the family before she'll let any of us out from behind the counter."
"I said Florence is unwell and could you please visit her on your way home as she needs you to take care of Sam for a few hours."
"Is she really sick?" For a moment Velma forgot about Jack's sudden appearance as a flutter of anxiety surfaced regarding Florence.
"No, she's fine. She knows about this excuse so she'll play along."
"Why do you need to see me so urgently you can't wait until lunchtime?"
"I'm sorry, Velma. I received a telegram this morning. I have to report back by this evening." His hands twitched and for a moment Velma thought he would pull her to him. He didn't but his eyes showed the depth of his misery. "I'm on my way to the station now. I couldn't leave without saying goodbye."
Darkness flooded over Velma and she thought she would faint. They should have had another evening together before he had to go. Now, their last night had been snatched away from them. Desperately she tried to look and sound brave. She didn't want Jack to worry about her as he made his way back to camp.
"You will write won't you?" he pleaded. "I'll be waiting for your letters telling me all you're doing. I'm going to write to my mother to tell her all about you and we'll arrange when I can get away to coincide with your days off."
"Yes Jack, I'll write to you, but you have to promise to reply. I'm not going to send letters into a bottomless pit." She glanced over at Mrs Harris who pointed at her watch. "I have to go. Take care and have a safe journey."
It broke her heart to leave him without a kiss of farewell. She couldn't embrace him with her supervisor watching. She had to let her eyes tell him how much she loved him.
"Everything all right, Miss Field?" Mrs. Harris asked as Velma squeezed behind the counter. A glance to the lift bay told her Jack had already left.
"Yes, thank you, Mrs. Harris. Mr. Stanley wanted to make sure I visit Florence on my way home. Apparently, she's not well and needs help with my nephew."
She knew by the expression on the older woman's face Mrs. Harris had been waiting to see if her story and Jack's matched up. What little satisfaction she gained from this soon dissipated as she thought of the days ahead without Jack by her side.

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  1. I'm especially pleased to welcome you here, Sue. I have many and mixed memories of Plymouth. My husband was in the Royal Navy and his ship arrived back into Plymouth after a tour of duty in the first Gulf War...and I associate Plymouth with highs and lows. Highs, welcoming Hubs back, lows, waiting for a long, stressful period of separation to end.
    Grace x

  2. Thank you for inviting me to your blog Grace. My husband was in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary so I know how you feel. Growing up in Plymouth there were signs of the Blitz all over the place. empty spaces where houses used to be became playgrounds for the children.

  3. Lovely post, Sue, and it sounds an interesting book. We visited Plymouth a few years ago (I'm in Scotland) so it's good to visualise a setting.

  4. Dropping in from CRR Authors, Sue. Your book sounds just 'my cup of tea'. I was born during WW2 and grew up on the stories my parents told about the war. Our town wasn't blitzed like Plymouth or other cities, and my father was never sent abroad (he was stationed in the Shetland Isles for 2 or 3 years), so their experiences were different from your parents. I love the fact that you've based your book partly on their lives. Good luck with it!

  5. Great post Sue. The book sounds extrememly enticing. Love the Plymouth area. Thanks for sharing.
    C.K. Volnek

  6. Thank you for all your comments. Paula didn't the Shetlands get a bit of a pounding - I know they bombed Scapa Flow in the Orkneys but not sure about the Shetlands

  7. Someday I'd love to visit Plymouth. Many of my Aunts and Uncles were in World War II and there stories almost seem almost unbelievable at times. Your novel sounds wonderful, and even though I love my paranormal romances, I also love historical romance. Thanks for blogging Sue.

    Lawna Mackie

  8. It's a super cover, Sue. The book sounds fascinating. Congratulations!


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