By Greg Amos
Perspective is key to a new World War II novel that’s recently landed a significant publishing contract for one Invermere author.
Bird’s Eye View is about a young Canadian woman working for a weekly newspaper when World War II breaks out. She joins the British Women’s Air Force and becomes an interpreter of aerial photographs, searching for bomb targets on the continent by scrutinizing the photos through a pair of stereo glasses.
“History books are generally written by men, so I thought it was important to tell the story of World War II through the eyes of a woman,” explained author and former Pioneer publisher Elinor Florence, who found inspiration to write the novel from of an old black and white photo in a magazine of a woman in a British Air Force uniform bent over a set of aerial photographs.
“There was no other way to find out what the Germans were up to except for spying on them from the sky,” she said. Through a linear series of photos taken by spy planes, the photo interpreters — both men and women — were able to use stereo viewing glasses to see a three-dimensional view from an airplane’s perspective.
Ms. Florence, who owned and published The Pioneer from 2004 to 2010, will see her first novel published by Toronto’s Dundurn Press in Fall 2014.
“Unlike newspapers, the book publishing industry moves very slowly,” she said. Prior to a release of wartime records by British Intelligence in 1995, there were only “some very sketchy accounts of women in this role,” said Ms. Florence, who began writing the book in 1997.
“I finished the first draft in 2000, although I was busy working and raising four children,” Ms. Florence said. “Like many first novels, it ended up in a shoebox. But last year I pulled it out again, revised it and sent it off.”
Given time to re-read the draft over the winter, Ms. Florence opted to change her protagonist’s view from third-person to first-person, bringing readers inside the mind of the young Women’s Air Force member.
“I decided it was better in first person; I think that was a big improvement,” she said.
During her background research, she interviewed several area residents, including bomber pilot Ed Kluczny. Others have since passed away – pilots Leo Richer, Arthur Bradford, Duncan McIntosh and Art Wilks; and women’s air force veterans Lou Marr and Nancy Tegart.
“My whole family was very involved in the war effort,” she said. “My father, who died in 2003, served in the Royal Canadian Air Force; and my mother June Florence, who lives here in Invermere, volunteered on the home front,” she said.
This is Ms. Florence’s first foray into fiction, after a journalism career that started at her hometown newspaper in North Battleford, then went on to the Western Producer in Saskatoon, the Red Deer Advocate, the Winnipeg Sun and the Vancouver Province (as it was then called) before moving to Invermere with her family in 1996. She was a regular writer for Reader’s Digest from 1997 to 2004.
The Pioneer will follow up with a future article to inform readers when the book will become available. Those wishing to reach Ms. Florence in the meantime can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .