History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

15 February 2010

Welcome, Jane Toombs!

Nightingale Man
by Jane Toombs
Available now!

I love the idea of a WWI romance, so I'm very excited to welcome Jane here today.

During World War I, Luke is recruited by the British Secret Service from the American pilots flying with the French Air Force. He's told his mission is to rescue Nurse Edith Cavell, captured by the Boche, imprisoned in German-occupied Belgium and doomed to be shot as a spy.

All too soon his mission becomes a challenge to stay alive. Who's double-crossing him?

Can it be the English gal he's falling in love with?

Nightingale Man is set during World War I before the United States joined England and France to fight against Germany. Is there a particular reason you chose this setting?

First of all, I was born between WWI and WWII, so the war I heard about as a child was the first, not the second. When I was twelve years old, my father was appointed to be Deputy Auditor General of Michigan, so we moved from the Upper Peninsula to Lansing, the state capitol. My best friend Betty’s father was Director of Aeronautics in Michigan and sometimes took us flying in his private plane. It fascinated me that he was a pilot and I asked my father about him. Being a historian he, as usual , told me more about the late war than I wanted to know. But I learned some American men who could fly didn’t wait until the United States entered the war, instead joining the French Escadrille in the late war to fly with the French against the German enemy. Betty’s father was one of them. I was impressed, and never forgot it.

How did you become interested in this time period? What you love about it?

Because I lived through WWII, becoming a Cadet Nurse, that war was real to me. WWI, on the other hand, was the past, a time I hadn’t lived through and so seemed more glamorous. I loved to read stories about England in the time before that war and during it.

What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?

All war is brutal of course. But while I was becoming an RN, I had to take a class in Nursing History. I read with horror how the Germans had executed, by firing squad, Nurse Edith Cavell as a spy, simply because she helped wounded Belgian, French and English soldiers recover enough to slip out of German-occupied Belgium. I even had bad dreams for awhile about the incident.

Anything you flat-out altered or “fudged”? If so, why?

Research didn’t uncover any plan for the British to try to sneak into Belgium and rescue her, but I ignored that for purposes of the story I was writing. Why? Because that was one of the reasons I wanted to write the book.

Any gaffs or mea culpas you want to fess up to before readers get their hands on the book? I know I always seem to find one after the book has gone to press. *sigh*

Not that I yet have found.

Tell us a little about your hero.

Lucky” Luke Ray idolized his father and blamed his mother for the fact his father left them, leaving him behind. He has a lot to learn during the course of the story.

What sparked this book? Was it a character? An historical event? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?

I’ve mentioned my friend’s pilot father and Nurse Edith Cavell. As a nurse myself, I couldn’t help but identify with her.

Did you have to do any major research for this book? Did you stumble across anything really interesting that you didn’t already know?

Major is right! I knew nothing about Belgium, for one thing. Most of the research was done years ago when my second husband was still alive. He became interested in WWI after doing a book for a packager about it. Packagers are people who set up an organization, plan a series of books and then recruit authors to write them, usually using the same pseudonym on all the books, the author’s name appearing only on the copyright page. We wrote quite a few books for this packager. So , though we’d never actually done a book together, we planned NIGHTINGALE MAN and split up the research. But he died before we’d done much more that plot it out and begin it. So it sat there for years before I decided to take a look and see if I could write it alone. Reading through it, I realized , since neither of us had know anything about flying, I’d need help. By then the Viking from my past had come back into my life and, hey, he’d been a Navy pilot and flown all kinds of small planes since WWII. Turned out he’d always been fascinated by old planes. So we took a trip to Rhinebeck, NY where they have all those WWI planes and stage mock dog fights. He talked to the pilots and made sure he knew the differences in the old planes and the ones he’d flown. Research provided the rest. He didn’t do any of the writing but kept me on track while I wrote about the planes--correcting any errors.

What/Who do you like to read?

What I read depends on my state of mind. Right now I’m into suspense and mystery. So both Faye and Jonathan Kellerman. Dana Stabenow, Nevada Barr and Michael Connelly.

Care to share a bit about your writing process? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

I’m a single draft plotter. By that, I mean I do a lengthy synopsis of the book first, then begin. The synopsis is not written in stone and my characters frequently depart from it, but never so far I get off track. I allow myself to go back and edit the chapter before the one I’m about to write.. This continues all the way through the book--but one chapter back only. The only exception is if I discover something has to be changed back farther. This method works for me. Keeping it limited to one chapter allows me to get back into the flow of the book, cuts down editing at the end of the book, and doesn’t permit me to waste time. After I’m done, I start from the beginning and edit my way through. But this is learned behavior. I wrote and sold my first two books as complete books. My agent couldn’t give away my third. Then he called me and said a packager was doing a Zodiac series and needed an author for Sagittarius. Could I get a synopsis and three chapters to him? Green as grass Jane asked, “What’s a synopsis?” After a pause, he told me. So I did what he said, wrote three chapters and got a contract. What an eye-opener. After a time I went back and wrote a synopsis for that third finished book and could clearly see I’d wandered all over the place. So I wrote a new synopsis and redid the book. He sold it, and I learned a valuable lesson--I needed a guideline to keep from straying.

What are you planning to work on next?

I made a New Year’s resolution to finish the first book in every series I’ve begun that I deem salable in today’s market. The only departure from this can be for a novella already contracted-for, as I’m one of the twelve Jewels Of The Quill, a closed promo group who promote each other. One of the ways is our Tales From The Treasure Trove Anthologies--up to seven now. We do holiday themed ones as well. Other than that, I can’t begin anything new until I’ve finished the first book in these six series. The first series I’m set to do is a trilogy--Darkness of Dragons, with the first book Dragon’s Pearl. However, I’ve already sold and finished the first two books in the Desperate Deception Series of eight books So after the first two are out, I’ll have to finish the third--and so on. Winters are long in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula…


Anonymous Tinky said...

An underused historical setting; I loved hearing about your background and will look for the book!

5:34 PM  
Blogger Victoria Janssen said...

Can't wait to read this!

My most recent novel is also set in WWI, and I'm hoping to sell another.

9:16 AM  
Blogger Champagne Book Group said...

You won't be disappointed either. It's a great story with lots of twists and turns that you won't expect.

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Allison Knight said...

I love the way you edit as you write because that's how I work. I always feel guilty when people insist you should write the whole thing and then edit. I just can't do it, and am delighted to learn I'm not the only one.

Thank you.

9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Jane

Great idea for a story, and I luv the title. Great job J.

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
Author of the year, 4/09)

11:48 AM  

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