In May 1914, Helene Noisette’s father believes war is imminent. Convinced Germany will head straight for Paris, he sends his wife, daughter, mother and younger son to Beaufort, a small village in northern France. But when war erupts a few months later, the German army invades neutral Belgium with the intent of sweeping south towards Paris. And by the end of September, Beaufort is less than twenty miles from the front.
During the years that follow, with the rumbling of guns ever present in the distance, three generations of women come together to cope with deprivation, constant fear and the dreadful impacts of war. In 1917, Helene falls in love with a young Canadian soldier who was wounded in the battle of Vimy Ridge.
But war has a way of separating lovers and families, of twisting promises and dashing hopes, and of turning the naïve and innocent into the jaded and war-weary. As the months pass, Helene is forced to reconcile dreams for the future with harsh reality.
Lies Told in Silence examines love and loss, duty and sacrifice, and the unexpected consequences of lies.
Hello again, everyone! My review of M.K. Tod’s latest novel, Lies Told in Silence (review), has just gone live as part of a book blog tour hosted by France Book Tours. As part of my participation in the tour, I also had the opportunity to ask the author a few questions about the novel and the writing process. So thank you again to France Book Tours and M.K. Tod for taking the time to answer my questions 🙂
- Reading your novel, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that events from this story bridged over in a way with your debut novel, Unravelled. Was that always the plan?
The truthful answer is that there was no plan at all! I began writing on a whim while living in Hong Kong for three years unable to secure employment because I was the ‘trailing spouse’. As Unravelled took shape I could see possibilities for sequels. For example, at one point I thought I would write a novel about Emily who is the daughter of Ann and Edward Jamieson, the main characters of Unravelled. Emily is patterned on my mother who has had quite an interesting life. However, at times serendipity plays a role and in this case, one of my early readers said she wanted to learn more about Helene Noisette who is Edward’s WWI lover. That suggestion resonated for me especially since I loved the idea of exploring France and Paris. It was amazingly liberating to write Lies Told in Silence because I was not confined in any way by the history of my grandparents.
- There are so many different aspects of life during World War One that your novel touches on—the family experience, details about the front, the politics, the involvement of other countries and forces such as the Canadians. What was researching for this novel like?
Researching is half the fun of writing historical fiction. I can happily research for hours in order to write a few sentences. In fact, the challenge for me is to time-box my researching and get on with writing. WWI is so recent that I was able to find oodles of information using sources like government records, websites dedicated to the Great War, songs from the era, museums, published diaries and journals, old maps and many fiction and non-fiction books. Truly a treasure trove of materials. I also had to research many sources to appreciate the political and military background that lead to war – definitely a challenge for me and I hope I’ve done it well enough for the ‘average reader’ to understand.
- Was there a particular scene or character that you especially enjoyed writing?
One of my favourite characters is Mariele Noisette, Helene’s grandmother. At the beginning of the story she’s a grumpy widow and gradually she becomes the person who keeps the family together. I also enjoyed having three generations of women – Helene, her mother Lise and grandmother Mariele – living together and gradually becoming friends while coping with war.
- Your biography mentions that you enjoy writing historical fiction set in World Wars One and Two. What is it about that period that fascinates you or draws you—and/or readers!—to the setting?
When I first began researching and writing Unravelled, I was both fascinated and horrified with the conditions soldiers had to cope with. What made the biggest impression was knowing that my grandfather – the man who bounced me on his knee, read bedtime stories and took us fishing – had lived through those conditions. Never once did he speak about it with his grandchildren and, indeed, my mother said he never discussed the war at home, even when they were in the midst of WWII. Someone I knew and loved had gone to war at the age of nineteen and survived. That was a powerful notion. As you can imagine, I’ve read and researched extensively and I still cannot believe how the human spirit can endure such horror, nor can I believe how government and military leaders could do that to their citizens. My feeling is that others will relate to the tangible sense that their grandfathers and grandmothers or great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers lived through these times.
- What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Actually, I still think of myself as an aspiring writer! However, I have learned a few things. One is to treat your writing like a job – commit time and energy to it in a disciplined, daily fashion. A second is to take yourself seriously. No one will get the book written except you! A third piece of advice is to start your marketing efforts early, well before you have your novel written, because in today’s world of books, you have to get your name known regardless of the publishing path you choose.