Archive for the ‘Inside the Book’ Category

Women Spies of the World Wars: Krystyna Skarbek

Many women worked undercover during the world wars, but we know the names of only a few. Like men in the secret intelligence services, many went to their graves never revealing their roles. This blog series highlights a few that inspired me while writing At the Table of Wolves.

Krystyna Skarbek, alias Christine Granville, was a Polish countess and  the first–and longest serving–British female spy. Her exploits were many, and yet her story, her name, and her achievements are hardly known. As just one example of an exploit which should be celebrated, she skied out of Nazi-occupied Poland with the first evidence of Operation Barbarosa, the German plan to invade Russia.

Destined to become Churchill’s “favorite spy,” she initially was turned down for service because she was a woman. Read More…

Women Spies in the World Wars: Virginia Hall

Many women worked undercover during the world wars, but we know the names of only a few. Like men in the secret intelligence services, many went to their graves never revealing their roles. This blog series highlights a few that inspired me while writing At the Table of Wolves.

Female spies; At the Table of Wolves

Painting of Virginia Hall at work as a spy. It’s displayed at the CIA in their fine art collection.

Virginia Hall.

The Gestapo badly wanted to apprehend this American spy, sending out an order saying, “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.”

Virginia Hall was infamous as “The woman with the limp,” as she had a wooden leg, the result of a hunting accident. Read More…

Women Spies in the World Wars: Marika Rokk

In my research for At the Table of Wolves, I found a number of fascinating stories of women who played important roles in the world of espionage. This is one of them.

Marika Rokk

Said to be one of Hitler’s favorite actresses, Marika Rokk is likely to have had a secret life working against the Nazis for the Russians.

Born in Cairo to Hungarian parents and raised in Budapest, Marika Rokk got her start in show business in Paris, performing in the Moulin Rouge cabaret.

She was in the right place at the right time in 1935 when Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, decided that Germany needed its own film star who could help showcase German films and engage in the culture wars with Britain and particularly the US with its superstars like Ginger Rodgers and Rita Hayworth. Rokk was relatively well-known dancer in various European revues and was tapped by Goebbels to be a Nazi film star. Subsequently, the two had an affair, but it is believed that by 1940 she had been recruited by the KGB. Read More…

How I came to write At the Table of Wolves

For a little background on how I came to write my latest novel, At the Table of Wolves, here are some frequently asked questions.

Why did you chose to set this historical fantasy in the 1930s?

The 1930s – and particularly in England – was a period overshadowed by the catastrophic losses of World War I. Every family had its losses, and the public attitude was to willfully turn a blind eye to Hitler’s arms build up. So instead of a war with steal, it became a shadow war of spies, secrets, and deception. It is such a fertile ground for fiction! The roster of characters and motivation is vast: British aristocracy fearing the loss of class privilege, fascists, pacifists, spies and those who chose to do nothing. This historical context raises an interesting question: What would you have done? How much would you have sacrificed to stop the coming war?

What inspired you to write this historical fantasy?

The first inspiration came from William Manchester’s biography of Winston Churchill. I’m especially interested in the World Wars (and their lead-ups)–times with amazing contrasts between self-sacrificing idealism and staggering villainy. I had previously dealt with the historical period of the 1850s in England and India for my fantasy A Thousand Perfect Things, and was looking for a different, largely unexplored, time period for my next fantasy.
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