Wednesday, 14 October 2015

A Kestrel Rising by S A Laybourn

Release Date: 15th September 2015
Publisher: Totally Bound Publishing
Genres: Historical Fiction

Research – So much good stuff!
SA Laybourn

One of the things I enjoyed most when writing A Kestrel Rising was doing the research. There is so much information available about World War Two that it was hard not to stick every interesting bit I found into the story. I had to discipline myself for sanity’s sake otherwise I would’ve lost myself in the research. What I ended up doing:

1.       I looked at the ‘big picture’ first. I made a list of important dates, e.g the day Britain entered the war, the dates of the Battle of Britain, etc. This gave me the basic framework for the story.

2.       Searched for the most suitable RAF squadrons. Firstly, I wanted squadrons based at airfields that I’m familiar with because I’m most comfortable setting stories in places that I’ve at least visited. Then I had to find out what squadrons stayed for a long period at those airfields. It wasn’t uncommon for squadrons to be moved around the country every few months. That would’ve made it even more difficult for lovers to meet up. 

3.       Once I’d decided on ‘my’ squadrons, I looked at their roles and the significant events they were involved in. That information gave me the solid framework I needed for the storyline. I knew where to put my characters and what would happen to them.

4.       The small things. It’s not just about the big, significant events, but also about the little every day details. For instance, what songs would people have danced to. For that, I found a web site that listed the top forty songs for a given year. To immerse myself, I happened to discover a digital radio station that plays songs from that era and I listened to it while I wrote. Another invaluable resource was the BBC Archive, The Peoples’ War. This is a collection of personal stories, told by everyone from military personnel to farmers and housewives. 

5.       My dad:  If I needed to know if there was a bus service from A to B, he was able to find out. I needed to know what damage a Spitfire and pilot could sustain and still make it back to a safe airfield. Dad has a friend who restores war planes for a living so he was able to ask what would work. Plus, he read every chapter as I wrote it and soon let me know if there were any mistakes.

6.       See the planes, touch the planes: When I wrote the first draft, I was living in Arizona. The city I worked for had a small airport and, during the winter months held fly-ins once a month. So, along with a very tasty pancake breakfast, I was able to see a Mustang in flight and get close enough to touch it—that was magical.

 I did get a little carried away when I wrote the first draft especially with material from one web site devoted to the 4th Fighter Group . My beta reader commented that some bits of the book reminded her of men sitting around and talking about car engines. That first draft weighed in at 120,000 words and I ended up shaving quite a bit off!  I hope that I’ve managed to hit the right balance and create a story that readers will enjoy.

Blurb for A Kestrel Rising:
War puts courage and love to the test.
It’s 1939, a lone Spitfire roars over her family home, and Ilona Lowe, entranced by its grace and power, finally knows her place in the fight against Hitler. She joins the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, is stationed at RAF Catterick and embarks on an all-too-brief love affair with a Bleinheim bomber pilot who is killed during the Battle of Britain.
Heartbroken, but determined to carry on, Ilona returns to active duty where she encounters Francis Robson. He’s arrogant—some would even say reckless—and another pilot. Yet he’s worth the risk.
Their love isn’t easy. Francis harbors jealousy about her former lover while Ilona’s posting at an RAF bomber base feeds her nightmares about Francis’ safety. She can see the escalation of stakes as his missions grow ever more dangerous, the enemy more desperate. Ilona must put her courage to the test because she knows that loving Francis means letting him let him fight on, regardless of the terrible price they both may pay.
General Release Date: 13th October 2015

Excerpt from A Kestrel Rising:
 “ACW Lowe, the two-one-nine crews need taking out to their planes. I take it you can drive a bus?”
“Yes, Corporal Harris, sir.” Ilona saluted the depot corporal, hoping that the bus would be easy to drive, although she believed her driving instructor at RAF Penrhos when he’d told her that she would be able to drive anything.
“Excellent, Lowe. Off you go, then. The men will be waiting outside the briefing room.”
“Yes, sir,” she gathered up her gloves and fastened her jacket. One of the advantages of being a driver, she’d learned, was that it was acceptable for girls to wear flight overalls and the warm, sheepskin lined jackets that the aircrew wore. Catterick in January was not a hospitable place when the east wind roared off the North Sea and over the moors.
Ilona hurried toward the garage, found the bus—an elderly Bedford—and managed to start the engine at the first attempt. She backed it out of the shed and headed for the briefing room. It had taken her a few days to find her way around the huge airfield. She still could not get used to the bustle and scarcely contained chaos of the place.
After one wrong turn, Ilona pulled up in front of the briefing room. A small crowd of aircrew waited at the front of the building. She opened the door and stared straight ahead while they piled on, chattering among themselves. A few breathy wolf whistles broke through the murmured conversations and a distinctly Scottish person observed, “This wee driver is far bonnier than old hatchet face.”
Ilona’s cheeks burned and she dared a glance in the rear view mirror, wondering who the culprit was. She put the bus in gear and headed toward the runway. Conversation behind her was quiet and if they were still commenting on their new driver, Ilona did not hear them. She stopped by the first plane and opened the door to let the three-man crew file out. They thanked her cheerfully and headed toward their plane. She worked her way along the row, swarming with ground crew, until only two crews remained. The final two aircraft were quite close to each other and she halted between them and waited for her last passengers to file off. They gathered their gear and walked along the narrow gangway. One by one, they clambered down the steps saying thank you and goodbye as they went.
“Bye now, lassie.” The last man departed, turning back to smile at her. The cold wind lifted his fair hair. “See you later, God willing.”
Blushing, she smiled back. “Goodbye, sir.” She had found her culprit.

About SA Laybourn:
S A Laybourn lives in Wiltshire and loves it. She's partial to gin and tonic, loves to cook and watches cookery programmes when she's not working, writing or reading. She writes m/m erotic romance as S A Meade.

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