Having departed from a grey, rainy day in London, it was a thrill to arrive in Guernsey. A blue sky greeted me in Guernsey, and the cool breeze was refreshing. A taxi took me to the quaint St Peter’s Port. I met Anne at The Old Government House Hotel, a cosy homely hotel with spectacular views. Looking around, I tried to imagine how the building may have been used by the Germans, during World War Two. My imagination slipped into scenes presented in novels and I shivered. Fortunately, Anne greeted me, and her charming, sunny disposition and instantly brought me back to the present.
I wore my jeans and green Ralph Lauren jacket, while Anne wore jeans and a gorgeous grey leather jacket and carried a tan leather handbag. My green leather bag was crammed full of my notebook, kindle and snacks for the journey. We sat in two comfortable brown leather armchairs, near a beautiful piano. The room was cosy, despite the glamorous chandeliers twinkling above us. Unfortunately, there was no sign of the Renoir painting like the one found in Anne’s novel. We chatted happily as we waited for the tea. Grabbing Anne’s latest novel, ‘The Betrayal’, from my handbag, I asked Anne to tell me more.
Jessie: This is a beautiful place and it is difficult to imagine how Guernsey when it was occupied by the Germans. Please, tell me more about your novel.
Anne: ‘The Betrayal’ is two intertwined stories; the first focusing on Leo, who loses everything in the German Occupation of Guernsey. The second concerns Fiona, who sixty years later, becomes caught up in what happened to Leo after the mysterious find of a Renoir in a Guernsey basement.
Jessie: Where did you get the inspiration for your narrative in ‘The Betrayal’?
Anne: From two historical events that took place in Guernsey. The first was Renoir’s visit in 1883, when he stayed for a few weeks and painted numerous local scenes; in particular Moulin Huet on the south coast. These paintings are quite well-known and at least one is in a major museum. The second event was the forced deportation of Jews from Guernsey – and Jersey – by the Germans to concentration camps during WWII.
Jessie: German occupation must have been terrifying for the inhabitants. I look forward to reading your novel to capture a sense of the atmosphere. Can you read an extract from the novel?
Anne removed her novel from the coffee table and selected a passage instantly.
Anne: ‘His heart lurched, hating to see her like this. Before he could say anything, she went on, ‘I can’t leave you here on your own, Leo. Anything might happen to you if…if the Germans do come.’
Jessie: Great choice! You build up the tension and make me want to read more. Indeed, the passage is also anchored by the enigmatic front cover. I was searching for your reviews on the plane and found the following:
“To sum up, this is a wonderful novel, with tons of pace where pace is needed, and a setting so lovingly described, it is almost a character in the book. I am happy to recommend this story, in fact, all of them, to anybody who enjoys a well-plotted mystery populated with convincing and always credible characters.” A ‘Wishing Shelf’ Book Review
Anne found some Amazon reviews on her phone.
“I just finished the book–could hardly put it down! Another winning story from Anne with history, romance and intrigue” Amazon review 5*
“Really enjoyed this book. I almost didn’t put it down. Wonderful twists and turns with a lot of wonderful descriptions of Guernsey” Amazon Review 5*
Jessie: Having seen the wonderful setting via the plane. Could you read your description of the setting?
Anne: The warm sunshine felt good and deep breaths of salty air soon had her striding out towards Moulin Huet Bay. The yellow flowers of the gorse, shading pink campion and yellow celandine, made a bright contrast against the deep green of the grass and Fiona felt her spirits lift a little. Cliff walks had played a large part in her childhood and youth. Her parents considered them an integral part of the weekends and school holidays. They always started from Soldiers Bay, within easy reach of their home in Colborne Road. The path led them close to Blue Bell Wood, a delightful sea of blue in spring and one of Fiona’s favourite places.
Jessie: The setting is wonderful and does ‘lift my spirits.’. I adore a book where you feel transported to the time and place. I can understand why Renoir was inspired to paint in Guernsey. I notice the novel is part of a series. How does ‘The Betrayal’ fit into the Guernsey Series?
Anne: All six books in The Guernsey Novels series are standalone stories but they share characters who featured in previous books. It’s like reading about a small town, when people know each other and turn up when needed. Each book has fresh main characters to add to the mix and to prevent readers becoming bored! My ‘fans’ tell me they love recognising characters from previous books in the series, making them feel at home
Jessie: How did you feel when you had finished writing ‘The Betrayal’, and did you miss any of the characters?
Anne: Relieved – and exhausted! It had taken me months longer than anticipated to finish but I was pleased with the result. Characters do get under your skin and I miss Fiona and Michael in particular. The joy of writing books in a series is that characters can pop up again, so it might be au revoir not goodbye.
Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why? This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.
Anne: I would be honoured if Barbara Erskine, the writer of so many wonderful time-slip books, would deign to read my humble offerings. Any words of advice and/or encouragement from her would be gratefully received.
Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?
Anne: It’s a page-turner and with short chapters, so easy to pick up and read when you have a moment to spare.
Jessie: What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?
Anne: “Leopoldine drowned with her husband, aged 19, in September 1843.” For my next book, ‘The Inheritance’, set partly around Victor Hugo’s time in Guernsey.
Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?
Anne: Getting noticed by potential readers. There are millions of books available to choose from these days making it almost impossible for an unknown writer to be noticed in the crowd. Now I have a series of six books to my name, it’s becoming a little easier.
Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?
Anne: To write as if for myself, not to worry if anyone will ever read my words.
More about Anne…
…Anne is a retired psychotherapist who finally got the chance to write when her three children flew the nest.
… loves history and exploring old houses, visiting places of archaeological interest on her travels.
…won a holiday to The Gambia early this year and had a wonderful time.
The enigma and setting of ‘The Betrayal’ left me wanting more, and I was delighted to receive a copy of the novel. I look forward to travelling back to Guernsey via the novel.
Following the interview, Anne took me on a tour of St Peter’s Port. The cobbled streets greeted us as we walked towards the gardens. It is no surprise that this port has been deemed one of the prettiest ports. We walked to George Road, the lodging house where Renoir stayed during his visit to Guernsey.