In celebration of the 75th anniversary of VE Day Apricot Plots authors writing about World War Two got together and recorded some video interviews. I was absolutely intrigued by Angela Barton’s Arlette’s Story so decided to ask her more about it.
Arlette's story is written around the wartime tragedy at Oradour-sur-Glane. What were the particular challenges of researching a book set in France?
I find that the challenge associated with research is finding accurate information, so the fact my story was set in France didn’t make the task any more demanding for me. I’d visited the ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane four times, plus there’s now a museum attached to the village, so I knew that I was in the best possible place to find authentic material. Occasionally I would come across quotes in French from the few survivors of the tragedy, but with today’s technology, it was very easy to translate.
I've never visited Oradour but imagine it's very atmospheric. What was it like going there for the first time?
When I first visited Oradour-sur-Glane, I was shocked by its unembellished rawness. It was as if I was entering a sacred place where everyone spoke in hushed whispers. Some things in life need to be seen and touched in order to truly feel the horror of what had gone before. Oradour was one such place.
Nature was invading the ruined buildings and the everyday items left behind. Tiny purple flowers weaved their way through rusting Singer sewing machines, bedsteads, bike frames and cooking pots. Birds pecked amongst old machinery and grills of decaying log burners that had once kept families warm during winter. Where once hung tramlines and telegraph poles, wires hung limply, swaying in the breeze. Houses were charred black from fires the Germans had started. Cafes, schools, a doctor’s surgery, hotels, shops, post office – all half demolished with their crumbling interior walls showing the layout of previously occupied homes. The skeletal metal frames of pictures, photographs and mirrors were still visible, twisted from the heat of the inferno. Cars were still parked in garages, weighing scales lay on the butcher’s floor, balconies and shutters hung from windows. It’s a place I will never forget and it moved me so strongly, that I wrote Arlette’s Story to share its history with this, and future, generations.
Wow - your description gave me the shivers! When you write, how much conscious thought do you give to balancing description, dialogue and action?
Imagine the goose bumps you get when you’re there! Such a
moving and emotional place to visit.
What a good question – I had to think about that one! I’ve concluded that I’m not aware of consciously balancing how much description, dialogue or action I write in each chapter. When I type it’s as if I’m watching a film and I’m just there to write down what’s happening, so no, I don’t have a set amount of words or paragraphs dedicated to each element of writing.
And finally... can we expect any more historical fiction from you?
I’ve developed a passion for writing historical fiction, so yes, I hope to continue writing in this genre. I have ideas for my next two novels, which like Arlette’s Story, include factual events lived through by fictional characters. I’m looking forward to hunting through lots of facts for research, as I love discovering little gems of knowledge to include in my stories.
Amazon link: Arlette’s Story: amzn.to/2lAyIlb