Thursday 29 August 2019

Historical Fiction author, Suzy Henderson, is taking a look at becoming acquainted with your character: Writing Historical Fiction #HistoricalFiction @Suzy_Henderson

Becoming acquainted with your character: 
Writing Historial Fiction
By Suzy Henderson

People often ask why I write historical fiction, or in my case, stories set in World War Two. Usually, I explain how I've always been fascinated by the era, the premise of war, of people, caught up in extraordinary times, doing extraordinary things. But it goes deeper than that. When a notable person from the past crosses my path, I’m compelled to learn more.

 Madame Fiocca focuses on a real person - Nancy Wake Fiocca, aka Nancy Forward, a woman caught in extraordinary times who went on to achieve so much for both the Allies and France, the country she had made her home. I was drawn to Nancy from the moment I first heard of her exploits. But how can you possibly get to know someone who passed away years ago, assuming you have no links to their families and friends?

When I first read about Nancy, I heard how she was a brave, fearless warrior of the Special Operations Executive who killed Germans with her bare hands and led thousands of men – Maquisard's – in battle against the Germans. That was Nancy Wake. Or so I thought. I'd seen interviews that she'd given over the years, listened to her speak, listened to her swear, analysed the tone and emotion in her voice, studied her facial expressions when asked questions. In her words, she was never afraid. She hated the Nazis. But the more I listened, the more I observed, the more I began to wonder, and doubt, and I wanted to know more.

Portrayed as the hard-drinking, direct-speaking, fearless, ruthless bad-ass fighter, and I thought, what was she like as a child? What happened in her life to shape the person she became? What about her parents and her family? What about her love life? My research included Genealogy sites, the National Archives, from where I was able to obtain copies of her service records, newspaper articles, old interviews, biographies, military and personal accounts. Newspaper interviews, and some of the biographies, including accounts from Nancy herself, contained inaccuracies and clouded the facts for a while. Nancy was an enigma, but gradually, piece by piece, the real picture began to form, and Nancy Wake Fiocca finally stepped into the light.

The human condition is a fascinating subject. We are all so individual, so unique. Like most of us, Nancy had many layers, all of them revealing a little more, shining a light on the real story, her story, of which she was undoubtedly the heroine. And it's one filled with tragedy, love, fun, and sadness. And above it all, she rose like a phoenix and went on to live until she was almost ninety-nine years old. And although she always told reporters she had no regrets, that wasn't the whole truth.

A few people have told me how they feel it's wrong to romanticise war. Well, I can see their point, but you see, life is multi-faceted, and love is part of the picture. There are war novels that don't focus on romance just as there are those that do. It is neither right nor wrong. It's life. There has always been romance, especially during wartime, for obvious reasons, and so why not write about it? Writers look at everything, warts and all. Love is love and war is war. It should be acknowledged that the generation who served in WW2 have often reminisced about their experiences of war and of love in wartime in the same breath.

People who sacrificed so much, people who suffered in the name of freedom, the freedom we are privileged to hold today, deserve to be talked about, to be remembered. I’m both grateful and deeply saddened for their sacrifice. Armed with our pens and imagination, writers keep flames burning, re-telling history through words, painting vivid stories which become eternal, the real characters immortalised, bound in beautiful books. And this is why I write historical fiction.


Madame Fiocca

 By Suzy Henderson

Marseille, September 1939. War is coming.

Nancy Wake is a gregarious twenty-seven-year-old about to marry wealthy French industrialist, Henri Fiocca. When Henri is called to the Front to fight, Nancy, determined to help the war effort, travels to Paris to join the Red Cross as an ambulance driver. Every day she witnesses atrocities. When Paris falls, Nancy flees the German oppressors and returns home to Marseille.

France is a nation defeated; its people are in despair. As Nancy recalls the Germans who whipped Jews on the streets of Vienna a few years earlier, she vows to fight for what is right.

A chance encounter with a British officer draws Nancy into the heart of the Garrow escape network, despite Henri’s reservations. Armed with wealth and charm, she convinces Henri that the Germans will never suspect such a woman. But soon she finds herself caught up in a deadly game of espionage.

As the iron fist of the enemy tightens, neighbours denounce neighbours. No one can be trusted. When the enemy closes in, Nancy and Henri face an impossible choice. Has she done more harm than good?

Coming this November...

The Beauty Shop

By Suzy Henderson

England, 1942. After three years of WWII, Britain is showing the scars. But in this darkest of days, three lives intertwine, changing their destinies and those of many more.

Dr Archibald McIndoe, a New Zealand plastic surgeon with unorthodox methods, is on a mission to treat and rehabilitate badly burned airmen – their bodies and souls. With the camaraderie and support of the Guinea Pig Club, his boys battle to overcome disfigurement, pain, and prejudice to learn to live again.

John ‘Mac’ Mackenzie of the US Air Force is aware of the odds. He has one chance in five of surviving the war. Flying bombing missions through hell and back, he’s fighting more than the Luftwaffe. Fear and doubt stalk him on the ground and in the air, and he’s torn between his duty and his conscience.

Shy, decent and sensible Stella Charlton’s future seems certain until war breaks out. As a new recruit to the WAAF, she meets an American pilot on New Year’s Eve. After just one dance, she falls head over heels for the handsome airman. But when he survives a crash, she realises her own battle has just begun.

Based on a true story, "The Beauty Shop" is a moving tale of love, compassion, and determination against a backdrop of wartime tragedy.

Pick up your copy of

The Beauty Shop

Suzy Henderson

Suzy Henderson lives with her husband and two sons in Cumbria, England, on the edge of the Lake District, a beautiful and inspiring landscape of mountains, fells, and lakes. She never set out to be a writer, although she has always loved reading and experiencing the joy of being swept away to different times and places.

In a previous life she was a Midwife but now works from home as a freelance writer and novelist. While researching her family history, Suzy became fascinated with both World War periods and developed an obsession with military and aviation history. Following the completion of her Open University Degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, she began to write and write until one day she had a novel.

Other interests include music, old movies, and photography – especially if WW2 aircraft are on the radar. Suzy writes contemporary and historical fiction and is a member of the Historical Novel

Society and the Alliance of Independent Authors. Her debut novel, The Beauty Shop, has been awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion. 

You can discover more about Suzy here: WebsiteBlogGoodreadsFacebookTwitter.


  1. Nancy Fiocca sounds fascinating,Suzy,this will be going on my TBR pile!

  2. Hi Penny. Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy reading it. Have a great day 🙂

  3. Thanks so much for hosting me on your fantastic site today, Mary Anne. It's a great honour. 🙂

  4. So nice to hear from you again, Suzy. It sounds like you have been very busy! All the best with your new book.

    1. Thanks so much, Elinor. It's lovely to hear from you too. I hope all's going well. Many best wishes.


See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx