London Spies is an award winning book of historical fiction set in London, England at the end of World War II.
Phyllis Bowden, a secretary at the American Embassy, is catapulted into the limelight when the Military Attache is arrested for espionage and her boss, the Assistant Military Attache, assumes the position.
The arrest throws suspicion on everyone at the Embassy, particularly the Military Attache’s secretary whose attempted suicide convinces Phyllis to be more curious about what really happened. With bombs still falling on a devastated city, Phyllis begins asking questions but she never imagined the dark underbelly of diplomacy. Entering a shadowy world of cryptic messages, secret rendezvous and dangerous men, Phyllis learns quickly that a safety net doesn’t exist and if she wants to survive, she better figure out the game fast.
Hello book lovers! Today is a day where I will be writing another author spotlight for a well-accomplished author whose work I have loved. As you know book lovers I love learning about authors and the inspiration behind their work, it fascinates me and adds to the depth of the book because the reader will be able to better understand it. That is how the author spotlights were created because I soon discovered that you lovely readers ALSO love learning about author’s, so I am excited to tell you a little bit more about author SJ Slagle whose book London Spies thrilled me from beginning to end. I personally would recommend this book to all of those that love historical fiction and mysteries but really the book can be read by anybody as it is flawlessly written and highly enjoyable. With today’s author spotlight for SJ Slagle, a biography of the author and an interview between me and SJ Slagle will be shared, and I hope that you book lovers enjoy reading it! To kick this off here is an author bio about the wonderful SJ Slagle!
SJ SLAGLE started her writing career as a language arts teacher. Her initial interest was children’s stories, but moved on to western romance, mysteries and historical fiction. She has published 24 novels, both independent and contract. SJ contributes regularly to guest blogs and has her own blog called anauthorsworld.com in which she discusses the research involved in the books she writes. SJ has established Twitter and Facebook fan bases, a quarterly author newsletter and a website under her pseudonym: JEANNE HARRELL at jeanneharrell.com.
Her first historical fiction novel, LONDON SPIES, was awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion in 2018 and Slagle was a finalist in the 2017 UK Independent Book Awards. She was given the Silver Award with the International Independent Film Awards for her screenplay called REDEMPTION. SJ conducts writing/publishing symposiums in her local area. OSLO SPIES, her second historical fiction novel will be published in September. She lives and works in Reno, Nevada.
Now, how wonderful does SJ Slagle sound?! SJ Slagle is a truly exceptional writer and I hope that you lovely readers have a read of SJ Slagle’s work because you will not regret it! Please see below an interview between me and SJ Slagle, I hope that you enjoy SJ Slagle’s answers to my questions, they are incredible and provide some great advice too!
Thank you for joining us today at Red Headed Book Lover! Please tell us more about yourself.
I was a Language Arts teacher for my adult career in high school and community college. Besides teaching English, I taught video production in which my students learned how to make movies. I taught at risk youth in various programs, GED and English as a Second Language.
Could you please tell us readers about your book and what inspired you to write your book?
London Spies is an historical fiction novel about a young woman in military intelligence in WWII. Phyllis Bowden, a secretary at the American Embassy, is catapulted into the limelight when the Military Attache is arrested for espionage. The arrest throws suspicion on everyone at the embassy, particularly the MI’s secretary whose attempted suicide convinces Phyllis to find out what is really going on. With bombs still falling on a devastated city, Phyllis asks questions drawing her into the dark, underbelly of diplomacy. Entering this shadowy world filled cryptic messages, dangerous men and blackout balls, Phyllis learns quickly that a safety net doesn’t exist and if she wants to survive, she must figure out the game and fast.
I was inspired to write London Spies when I learned more about a cousin who had an incredible wartime career. My father’s first cousin had been a secretary at the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C. when she obtained a transfer to work at the American Embassy in London. This was eight months before the WWII was over in 1945. Learning of her activities in London, then Oslo, Norway and later Washington, D.C., I obtained permission from her family to fictionalize her wartime experiences in a series of novels. What we learned after her death is that she was in the OSS, the Office of Strategic Services and she was one of the first women in the Central Intelligence Agency where she worked for 25 years. I wanted to honor my cousin for her military intelligence career and thus London Spies was born.
