Author Spotlight – Justine Saracen
Meet UK Lesbian Fiction Author Justine Saracen (Bold Strokes Books)
Our reviewer Valden had this to say about Justine Saracen’s books:
Justine Saracen is a master storyteller and unique as an author in the lesfic world. She has decided that lesbians would have been at many major events in history, but they were just not talked about, documented or remembered. To right this wrong, she has written stories woven around history, which feature lesbians and a touch of romance. In particular, if you like women in uniform, Justine’s series around the Second World War in Europe cannot be beaten.
Justine takes you to places that are icy cold, dark, war-torn and often under fire, and can transport you there in very few well-chosen words. She weaves her stories around the Generals and the politicians too so that you can see the effect that high-level negotiations have. At the end of each book, you will see the actual events in history and the people involved and can then see how Justine created her story. She has a wonderful talent!
We spoke to Justine Saracen about her books and her writing plans for the future.
(a) Tell us something interesting about your last published book.
Berlin Hungers grew out of my own memories of Berlin in 1965, when the wall still stood, and Russian/East German aggression was still palpable. East Berlin still had uncleared rubble, and seemed to be all in black-and-white. The novel is set much earlier, during the Russian Blockade of 1948, but the atmosphere was similar, and I could easily set myself back into it.
(b) What got you into writing?
I don’t know what got me into writing. I was always a big talker, had lots of opinions, and a large vocabulary. Basically, I was an obnoxious child, a bit like Lisa Simpson, but without the saxophone. Instead, I had a pencil.
(c) Can you tell us about your writing style? How do you decide on plots and characters? Are you a planner or a pantser?
I plan, and plan. And brood. And take the dog out for long walks, and brood. Then park myself on the sofa with my laptop and a snack and bang out what I’d just been brooding about. I’d never dream of writing ‘by the seat of my pants.’ How can I lead my reader someplace if I don’t know where I’m going? My plots follow historical events and are bound to historical chronology, and my fictional characters are woven in amongst historical ones.
(d) If you had to do it all over again, would you do anything differently?
If I had to do it all over again, I’d have gotten a dog much sooner and started those long broody walks.
(e) What is next for you? What is your next project?
What’s next? I’ve just returned from a trip to northern Finland (way above the Arctic Circle) and will devise another WW2 story involving the Norwegian resistance and the Sami people (native people of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and part of Russia — otherwise known as Laplanders). Everyone knows about WW2, but no one knows about the Sami.
VALDEN’s REVIEW of BERLIN HUNGER’s and THE WITCH OF STALINGARD
The Division of Germany and the Berlin Blockade after the Second World War are the backdrops for this excellent book. Gillian Somerville is a military transport pilot at the end of the war ferrying planes across Europe from factories to air bases. The Corps that she flies for will be disbanded and she, therefore, joins the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force as a ground control radar operator. She is eventually posted to Germany with the forces of occupation.
Erika Brandt is the widow of a Luftwaffe pilot, living in Berlin at the end of the war and subject to the horrors of occupation by Russian forces. Their individual stories are the focus for the first part of the book, but the two women eventually meet in a couple of random events, and the story really takes off.
It is a beautifully written, factually correct story that focuses on women surviving despite the odds. Add to that the starvation and lack of food across Europe, and I guarantee that you will be permanently hungry whilst reading this. Make sure you have biscuits to hand!
The backdrop to this story is the Night Witches or Nachthexen; Russian women who were Night Bombers that harassed the Germans on their Eastern Front. They flew flimsy planes in sub-zero temperatures, without parachutes or radios, with compasses they could not read in the dark and were absolutely fearless, navigating by landmarks below. This story is about Lilya, one of the pilots and Alex a Russian-speaking US photo-journalist (who also wears a uniform!), who is posted by her publication to Moscow. And yes, they do meet, and yes there is romance.
Justine’s words are just spell-binding with her description of the conditions that these women live under in Russia and later in occupied Germany. The cold, the dirt, the lack of facilities and food, and then even more cold. You need a hot drink with your biscuits for this read!