Isn't it amazing what can happen as the result of a chance conversation?
I never thought I’d write a novel set in WW2, but that’s what happened following an invitation to tea by some good friends.
The previous evening, there’d been a programme on the television about the brave French and Italian families who had sheltered Allied soldiers who, for various reasons, had found themselves behind enemy lines. I’d been very moved by the programme and talked about their extraordinary stories. Martin mentioned that his father’s war experience included exactly that: he had escaped from a train taking him to Germany after he had been captured. He went on to tell me how if it hadn’t been found by a shepherd, his father would no doubt have died. The mountains of the Italian Apennines were very inhospitable in the winter of 1943.
When Martin said that his father had kept diaries and there were photographs, I felt an immediate and overwhelming need to see them. Could I? Of course!
They arrived in a hessian shopping bag, not exactly the treasure chest they really deserved. I still wasn’t planning on a novel – after all I knew very little about the war or the military, but what I was soon to discover was that there was a moving and human story to be written. Not an exact retelling of Captain Wright’s experience (his ended with several years in a German prisoner of war camp after being recaptured), I had another story to tell. Mine required two time-lines, something like my previous novel, Secret of the Song, but instead of the past being in the Italian Renaissance five hundred years ago, it would be in Italy during WW2.
I’ve always enjoyed stories which involve some sort of quest, where a trail of clues leads to a discovery, so it wasn’t long before I had the idea of my modern day (actually it’s set in the year 2000) heroine wondering what happened in Italy during the war, just like I did. She is curious about the composer of a comic song she has found in her music teacher’s home. His photo appears in family albums, but he didn’t come home to a welcome. What happened to him?
Don’t worry, this isn’t a story with a tragic ending. Ros discovers that there are secrets long held and that everyone apparently has at least one they’d rather keep, but like dominoes, once one goes, the rest follow.
The title Notes from the Lost occurred to me almost before I’d written a word, and it always felt right. Notes can be either written or musical, Lost can mean missing or refer to those who died. The novel is about how the past, whether it’s a big and terrible thing like a war, or perhaps a small deceit that can still be felt many decades later.
I’ve been asked what I’ll be writing next, and yes, I do think it will be set in the past again, and Italy may well come into it as well, but if I get invited out to tea again, who knows?
Thank you for inviting me onto ReviewSpot, Janice.
EDITOR: The Kindle version of this book is only 99p for week beginning 25/11/19 See here.