What would your advice be for aspiring writers?
I would tell aspiring writers to just write. If you have a story bubbling inside you, write it down. Then edit again and again before sharing it with another pair of eyes for further editing. Creativity and storytelling are wonderful gifts not to be squandered. Just write. Put your story out there and contribute to the dialogue. You won’t be sorry but you might be surprised how much work it all is.
In your opinion, what is the most important thing about a book?
The most important thing about a book is the story. Without a good plot, you don’t have a book or you have an uninteresting book. Pay attention to the structure of building a plot if you’re a writer. If you’re a reader, you’re hoping that book in your hands or tablet is a page-turner. They’re the best kind.
What is your writing process like?
I wish I could give you a discipled approach to how I write a book. To begin, when I get an idea for a new story, I write a plot outline and begin fleshing out the characters. Who are they? What are they like? What’s their backstory? The more you know about your characters, the more real they will be to you and to readers. It’s always been easy to start a book, although the opening line, first paragraph and first page are the most important to capture your audience. Where my process goes haywire is in the continued writing of the book. My outline changes, a character dies, something happens unexpectedly when the story takes off and the characters tell me what they want to do. But life is full of distractions and the hardest part of my writing process is sitting down with my computer and doing the work it takes to write a book. Since I’ve written some 24 books, apparently I’ve been able to sit a time or two.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Research depends on the genre I am writing. Western romance doesn’t take as long as historical fiction. Learning about ranching and the life of cowboys has been relatively easy compared with the six months I researched for London Spies. I spent a year researching Norway during WWII for the sequel called Oslo Spies, just published September 1. This research involved personal interviews, reading books, online research and corresponding with people who could give me yet more information about England and Norway in World War II. My cousin’s family was able to give me her diaries from this time period which I used heavily for London Spies. Other materials included military information about living in England and Norway, letters to her family, newspaper clippings and magazine articles.
Do you have a set schedule for writing, or do you only write when you feel inspired?
People say a writer should write every day with a minimum of 3,000 words. I couldn’t keep up with what was expected and just learned to write on my own time. I work every day with creative work, marketing, social media and answering emails from readers. You’re not just an author these days but a publicist, publisher and secretary. I try to do creative writing in the morning when I’m the freshest. If my creative muse isn’t in, I will go back over chapters and edit. Quite often that triggers new thought and I can write new work.
Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?
I read other authors constantly. I love to hold a library book in my hands and read, but my iPad goes everywhere I do on trips and even in the house. My favorite mystery writers are Sue Grafton, J.A. Jance and Tony Hillerman while I enjoy historical fiction with Diana Gabaldon and Philippa Gregory. Julie Harwood and Maggie Osborne are favorite western romance writers.
Lastly, when can we readers expect to read more wonderful books from you?
I have a cozy mystery series called Sherlock and Me with a female sleuth named Lucy James. She’s a bit like Kinsey Millhone from Sue Grafton’s stories in that she’s smart, tenacious and a truth seeker. Set in Reno, Nevada (where I live and work), Lucy is in the middle of a new case in the fourth book of that series called The Case of Billy’s Missing Gun due out at Christmas. Hint: the Billy in the title is Billy the Kid.
My other favorite protagonist, Phyllis Bowden, will be living in Washington, D.C. in her new story and third book of the historical fiction series. After London Spies, Phyllis was transferred to the American Embassy in Oslo, Norway after the Germans retreated in the spring of 1945. After Norway, Phyllis goes back to the United States and I expect that book to be available in the summer.
If I get the chance, I want to return to the Nevada ranching family series called Rancher in which I have 7 books. Rancher Legacy is the new series with the next generation. The first book of the Rancher Legacy series was Dark Horse published in spring of 2017. An injured horse trainer helps a struggling vintner at great personal cost.
Its official book lovers, I am obsessed with SJ Slagle! If you have liked what you have read about SJ Slagle and are interested in learning more about SJ Slagle and reading SJ Slagle’s work, then please do have a browse of the links below and be sure to have a read of the preview too! You will not regret it.
Goodbye for now book lovers,