22 Apr Win a signed copy of Eleanor’s Secret
And how I came to write another story set during the Second World War…
It’s going to be an exciting couple of weeks with the publication of Eleanor’s Secret on 1st May and my new web site nearly ready too, so I thought I’d share the story behind the novel and how I came to write about an aspiring female war artist. I also want to celebrate with readers by offering the chance to win a signed copy of the book so please go to my Facebook page and enter the giveaway competition: https://www.facebook.com/Caroline.J.Beecham/
When I was researching Maggie’s Kitchen I found documents in the archives about decorating British Restaurants. There was a whole Decoration Policy set out by the Ministry of Food, which in itself was rather surprising; they wanted to improve morale for the diners and used works from well-known artists as well as murals by artists from local colleges. This led me to the War Artists’ Advisory Committee, and it was their work and that of the people and institutions involved that gave me the idea for Eleanor’s Secret.
The official role of the WAAC was to produce a visual history of Britain during wartime, but unofficially it was also to protect a generation of artists; people were no longer buying art, and industries that formerly employed them, like publishing and advertising, were changing as paper rations were introduced and so many artists lost their livelihoods. I found the idea of the war artist really interesting because it felt as if there is such a stark contrast between art and warfare, and between the people and institutions involved, that there was sure to be some interesting characters and stories—and there were!
There were four hundred artists that contributed to the scheme and I quickly discovered that of the thirty-seven given fulltime contracts, thirty-six were men and only one was a woman; this really sparked something for me. In wartime Britain women were taking on the majority of roles that men had previously held, yet that wasn’t reflected in the WAAC, or the art world. The heads of the major art institutions and the art schools were all men; I imagined there would have been female artists who had an issue with this, and Eleanor soon evolved as one of them!
I enjoy every part of the writing process; the research, plotting, the writing and editing, but it’s the research stage that throws up these lesser known social histories and the details and characters that I find so inspiring. It feels like there are still ways we can draw back the curtain and see how people lived, loved and survived, how they pioneered during wartime and how lives changed—for the better as well as worse—and in particular the lives of women.
In my next blogs I’ll talk more about these different stages of writing Eleanors Secret and share some of the fascinating research, artworks, stories and people that I came across. Until then, thank you for taking the time to visit my blog and happy reading!