The Columbia Valley is home to many veterans and for some, their contributions by serving the country are being recognized. Elinor Florences latest book, My Favourite Veterans, features true stories from Canadian men and women serving in the armed forces during the Second World War, including nine veterans from the Columbia Valley with two of them still living to see the book. My Favourite Veterans is Ms. Florences second book (the first being Canadian bestselling novel Birds Eye View), which she chose to self-publish, allowing her control over the creation of the book. It contains 28 of her posts from her blog, Wartime Wednesdays (a link to the blog can be found on The Pioneer website beneath the online poll).
It was strictly a time factor because if you go the traditional publishing route it takes (time). For my novel, it took two years because some of my veterans are getting older, I wanted to have the book in their hands as quickly as possible, said Ms. Florence.
Surviving veterans from the Columbia Valley included in the book are Jim Ashworth, 97, and Joy Bond, who turned 98 on August 24th. Both received signed copies of the book from Ms. Florence this past week. Having self-published, Ms. Florence is able to call herself a hybrid author having been traditionally published and self-published. With her most recent book, she found herself using her journalistic skills to research and conduct the interviews.
Im a non-fiction writer primarily, being a journalist, so the fiction was a bit more of a departure for me although I really enjoyed it. This one was easier in a way because I know how to interview people and research, she said.
The interviews were all conducted while Ms. Florence was creating her first novel as background and research. The experiences of the veterans gave her insight into what being in the armed forces was really like; she heard stories and encounters that one would never find in the history books. As she was waiting for Birds Eye View to be published, she decided that the veterans stories were so interesting that she wanted to do something with them.
I thought, I have such good material and such interesting stories from these veterans, Im just going to start my own website and Im going to start posting them on my website. Since my novel came out in 2014, the blog has kind of taken on a life of its own because now I keep meeting more veterans and interviewing more veterans, said Ms. Florence.
Putting together the book was not as easy as she first anticipated, having to prepare the photographs for print and double check for accuracy. Of the 28 veterans featured in the book, nine were women and she found the women needed more coaxing during the interviews.
I interviewed a number of female veterans, women are so modest that you have to drag it out of them.
They say, Oh, I didnt do that much, no one wants to know about me. I really had to coax the women a lot harder to tell their stories. I think its a generational thing, said Ms. Florence.
Her novel Birds Eye View was the only novel to ever be written about Canadian women in uniform and she continued to showcase womens contributions throughout her latest book.
With both my novel and with this book, I really wanted to shine a light on womens contribution to the war effort. There were 50,000 Canadian women in uniform in World War II. They were the very first women ever to serve in the armed forces; 1941 is the first year women were allowed to serve. I think theyve been largely overlooked in the history books, said Ms. Florence.
My Favourite Veterans features photos of all the veterans and is printed in a larger font for easy reading. The book will be available at the Invermere Farmers and Artists Market on Saturday, August 27th and is also available on Amazon. Anyone interested in a copy can also contact Ms. Florence directly at email@example.com.