Since I published my first book, a non-fiction title called Military or Civilians? The curious anomaly of the German Women’s Auxiliary Services during the Second World War on Amazon last Wednesday quite a few people have asked me why I did it.
Comments have included:
“I thought you wrote alternate history thrillers with a Roman theme.”
“Aren’t you looking for agent representation and the trad publishing route?”
“What’s German women’s history got to do with the Romans?”
All good questions. Here are the answers:
Yes, I do.
Yes, I am.
They’re both history.
OK, that’s a bit glib. Here’s some history, or maybe it’s archaeology…
Picture me at fifteen, making O-level choices. I had to chose two out of three of Latin, History and Geography. As a budding linguist, Latin was easily chosen. But the other two? Both deep loves. Geography won as I needed it if I wanted to do A level (which I did). But History – I felt I was abandoning a child in an Arctic wind. My History teacher was ‘disappointed’.
But I knew history would stay with me. It coloured my entire thought process. It was licenced nosiness. Why did people do that? What were the circumstances? How did they achieve it? What did this object mean? Why was this so important to them? What do they tell us with their “messages across time”?
On every holiday/business trip/family outing I couldn’t and can’t help it: buildings shriek out at me, monuments beg for attention and the latest news always has a historical context. I’ve been lucky enough to see Roman palaces, roads, art, to marvel at the Bayeux Tapestry and the sadness of Oradour, and see Berlin before and after the fall of the Wall. I’ve handled Commynes’ commentaries and my own great-great grandfather’s medals from the Boer War.
But where were the women in these stories? In the small universe of my family, I discovered although my mother was in a reserved occupation as a student then a teacher in 1939, her two sisters had joined the WRNS and my father’s sister the WRAF. All survived the Second World War.
When I was choosing my MA History dissertation topic, I remembered a German friend mentioning her late grandmother had worn a Wehrmacht uniform during the Second World War. A woman wearing a Wehrmacht uniform? I’d never heard of such a thing. But my friend pulled out an old photo of a young girl in a size-too-big greatcoat, dark tie around her neck, a side cap with badge; she looked straight to camera, at once serious and so young. The result was my dissertation and a few years later, with the digital revolution making it possible, the book I published last Wednesday.
Now my German women’s history book is in the world, I’m back in my Roman-themed thriller world again.
Now where did I put my stylus?