As part of the Sources and Transformations series, where we look at other sources such as historical data, fables, myths and historical figures and turn them into new and exciting fiction, I'm pleased to welcome an amazing author and one of my loveliest friends, Sarah Baker.
Eloise Undercover is set in France during WW2. 12-year-old Eloise’s father hasn’t come home in over a week, and she’s getting worried that something might be badly wrong. When the Germans occupy her town, and the Nazi Kommandant moves into the manor house, things start falling apart. Through a chance meeting, Eloise volunteers to join the Resistance. Suspense, secrecy and danger follow her as, inspired by her favourite detective fiction books, she tries to find her father. A hidden passage behind a tapestry, a deportation list and a race against time... Will Eloise find her father? And what other secrets will she reveal?
I first had the idea for a story set during WW2 when I was 12. We were studying the war in history and I’d been set a project to research. I’d chatted to both grandfathers and a great-uncle who’d fought in WW2 as Major, Lieutenant Colonel and Spitfire Pilot. My great uncle delighted in telling me stories, my favourite being the one where he was shot down, escaped from the Germans, hidden by the French Resistance and then credited with liberating an entire town. Other tales I learnt later, about Grandfather H wading ashore on D-Day carrying not a weapon, but his violin. His task had been to get all the landing craft back to Southampton as fast as possible to bring in the next wave of soldiers. He was due to play a concert that evening, so to ensure he’d make it back, he took his violin to Normandy. It worked and he made it home to play.
We were given a book list at school and I continued reading long after we finished our projects. From When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr and The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico to The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett and The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall, I read countless stories of children not only surviving, but often helping the resistance. It gave me an idea, which years later, I found myself turning into a book.
It was really important for me to get the research right. I re-read a lot of the books I’d read as a child as well as plenty of non-fiction either set or written during WW2, like Sophie Scholl and the White Rose by Annette Dumbach & Jud Newborn, Land Girl Manual, 1941 by W.E. Shewell Cooper and The Heroines of SOE (Britain’s Secret Women in France – F Section) by Squadron Leader Beryl E. Escott.
I also did a lot of internet research. I work visually so I often create Pinterest boards (LINK BELOW) for each book to help me ‘see’ the characters and place settings. It’s really handy to be able to check the correct uniforms, weapons, vehicles and boats used too. I also spent quality time at the Imperial War Museum in London and asked my Dad a lot of questions (he’s a bit of an unofficial WW2 expert). My editor, Melissa, helped too. Any mistakes are mine!
Research aside, it’s important to remember Eloise Undercover is historical fiction, which gave me a lot of artistic license, but I did want to get the setting right, or as right as possible. Reading books, trawling the internet, visiting museums and asking friends and family (and strangers) is pretty much the research I do with any book and I’ll definitely use those methods again. If I could change one thing, I’d have liked to travel back to the part of France the book is set in. I’m definitely doing that next time.
Thank you Sarah for such an informative post. Look out for more posts in this next couple of weeks. If you would like to take part in the series, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Sarah Baker:
Sarah Baker has worked extensively in film, with roles at Aardman Features and the Bermuda Film Festival, and as Story Editor at Celador Films. She has also been a writer and blogger for vintage fashion magazines. Sarah currently lives near Bristol with her son. Her first book, THROUGH THE MIRROR DOOR, is a time-slip novel for 9+. Her second novel, ELOISE UNDERCOVER, is a thrilling middle-grade adventure set during WW2. Sarah’s books are perfect for fans of Emma Carroll, Katherine Rundell and Robin Stevens.
Find out more atbysarahbaker.com and follow Sarah on Instagram and twitter @bysarahbaker
France, 1944. 12-year-old Eloise’s father has not come home in over a week, and she is getting worried that something might be badly wrong. When the Germans occupy Eloise’s town, and the Nazi Kommandant moves into the manor house, things start falling apart. Through a chance meeting, Eloise volunteers to join the Resistance. Suspense, secrecy and danger follow her as, inspired by her favourite detective fiction books, she tries to find her father. A hidden passage behind a tapestry, a deportation list and a race against time... Will Eloise find her father? And what other secrets will she reveal?