Its not often a national best-selling author lives in your own backyard. In the Columbia Valley, though, Elinor Florence just joined an exclusive club with her novel, Birds Eye View, that was recently named to both the Toronto Stars and Globe and Mails bestseller lists.
She still cant believe it.
Well, its absolutely just the most wonderful thing and completely unexpected, Ms. Florence told The Pioneer. I dont belong to a writing group, Ive never been to a writing conference, Im not plugged into the whole writing community in Canada. That means that my book reached this level on its own merits so thats particularly pleasing to me.
The novel, first published in 2014, is about a Saskatchewan woman Rose Joliffe who joins the British Womens Auxiliary Air Force as an aerial photographic interpreter shortly after Canada declared war on Germany during the Second World War. Working with intelligence officers from the Royal Air Force, Rose spies on the Nazis from the sky, analyzing the war through her small, yet useful, magnifying glass.
Ms. Florence said she had been working on the novel for years off and on while raising her family and working as a reporter in the journalism industry herself. Born in Saskatchewan, she received the inspiration for the novel from her fascination with the Second World War through growing up on a former wartime airport that her father had converted into their home.
From a very early age, I was conscious of the role that our farm played in winning the war, she said. I think that sparked my interest in the Second World War and, like most baby boomers, my family, both maternal and paternal families, had been involved in the war effort.
What specifically caught her interest, however, was the way the war was told from one specific perspective.
When I started researching in preparation for my book, I realized that there had never been a novel written about a Canadian women in uniform and there were 50,000 of them in World War II, Ms. Florence said.
The history books are primarily written by men and theyre primarily written about combat because thats what interests guys, but the contribution of women made behind the scenes has been sadly overlooked.
Being interested in photography herself, she stumbled upon an old black-and-white photograph of a woman in an Air Force uniform studying an aerial photograph with magnifying glass. Thus, Rose Joliffe was born.
It wasnt until she retired from her work in the media industry in 2010 that she resurrected her old manuscript, which was on a floppy disk, emblematic of the long journey it had been, and rewrote it before sending it off to be published.
Ms. Florence calls the now-published novel fact-based fiction in that it is completely based on facts she discovered in her research. She said the main point to her story is to try and educate people on the complete effort it took to win the last World War.
Im not entirely convinced we are doing a good job of teaching kids about it in schools and there was so much to it than just the veterans in combat, she said. The entire country of Canada was involved in the war effort. Every man, woman and child in most cases was involved in working towards victory and I dont think weve done a very good job of telling everyones story.
She said she would like to thank the local book clubs and the Invermere Public Library, which have continued to show support for her novel. Those looking to pick up a copy of Birds Eye View can find copies locally at AG Valley Foods, Sobeys and Lambert Kipp Pharmacy in Invermere and La Galeria II in Fairmont.