Q: What inspired you to write The Secret Stealers?
A: I had come across a couple of articles about women who had worked for the office of strategic services in World War II, including some who had serves overseas as undercover agents. The more I learned about these women the more I wanted to write about them.
Q: The book includes some famous real-life characters, including Julia Child. What did you see as the right blend between fact and fiction as you wrote the novel?
A: You know it’s a balancing act and I always try to make sure the big picture details of the era - when major events in the war took place, etc. - are completely accurate.
When I am writing a scene, I always ask myself, if this did not happen, could it have happened within the context of the time and place - in other words, does it feel both organic and authentic to the story I’m trying to tell and to the history?
Q: How did you research the book, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?
A: I read a lot of books, of course, but also archived materials like the OSS personnel files which were declassified in 2008.
I knew Paris was going to be a large part of the story, so I traveled there in October 2019 for research - visiting museums and spending a day with a historian named Nigel Perrin who was an expert in the French Resistance and Paris during the occupation.
Q: What do you think Anna's experiences say about women spies during World War II?
A: For the most part, women were vastly underestimated by the Germans in World War II, and for spies like Anna, that worked in their favor.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on another historical fiction project but it’s very early days!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: If you’d like to keep in touch and learn about my upcoming virtual events, sign up for my newsletter at janehealey.com. Thank you!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb