Friday, March 31, 2023

Q&A with Jane Healey




Jane Healey is the author of the new historical novel Good Night from Paris. Her other books include The Secret Stealers. She lives north of Boston.




Q: Why did you decide to focus on the actress Drue Leyton (1903-1997) in your new historical novel?


A: I discovered Drue Leyton while writing my third novel, The Secret Stealers. She was an American actress who left Hollywood behind to marry the love of her life and move to Paris - in 1938. Then of course the war changed the course of her life forever.


She became essentially the first Voice of America in France - broadcasting what was really happening on the continent of Europe to an audience in the U.S. She was so effective in that role that the Germans took notice and announced on German radio she would be executed when they occupied France.


And that is only part of Drue’s extraordinary story - from her time in an internment camp for American and British women, to her role in the underground network getting Allied fliers out of occupied territory - her story was too amazing not to tell.


Q: How did you research her life, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: I researched her life through newspaper articles and books about life in occupied France, among many other sources. The two primary sources that were most valuable were Drue’s letters home, which are archived at the Holocaust Museum in D.C. and her autobiography, which she wrote about her experiences during the war.


The thing that most surprised me was an event that happened post-Pearl Harbor. The Germans rounded up a couple hundred American women living in and around Paris and imprisoned them in a monkey house in a zoo just outside the city. Their friends and family had to pay five francs to talk to them over the fence. That was such an incredibly bizarre historical event that I never heard of, and I knew I had to include it in the novel.

Q: The author Aimie K. Runyan said of the book, “Goodnight from Paris is a portrait in courage, not of the men who lifted guns to rid their nations of tyranny, but of the women who fought to get the support of the United States for the cause via the airwaves.” What do you think of that description?


A: I love Aimie and I love this description. I think women played so many critical roles during WWII that are finally being recognized and celebrated.


And Drue’s role as a radio broadcaster to the U.S. was important because at the time America was weary of war after WWI and politically there were many who were isolationist, wanting no part in another European war. Americans in Europe, like Drue and the journalist Dorothy Thompson, whom Drue had on her radio show, knew what was happening in Europe firsthand, and also understood that America’s involvement was an inevitability. 


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the novel?


A: I always hope readers are entertained first and foremost, but I also hope they are inspired by Drue’s story and learn about an aspect of WWII history that they weren’t aware of before. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am working on a new project, but it’s very early days and I’m a little superstitious about sharing. I will say it’s a departure from WWII, though I still love learning and writing about that era.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I love zooming with book clubs all over the country. Readers can sign up for my mailing list at to find out what’s going on with me. And I have a webinar/podcast called Historical Happy Hour, interviewing other historical fiction authors about their latest projects. Past episodes are available on YouTube and wherever you listen to podcasts. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Jane Healey.

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