|From Chateaux to Battlefields: Walking the Paths My Characters Tread|
Added: 20.07.2019 20:42 | 2 views | 0 comments
Next to writing, research is my true love. When I stand in the spaces I want my characters to inhabit, I can feel them and see them and bring their lives and their stories out of my imagination and into the structure of words and sentences.
The Hotel Scribe, Paris
To research The Paris Orphan, I started in Paris at the Hotel Scribe, where Lee Miller stayed during World War II and where Jessica May, my character, also stays. The hotel was used by the U.S. Army as the press office, and the hotel’s exterior is largely unchanged from that time.
Staying in the hotel for several nights allowed me to picture more vividly the scenes in my story set there, to see where Miller’s room was, and the view from her balcony. The hotel is very proud of its association with Miller.
A Chateau in the Champagne Region
From there I had the very difficult(!) job of staying in a chateau just outside Reims in France’s Champagne region, just as D’Arcy does in The Paris Orphan. How I suffer for my art!
It was a wonderful experience because I was able to wallow in the richness and lushness of the area. The extraordinarily bright pumpkins that D’Arcy sees from her window are the pumpkins I saw from my room at the chateau, as is the canal, the maze, the plane trees, the potager—or vegetable garden—and the butterflies. From inside the chateau, the black-and-white-tiled marble floor, the salon de grisailles, the boiserie, and the turret all came from the chateau I stayed at.
Crazy Trees—Les Faux de Verzy
I had heard about Les Faux de Verzy, the dwarf twisted beech trees that feature in The Paris Orphan, before I left for France. I was determined to see them, as they captured my imagination. When I told my kids we were going to spend the afternoon walking through a forest in search of crazy trees, they looked at me as if I was the one who was crazy!
But we had the perfect day. It was a little overcast and dark, haunting, mystical, magical even. We found the trees, and they were like something from myth. We all felt as if we were walking through an enchanted forest. As we left, my kids said to me that doing weird research things with Mummy always ended up being really fun! There was no way I could leave those spectacular trees out of the book.
On to Normandy
I then traveled to Normandy, which was a sobering experience. Standing on Omaha Beach, as Jess does in the book, deeply affected me. The beach is so very wide, and I could see the difficulty that any soldier would have had, jumping out of a vessel on the water, traversing through waves to the ocean’s edge, and then having to forge a way across that vast stretch of sand to safety. Almost impossible. I could feel how Jess might feel, standing there, seventy-odd years ago, a witness to the immense and terrible destruction of human life.
I visited the American Cemetery there, and then drove to Sainte-Mère Église, where there is a museum dedicated to the paratroopers. I knew little about the intricacies of battles and battalions, so seeing a mannequin dressed in a paratrooper’s uniform, plus all of the eighty kilograms of equipment they carried, and studying the maps of their campaigns and victories was hugely helpful in allowing me to better understand Dan Hallworth and what he might have faced.
In the museums of Normandy, I saw a lot of the equipment used by the soldiers and the personal items carried by them, which helped me to recreate life as it could have been: everything from U.S. Army jeeps and tanks, to long-tom guns, packs of Lucky Strikes, ration chocolate, Scott paper, and tins of Marathon foot powder—all of which appear in the book.
I was also able to see the accreditation papers, passport, uniforms, telegrams, diary, and war correspondent badge of Virginia Irwin, one of the female correspondents, at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, England. These were all items Jess would have required, so it was wonderful to view them.
And then it was time to leave Europe and to try to write down the story that was occupying all of my thoughts. It’s my favorite of all of my books. I truly hope you enjoy reading The Paris Orphan as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thank you.
For photographs and more, visit my blog on natashalester.com.au.
, World War II
|Lee Miller: The Inspiration Behind Jessica May|
Added: 20.07.2019 20:42 | 3 views | 0 comments
As I mention in the Author’s Note at the back of The Paris Orphan, I first heard of Lee Miller when I was researching my previous book, . There was a throwaway line in an article that mentioned Miller and other female war correspondents who, after World War II had ended, had not been able to continue working as serious journalists because the men had returned from overseas and taken all of the available jobs.
It caught my attention. What would it have been like to report on a war and then come home to America and be assigned completely different work? After the war, Lee Miller was relegated to photographing fashion or celebrities during the winter season at Saint-Moritz. She was also an occasional contributor of recipes for Vogue.
That article was the start of my fascination with her. I went looking for more. And I found a story so incredible I couldn’t help but be inspired by it.
Miller the Photojournalist
Miller was a photojournalist for Vogue during World War II. She took some extraordinary photographs: she stumbled upon the battle for Saint-Malo in France and photographed the U.S. Army’s first use of napalm there. She reported from Paris, Luxembourg, Alsace, Colmar, Aachen, Cologne, Frankfurt and Torgau, among other places. She was one of the first to document the horrors of the Dachau concentration camp. And she was the subject of an iconic photograph, bathing in Hitler’s bathtub in his Munich apartment, having left her filthy boots to drop the dirt of Dachau, as she put it, all over the Fuhrer’s pristine white bathroom.
