Inspiration and Challenges: Metropolis of Spies by Mara Timon

Inspiration is available in a whole lot of types, and my inspiration for Metropolis of Spies got here from a whole lot of totally different instructions.

I first heard about Particular Operations Government on a BBC2 historical past programme, and have become intrigued by the “Baker Avenue Irregulars.”  They have been extra than simply spies.  Though they did their share of espionage and reconnaissance, the extra conventional spy roles, they have been additionally concerned with sabotage and subversion, liaising with and educated native resistance teams.  Winston Churchill directed them to “set Europe ablaze”, and so they did, with panache, breaking guidelines that have been not related, not the least of which was when, in 1942, they started recruiting ladies to work behind enemy traces. 

How cool was that?  So what did it take for these ladies, again within the early ‘40s, to join a job they didn’t perceive (SOE, unsurprisingly, have been pretty gentle on the job description), however who got, like their male counterparts, a 50% likelihood of survival?  These ladies needed to battle to be thought of within the first place, and battle more durable to stay in SOE.  In coaching they have been used to spur the boys on, the primary to leap from the planes in coaching workout routines, in addition to into motion. 

And but, of the 39 extraordinary ladies that have been despatched into France alone, all however 13 survived. Their tales learn higher than most thrillers – and I imply that with no disrespect to my fellow thriller writers! 

Enjoyable reality:  SOE agent Anne-Marie Walters’s autobiography Moondrop to Gascony received the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in 1947.

These ladies have been vibrant, and recruited from a variety of ages (At 20 years, Sonia Butt was the youngest girl to be despatched into France. Yvonne Rudellat, at 45, was the oldest).  It wasn’t a category factor both, with recruits from the working courses (I’ve learn that Violette Szabo had Cockney accent) in addition to the aristocracy (Noor Inyat Khan the daughter of an Indian prince, and Krystyna Skarbek was the daughter of a rely).  And never all of them have been British; Virginia Corridor was American, Nancy Wake was from New Zealand, and Krystyna Skarbek was Polish.  Some have been prim, others flamboyant, however what they’d in frequent was their willpower, and their fluency in French.  They broke guidelines, in an organisation identified for breaking guidelines, and whereas my characters aren’t primarily based on anyone agent, however are impressed by all of them.

After binge-reading their tales, I turned decided to jot down about them, or fairly, fictional accounts of fictional brokers, however staying as near the historical past as I might. 

From a stylistic perspective, I learnt so much from studying the early Jack Higgins books.  I beloved the way in which he made me sympathise together with his baddies, who weren’t actually dangerous however have been simply preventing on “the improper facet” of the struggle.  It made these tales way more fascinating, so I handed that on, permitting my readers to grouse after they discovered themselves liking, even rooting for, characters they “shouldn’t”.

Lastly, I turned impressed by locations I write about.  Lisbon had a posh historical past in the course of the struggle.  Dr António de Oliveira Salazar, Portugal’s conservative, nationalist, and Catholic dictator, may need distanced himself from German fascism/Nazism, however he did contemplate Germany the final bastion towards communism. Portuguese neutrality was a balancing act.  Siding with the Germans risked breaking the Anglo-Portuguese pact, and probably dropping some, or all, of its colonies. Siding with the Allies, would probably have risked tipping Spain over to the Axis, and even opening themselves as much as an assault from Spain. It wasn’t till October 1943, when the tides of struggle have been really turning in the direction of the Allies that Salazar allowed the British entry to the Azores to construct a base.  With this backdrop, Lisbon was a melting-pot, internet hosting massive swathes of exiled European the Aristocracy and aristocracy, determined refugees fleeing the Nazis, diplomats, retailers, smugglers, and naturally spies. 

What higher place to set my spy novel?

However writing isn’t with out its challenges.  And whereas a part of the enjoyable is researching the story, like my major character, I don’t communicate Portuguese, which made elements of my analysis a bit difficult (though the Nationwide Archives in Kew was terrific).  The opposite factor with analysis is figuring out how a lot is sufficient, and after I’ve wasted an excessive amount of time wanting into one thing that I discover fascinating, however isn’t related to the story.

By far the most important problem was balancing my writing alongside a demanding full-time job.  I went to a webinar the opposite day on how you can obtain a piece/life steadiness, hoping for a holy-grail kind of revelation.  For sure, there was no holy-grail revelation and the one key to balancing work, life, and writing is to carve day trip of the day to jot down.  And to guard that point, even from myself. 

(c) Mara Timon

About Metropolis of Spies:

City of Spies 194x300 - Inspiration and Challenges: Metropolis of Spies by Mara Timon

LISBON, 1943.

When her cowl is blown, SOE agent Elisabeth de Mornay flees Paris. Pursued by the Gestapo, she makes her approach to impartial Lisbon, the place Europe’s elite rub shoulders with diplomats, businessmen, smugglers, and spies. There she receives new orders – and a brand new identification.

Posing as rich French widow Solange Verin, Elisabeth should infiltrate a German espionage ring focusing on Allied ships, earlier than extra British servicemen are killed.

The nearer Elisabeth involves discovering the reality, the better the chance grows. With a German officer watching her each step, it would take all of Elisabeth’s resourcefulness and willpower to finish her mission.

However in a metropolis the place nobody is who they declare to be, who can she belief?

‘Completely captures the conflicted loyalties of wartime espionage in impartial Portugal . . . atmospheric . . . tense’ Sarah Armstrong, writer of The Wolves of Leninsky Prospekt

‘Casablanca meets le Carre’ A. Okay. Turner, writer of Physique Language

Order your copy on-line right here.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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