Two weeks ago I was asked if I would like to read and participate in a blog tour for the upcoming release of Sarah Franklin’s debut novel Shelter. I was extremely excited because the book was set in World War II, and I am a big fan of books, movies, and anything about the great wars of the past. I was even more intrigued because the book was not set in London, or any major city as most books are. I accepted, and I received an advanced copy from Midas PR for free in exchange for participating in the blog tour.
I am doubly excited because I had an opportunity to ask Sarah Franklin some questions! This is the first time I’ve had an author answer questions about their book….YAAAY! So instead of my usual commentary, I will be sharing my Q&A with the author.
SHELTER by Sarah Franklin
Overview – Spoiler Alert : Low
“Spring 1944. As war threatens even the most remote English communities, a trainee lumberjill and an Italian Prisoner of War form a friendship in the Forest of Dean. Both are outsiders. Both are in desperate, unspoken need. Connie Granger arrived in the ancient forest alone. Fleeing tragedy in her devastated city, she hopes the Women’s Timber Corps will give her a place of safety, and a place to protect the secret she carries. Seppe is haunted by his memories of combat and loss but is surprised to find a certain liberty in his new surroundings. They discover in each other a means to start again, to find a home. But Connie knows she cannot stay – and soon she must make a life-defining choice . . . But is the price Connie must pay for her freedom too great? ”
– Excerpt taken from the summary on the back of the book
Q&A with Sarah Franklin
How does it feel to publish your debut novel Shelter?
It feels absolutely amazing, and utterly surreal.
What kind of research did you do, and how long did you spend researching before writing Shelter?
I researched solidly for about three months before I started writing, then a lot more over the two years I was writing it. I read a lot of first-person accounts both of Lumberjills and of Prisoners of War in the UK. I was really lucky to be lent a couple of first-hand accounts of POWs who’d actually been in the camp in the Forest of Dean, which definitely helped in terms of detail. The Imperial War Museum in London and the Dean Heritage Museum in Soudley, Glos, both have fabulous resources and were really helpful.
In a way, I’d been researching this book for decades. I’d done a GCSE History project on the Home Front in the Second World War which included a questionnaire. Several of the repsondents talked about life in the Forest of Dean in the war. When I started writing the novel, decades later, I dug out the repsonses and they were brilliant. It made me glad to be such a pack rat…
What inspired you to write a novel with such a different point of view of life during WW2?
I’m a real countryside person, and growing up, was always looking for books which reflected that experience. So many war books focus on the Blitz, or perhaps evacuees, but there’s little about rural life. The Forest of Dean would have been where I’d have spent my war had I been Connie’s age, I’m sure. So I started thinking about what that might have looked like and felt like.
The book is set in Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England. Why did you chose this location and does it have any significance to you personally?
The location came first, really. I grew up there, and it’s the most magical place in the world; it absolutely tugs at me in a way I think very few places do in your life. In 2012, there was a move by the then government to sell off woodland, including the Forest of Dean, and in many ways Shelter grew from my feelings of despair and powerless towards that threat. I wanted to write about another time when the fate of the people living and working there might have been determined by far-away city bureaucrats. During the Second World War, forestry production was under a lot of pressure, so it seemed the ideal period to write about.
While reading your book, I was having a love hate relationship with Connie. In my humble opinion, her own emotions were often times confusing, even to her. How would you describe Connie as an individual? What kind of woman is she?
Is it wrong of me to be pleased you weren’t sure how you felt about Connie?! I think Connie’s like many of us in that sometimes she makes decisions that seem selfish, or incomprehensible, but which make complete sense to her given the situation she finds herself in at the time. She’s pretty young, she’s away from home for the first time in a very alien environment, and she’s facing choices of feminism that were largely without precedent. I think she’s more impetuous than many, which leads to some of her faster decisions, but she’s always trying to do what’s best according to her own moral compass.
I thoroughly enjoyed Seppe’s character and your portrayal of him. How would you describe Seppe? And what kind of person was he?
Thank you – I love Seppe too. He’s a dreamer, a soft-hearted man who’s been drawn into one battle or another all his life – either at home or in the actual war – and found himself completely unsuited to conflict. He’s relieved to be in the POW camp and away from war for once in his life. And he’s ashamed of this relief, which in his eyes is yet more proof of his inadequacy as a man, and as an Italian man in particular. His confidence grows with his life in the Forest and the spark of possibility that it offers home.
What can readers expect from reading Shelter?
I think readers will find a new perspective on the consequences of war far from the battlefield. They’ll learn about the life of a Lumberjill, and of POWs in Britain, and they may we’ll find themselves debating Connie’s decisions and what they themselves would have done in her shoes!
What can readers expect from Sarah E. Franklin the author?
More novels, I hope! I’m currently at work on another book set in the Forest of Dean, though this one is contemporary. I’m very interested in rural working-class, everyday life, and feel we don’t see enough of it in literature. If I can do my little bit to help someone recognise their experience on the page, that would be incredible.
I would like to thank Sarah Franklin for taking the time out to answer my questions; I thoroughly enjoyed your novel, and happy publication day! I would also like to thank Midas PR, and Bonnier Zaffre for giving me the opportunity to participate in this blog tour.
Shelter is now available for purchase on Amazon.
Also, if you have a couple of minutes, please check out the poster below with the other bloggers on this tour. See what they are posting and sharing on their respective days and show them some support.