Monday, July 10, 2023

Q&A with Annie Lyons




Annie Lyons is the author of the new historical novel The Air Raid Book Club. Her other books include The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett. She lives in London.


Q: What inspired you to write The Air Raid Book Club, and how did you create your characters Gertie and Hedy?


A: There were many sources of inspiration for this book, one of them being Eudora Honeysett, the main character from my previous novel. I had so enjoyed writing the flashback scenes in that book, transporting the reader back to the Second World War and other moments in history, that I decided I wanted to write my first full historical fiction novel.


It was 2021, in the middle of the pandemic and I had noticed how communities were supporting one another during these difficult times. It made me think about similarities with how communities rallied during the Second World War and the seed of an idea was planted.


Added to this, I’ve always wanted to write a novel set in a bookshop about the power of books and reading and how important they can be in dark times.


Gertie began to emerge as I found myself struggling to read or engage with stories for a while and I imagined a character who was ready to give up on her bookshop and move away. Hedy’s character came about after I read and listened to accounts of Jewish children who fled Nazi Germany before the start of the Second World War.


It was their spirit of optimism and hope which inspired me to write this story as Hedy and Gertie’s bond grows through a love of books and reading.


Q: The writer Ruth Hogan said of the book, “The Air Raid Book Club is a warm and tender tale about the power and healing of friendship and community and the magic of books.” What do you think of that description?

A: I couldn’t ask for a better quote! This is exactly what I hope readers will take from the novel. It’s about Gertie and Hedy’s friendship but also the way in which they support their community through the book club and how the stories they read enable them to do this.


Q: In our previous interview, focused on your novel The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett, you said, “I have always been struck by how much fortitude and resilience people of this [World War II] generation show.” How does this carry over to your new characters?


A: Gertie and Hedy, and many of the other characters in The Air Raid Book Club, have these traits in droves!


I’ve read a lot about how people faced the challenges of the Second World War, particularly the women. There is a real sense of them lifting one another up and digging deep so that they can keep going. They face tragedy, sorrow and grief but they face it together with pure bravery and determination. I find that generation endlessly inspiring.


Q: How did you choose the books your characters read in their book club?


A: That was the most fun part of writing this book! I basically chose all my favourite stories from childhood and beyond. I loved Winnie the Pooh as a child and had a cassette version of Peter Pan which I listened to until the tape broke!


Wuthering Heights became my favourite book when I studied it at school and my dad introduced P.G. Wodehouse to me as a teenager, for which I am forever grateful. It was also great to be able to include a German classic in Emil and The Detectives, which was one of the first proper books I learnt to read and is just wonderful.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am writing another novel set in the Second World War about two young women from very different backgrounds who are thrown together working in the publications department of the Ministry of Information and who produce books which have the power to change the course of the war.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I love to hear from readers so please do get in touch via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or my website. I can’t wait to hear what you think about Gertie and Hedy’s story.


Instagram: @annielyonsauthor

Twitter: @1AnnieLyons




--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Annie Lyons.

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