Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Intrepid Women

During my research on the First World War, I came across the FANY (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry), a Corps of plucky women who volunteered to drive ambulances and run hospitals in war-torn France and Belgium. They were well-bred, often aristocratic young women, and cultivated an image of fierce independence, self-confidence, flair, gaiety, and audacity. The FANYs' work was difficult, dangerous, and dirty (they fixed their own ambulances), but they also had fun. They were renowned for their hospitality, hosting teas, dances, and entertainments for officers when off-duty. Many were accomplished musicians.

The “girls” as they called themselves, often had to drive ambulances during bombing raids. FANY members earned 136 medals and decorations during WW1. One of them was Pat (Waddell) Beauchamp, who lost a leg in the line of duty. She recounts her experiences in her memoir, Fanny Goes to War.

Some of the FANY brought their own cars to France, which were then converted into ambulances. The windshields were removed from all vehicles, and only small sidelights were allowed for night driving. This was so as not to alert enemy aircraft with lights or reflections, and to prevent injuries from breaking glass during bombings. The girls often had to evacuate the wounded from trains to hospitals or ships at night and in all weathers.

It’s amazing to realize the many hardships that these gently reared ladies endured - with stoicism and grace - in their bid to “do their duty” like their brothers and sweethearts.

For a comprehensive account of the FANY, read War Girls by Janet Lee.

I pay homage to these courageous women volunteers in Elusive Dawn through my version of the Corps, the WATS (Women's Ambulance and Transport Service). The FANY is still in existence.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fictional Friends

Fictional friends make you laugh and cry. They invite you along on their adventures. They share their most intimate thoughts and moments with you, and become lasting friends whose lives matter to you. Once acquainted, who can ever forget Anne (of Green Gables), Oliver Twist, Tess (of the D’Urbervilles), Jane Eyre, Heathcliffe, Miss Marple, Bertie Wooster and Jeeves to name just a few. But they don’t have to be legendary to impress you. For a multitude of reasons, they touch your heart and soul and linger in your psyche.

As an author, I have an even deeper relationship with my characters. They are constantly in my thoughts, and a part of me resides in each. Once formed, they take over the story, changing the plot to suit their whims. One of them even has a blog, of sorts, which you can visit at InMyLife.

My characters are constantly pestering me to get on with their lives in Book 3 of the Muskoka Novels series. I’m delighted that fans, too, are enthralled with them. Here are some of their comments:

"Through The Summer Before The Storm, and now Elusive Dawn, we have come to know a whole new family - characters that are so real we can't help but be affected by their lives. We've laughed with them, cried with them, felt their fears, anxieties and pain, shared their joy and their sorrow. You have a great talent, combining fact and fiction into a fascinating, engrossing tale of love, loss, inner strength, hope and the power of faith.... I often find myself thinking about 'our new family' and what you may have in store for them. You always leave us wanting more!"

"Turning the final page of [The Summer Before The Storm], I was left wondering what was to become of the rich cast of fictitious characters who had become my friends over the previous 500 or so pages."

"Your fascinating and intriguing characters are so real, so believable, each one unique and passionate in his/her own way, I couldn't help but be drawn into the emotions and circumstances of their lives."

"It is impossible not to be drawn into the lives and emotions of the eminently believable characters."

More comments can be seen on the MuskokaNovels.com

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Summer's Lament

The older I become the more reluctant I am to relinquish summer. Although we’re currently experiencing the best weather we’ve had this entire record-breaking cool and wet summer, this past Labour Day weekend still felt like the unofficial end to the season.

But how delightful to be able to spend it at our island cottage with family and friends!

After a refreshing last swim, we stood in the lake beside the dock and celebrated the perfect day and some significant anniversaries and birthdays with champagne. It will be at least nine long months before I’ll be back there, so I’m looking forward to immersing myself in writing about summers long past as I work on my latest novel. And there are always photos.


my inspiration for a series of novels - visit theMuskokaNovels.com for more info

Goodreads Ratings

Gabriele Wills's books on Goodreads
The Summer Before The StormThe Summer Before The Storm
reviews: 2
ratings: 8 (avg rating 4.50)

ratings: 4 (avg rating 5.00)

ratings: 4 (avg rating 4.50)

A Place to Call HomeA Place to Call Home
ratings: 4 (avg rating 4.00)