Miller the Model
But Lee Miller started on the other side of the lens. She was discovered by Condé Nast on the streets of Manhattan and became a famous model for magazines like Vogue during the 1920s. I decided to use this as the starting point for my character, Jessica May, as I was fascinated by that transition. How did a woman who was so obviously beautiful manage in the male and often chauvinistic environment of an army during a war?
Just as Condé Nast discovers Lee Miller, he also discovers Jess in The Paris Orphan and Jess is one of his favorite models, as Miller was. However, to suit my story better, I moved time forward to begin Jess’s modeling career in the early 1940s.
Miller’s modeling career ended when a photograph of her was used by Kotex in an advertisement for sanitary pads. It’s so hard to imagine that this could end a career, but it did. To be seen as the “Kotex Girl” was a stigma so dreadful that no magazine wanted to use pictures of Miller again. So Miller moved to France, where she became Man Ray’s lover. He helped her develop her photography skills and she became a well-regarded surrealist photographer.
I used these elements when creating Jess’s character too. Jess has to stop modeling after a photograph of her is used by Kotex, Jess has a French photographer as a lover, and solarization is a trademark of her work, as it was Miller’s.
The Intersection of Fiction and Reality
Miller actually reported for British Vogue during the war, although many of her pieces appeared in American Vogue too. For ease of the story, I have Jess working for American Vogue in The Paris Orphan.
Jess follows in Miller’s footsteps in The Paris Orphan, working out of a field hospital when she first arrives in France after D-Day. I have given the room used by Lee Miller at the Hotel Scribe in Paris to Jess, complete with a balcony piled high with fuel cans and an acquaintance with Picasso. Miller is called la femme soldatby the joyful Parisians after the city is liberated, as is Jess. Miller stays at Hitler’s apartment in Munich and is photographed in Hitler’s bath, as is Jess in The Paris Orphan.
After the War
One of the most heartbreaking parts of Miller’s story is what happened to her after the war. She suffered from post-traumatic stress after viewing and recording so many horrors, and she tried to forget that she was ever a witness to war and all its atrocities. So effective was she at excising this from her past that, when she died at age seventy, her son, Roland Penrose, had no idea of what she had done during the war. Her work was largely forgotten.
One day, Penrose’s wife found boxes of photographs and films in the attic at Farley Farm, Miller’s home. They contained Miller’s correspondence with her Vogue editor and wartime paraphernalia. Penrose immediately understood that he had made an incredible discovery, that his mother had been a true artist, and that her words and pictures had—once upon a time, until she let the world forget them—meant something.
He resurrected Lee Miller and her work. She is now widely regarded as one of the world’s preeminent war correspondents and photographers. The idea that she had been all but forgotten haunted me, and this inspired the scenes set in contemporary times in The Paris Orphan, when D’Arcy Hallworth finds an attic full of photographs and an extraordinary legacy that should never have been lost to the past.
, World War II
|7 Magical Novels About Witches|
Added: 20.07.2019 20:42 | 14 views | 0 comments
[hbg-post heading="What to Read Next" id="643528,583130,594532" /]
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, World War II
|Remains of more than 20 American service members killed in bloody WWII battle return home|
Added: 19.07.2019 14:04 | 4 views | 0 comments
More than 20 American service members who were killed in a bloody World War II battle are finally back on U.S. soil – and are one step closer to getting the burials they rightfully deserve.
|World War 2 flying ace 'Bud' Anderson honored with Ford Mustang 'Old Crow' tribute car|
Added: 18.07.2019 17:33 | 8 views | 0 comments
One of the most famous Mustangs that ever flew.
|Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, A Maverick On The Bench, Dies At 99|
Added: 17.07.2019 4:02 | 17 views | 0 comments
Retired Justice John Paul Stevens, whose Supreme Court opinions transformed many areas of American law during his 34-year tenure, died at the age of 99 in in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., of complications following a stroke he suffered Monday, National Public Radio reports. Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed Stevens' death in a statement from the Supreme Court. "A son of the Midwest heartland and a veteran of World War II, Justice Stevens devoted his long life to public service, including 35 years on the Supreme Court," Roberts said in the statement. "He brought to our bench an inimitable blend of kindness, humility, wisdom, and independence. His unrelenting commitment to justice has left us a...
|American scientist found dead in Greece had multiple broken bones, found in ventilation drain|
Added: 16.07.2019 21:19 | 10 views | 0 comments
Suzanne Eaton, 59, was discovered July 8 in an abandoned World War II bunker in a rural area outside the city of Chania.
|Greek man detained in US scientist's murder in Nazi bunker on Crete|
Added: 15.07.2019 19:23 | 8 views | 0 comments
Police on the Greek island of Crete have detained a man in the killing of an American scientist who was reported missing and later was found dead in an abandoned bunker used by the Nazis during World War II, it was reported Monday.
|Bart Starr was the toughest football player who ever lived|
Added: 27.05.2019 14:27 | 1 views | 0 comments
The legendary Packers quarterback, son of a tough-love World War II veteran, was the player who made Vince Lombardi's dynasty possible.