Monday, 20 February 2017

Guest Post by Clare Harvey -- Author of THE ENGLISH AGENT

I am delighted to be the first stop on the blog tour for The English Agent and am thrilled that author Clare Harvey has written a piece on how images have inspired her in the story.

C:\Users\SEKing.CBS\Desktop\Catalogue cover images\The English Agent.jpg


How far will two women go to survive a war? 

Having suffered a traumatic experience in the Blitz, Edie feels utterly disillusioned with life in wartime London. The chance to work with the Secret Operations Executive (SOE) helping the resistance in Paris offers a fresh start. Codenamed ‘Yvette’, she’s parachuted into France and met by the two other members of her SOE cell. 

Back in London, Vera desperately needs to be made a UK citizen to erase the secrets of her past. Working at the foreign office in charge of agents presents an opportunity for blackmail. But when she loses contact with one agent in the field, codenamed Yvette, her loyalties are torn…

Published in paperback by Simon & Schuster on the 23rd February 2017


(Clare on the way to Paris, researching The English Agent)

Does every picture tell a story? For me, the old cliché holds true. An arresting image can set the tone of a whole novel, and that was certainly the case when I was researching and writing my new book The English Agent. Take this photograph of the arc de Triomphe in WW2, for example:


Every morning German soldiers would parade from the arc de Triomphe, and along avenue Foch. Seeing this photo, I couldn’t help but wonder how ordinary French people would feel about this Nazi march right through the symbolic heart of their conquered territory, and then I began to wonder how a captured English agent being held in the Nazi security services HQ at 84 avenue Foch would react at hearing this march pass beneath her window every day. Would it anger her enough to help her resist interrogation and plan her escape, or would it make her feel so demoralised that she’d attempt suicide in captivity? Whichever would be the case, this image was in the back of my mind during my research trip to Paris in 2015 and throughout the writing process.

(Clare researching The English Agent: arc de Triomphe, and below outside 84, avenue Foch, the former headquarters of the German homeland security services in Paris – where secret agents were held and questioned.)


Another picture that proved an important stepping off point was this one of German soldiers chatting with French girls outside the Moulin Rouge.


In the immediate aftermath of WW2 French woman who’d had relationships with German soldiers were vilified: paraded through the streets with shaven heads for their crime of ‘collaboration’. But the truth was a little more complex. Almost all young French men had been rounded up and sent off to forced labour camps in Germany. Most German soldiers were conscripts, not necessarily believing in Nazi ideology, and having no choice as to where they were posted. Moreover, French women were poor and hungry, whilst the soldiers had food and money. I began to think about what it would be like for a young conscript in Paris: how he would treat and be treated by the girls he met. What if one of the girls wasn’t French at all, but a British Agent working undercover. And if he began to find himself falling in love with ‘the enemy’ - what then? Would passion trump patriotic loyalty, or would he be overcome with guilt at his feelings, and end up jeopardising the safety of the woman he loved?


You can find more images that catalysed The English Agent on my Pinterest page: https://uk.pinterest.com/clareharvey13/the-english-agent/
I also regularly post the pictures that are inspiring my current work-in-progress on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clareharvey13/
And Twitter: @ClareHarveyauth

Thank you Clare for giving us an insight into how pictures have inspired your writing.


About Clare Harvey



Clare Harvey is an ex-army wife. The Gunner Girl, her debut novel, was inspired by her mother-in-law's experience during WWII and written while her husband was on active service in Afghanistan. She has travelled widely and worked all over the world, doing voluntary work in Tanzania and as a journalist and tutor in Nepal, Germany and Northern Ireland. She hitchhiked from Zanzibar to Cape Town, and went on to work for an overseas charity before falling in love with a soldier. She now lives in Nottingham with her family.


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I recently reviewed The English Agent here

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