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The Shadow Network

A gripping new WW2 novel from author Deborah Swift

I’m delighted to welcome author Deborah Swift today for a peek behind the scenes of her latest pulse-pounding World War 2 novel, The Shadow Network. I loved the first novel in this series (The Silk Code) and I know The Shadow Network is going to keep me turning the pages late into the night—Deborah’s books all have that effect on me! She’s a master storyteller and has a true gift for writing characters who leap off the page. Read on for an interview about The Shadow Network.

The Shadow Network

One woman must sacrifice everything to uncover the truth in this enthralling historical novel, inspired by the true World War Two campaign Radio Aspidistra…

England, 1942: Having fled Germany after her father was captured by the Nazis, Lilli Bergen is desperate to do something pro-active for the Allies. So when she’s approached by the Political Warfare Executive, Lilli jumps at the chance. She’s recruited as a singer for a radio station broadcasting propaganda to German soldiers – a shadow network.

But Lilli’s world is flipped upside down when her ex-boyfriend, Bren Murphy, appears at her workplace; the very man she thinks betrayed her father to the Nazis. Lilli always thought Bren was a Nazi sympathiser – so what is he doing in England supposedly working against the Germans?

Lilli knows Bren is up to something, and must put aside a blossoming new relationship in order to discover the truth. Can Lilli expose him, before it’s too late?

Set in the fascinating world of wartime radio, don’t miss The Shadow Network, a heart-stopping novel of betrayal, treachery, and courage against the odds.

Author Interview

AM: What’s the tagline or ‘elevator pitch’ for your book?

DS: A heartbreaking betrayal, a mission to uncover the truth.

AM: How did you come up with the idea for your book?

DS: I was reading an article about how radio propaganda and manipulation was the internet of WW2, and wanted to discover more about how propaganda was used during the war. A little research soon brought up Tom Sefton Delmer who devised radio stations to peddle ‘fake news’ to the Germans.

AM: What inspired you to write about that particular era or character?

DS: I was looking for an idea for another WW2 story as I’d been commissioned to write a set of three. I like to write series with stories that are linked but can stand alone, and radio was such a large part of life in that era that I thought the theme would fit really well. As a young woman my grandmother was a singer on the radio and so the idea of inventing a character who was a singer developed. Lilli Bergen has proved to be a character that I really enjoyed creating because she doesn’t let hardship prevent her from forging a new life.

AM: How did you create a realistic setting for your story?

DS: I was surprised to find that sleepy Bedfordshire in England, full of quintessential English villages and country houses, was actually a hotbed of spies and intelligence networks in WW2 – partly because of its proximity to London, but also because it was an ideal place to be hidden away. The country house used by the radio station, and the location of Milton Bryan studios are real locations and I had to research them to make sure I had the geography and descriptions correct. This involved maps, archives and old photographs as well as eyewitness reports from the BBC Peoples War website.

AM: Do your research findings guide the plot, or do you plan out the plot first and flesh it out with research? (Or perhaps both?) 

DS: I write with the two things integrated together. I usually have a pretty clear idea of where the plot is going, though I don’t write anything down. Everything lives on my Word Document on the screen, and I used the comment function or notes at the end to keep track of my research. I love actual books so most of my research is done via books and not the internet. 

AM: Do you completely plan out your cast of characters before writing, or do you sometimes add new characters as you go along? What are some of the reason you’ve added new characters to a story?

 DS: The characters in my story are sometimes added because I need a conversation for certain vital information to be passed on to the reader. I’ve found a friend or colleague to the main character really useful, so that the two can converse, and so that dialogue can be used to express the character’s thoughts or feelings. Deepening character happens when the reader sees the character speaking and ‘listens in’ on what they are saying and how they express it.

AM: Do you have any tips for other writers about keeping track of your historical fiction research?

DS: I love the comment function on my document. I note the research and where it’s come from in the comment section – the source, the page number etc. It saves me forgetting I already looked up that fact when I re-read months later. Then I save a copy of that document with all the annotations. If someone (an editor or reader) queries the research I can then find it really easily in the comments and click straight through to the link or find the page in the book. I don’t keep big folders, only a very big library of books!

AM: What do you have planned for your next writing project?

DS: My next project is already finished and being copy-edited right now. It is another WW2 book, the third in this series about Secret Agents, and it is set in Holland, It is called OPERATION TULIP, and I’m very excited to be bringing my characters from The Shadow Network back in that book too.

AM: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

DS: I’m a big fan of the countryside and love walking. We will be doing a walking holiday in Spain this year. I also love dancing, and dance a few times a week. Writing is a really sedentary activity, so the walking and dancing are essential for my health – and also for my sanity! It is hard to be closeted in WW2 all day so I definitely need my escapes! The Shadow Network has been great fun to write though, and I unearthed many interesting facts about wartime radio on the way.


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available in paperback, audio, ebook, large print

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  1. Cathie Dunn says:

    Thanks so much for hosting Deborah Swift today, with such a great interview.

    Take care,
    Cathie xo
    The Coffee Pot Book Club

    1. Amy Maroney says:

      Always a pleasure!

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