Sunday, April 26, 2015

What We're Writing — Susan Elia MacNeal and MRS. ROOSEVELT'S CONFIDANTE

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Hello Reds and lovely readers! I'm so delighted to show you the cover design for the next Maggie Hope novel, MRS. ROOSEVELT'S CONFIDANTE, which is coming out October 27, 2015 (so not too long to wait!):

I hope you love it as much as I do! I adore Fala, of course, as well as the ghostly figure in the window.... And, um, I'd really like Maggie's coat, please! (With a faux-fur collar, of course.)

And what's on the inside is progressing nicely as well. The manuscript is now typeset and in page proofs. So my job is to go over the book one last time.

Look! It's a book! (Amazing what typesetting will do.)

And I'm particularly proud of the dedication. I asked Miss Edna about the political and racial events of the 1940s often, and it led to great discussions. I treasure the memory of them.

As you may know, I'm also working on the next book in the Maggie Hope series, THE QUEEN'S ACCOMPLICE, and just returned from a two-week research trip to London and Beaulieu, in Hampshire. (It's pronounced Bew-lee — go figure!) 

Fantastic trip and I have so much to share that it will take additional posts, but one of the most amazing thing was visiting the real-life SOE secret agent offices in London and "finishing school" in Beaulieu. I never forget for a moment that although I'm telling a story with a fictional protagonist, real women and men sacrificed everything to be dropped behind enemy lines and, as Winston Churchill instructed "set Europe ablaze!" 

Here are a few of the sites and plaques honoring the SOE in London:

On what used to be one of the main SOE offices on Baker Street.

Now it's a lighting store and anonymous office space.

This building was home of the SOE and Free French. It's now banking offices.

This is the plaque in memory of the Free French and SOE

And also in Beaulieu:

This is the SOE memorial on the grounds of Beaulieu Abbey, originally built in 1204

A close-up of the inscription

The outside of what's left of Beaulieu Abbey

Inside the domus. It was originally a dormitory for monks. During World War II, dances were held there and it also served as sleeping quarters for soldiers heading to Normandy.

U.S. soldiers getting some rest before the invasion of Normandy.

I'm in awe of the agents' bravery and courage — and so many of them didn't return. But, thanks to their efforts, along with the Free French and La RĂ©sistance, so many telephone lines were cut, bridges blown up, and roads blocked before D-Day by the "underground army" that the Allied invasion of Normandy had just that more going for it.

Hats off.

Reds and lovely readers — are you familiar with the work of the SOE? And are there any war memorials that are particularly important to you? What's your personal connection? Please tell us in the comments.


  1. The cover for Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante is beautiful and the dedication is a lovely tribute.
    I appreciated seeing the SOE pictures . . . although I was aware of their brave actions, I am sure there is much that I do not know; it's so important to remember those sacrificed so much . . . .

  2. Joan, thank you. And yes, let's learn about and be grateful to those who fought in, shall we say, unconventional ways.

  3. Lovely. Mrs. R was one of my idols. I met her once, when she was very old and I was very young.

  4. Ellen, you actually met her! How wonderful! Do you have any memories?

  5. Susan, thank you for peek into your work. And I'm in love with the cover. But I was especially touched when reading the dedication - I would have loved meeting Miss Edna.

  6. Rushing to the airport so more to come..but Susan, this is..brilliant.

    SO do we think Eleanor should be on the 20 dollar bill?l

  7. Kaye, Miss Edna would have adored you. She would have adored ALL the Jungle Reds and readers because she was such a fan of mysteries and thrillers. She loved, and I mean LOVED getting autographed galleys and books from the Reds and other authors — she felt very "Jackie O. at Doubleday," as she would say.

  8. Susan, did I ever mention to you that in my English girls' high school in the mid 40s our French teacher was one of the SOE women? We all adored her! Her name was Sheila M. Smith. Odd that I remember the M! We used to hang around the school in the afternoon to see one gorgeous RAF officer or another come to pick her up at the gate! May have a picture of her somewhere. (Of course I love the dedication to Miss Edna - never met her, but feel I know her)

  9. Lovely cover, Susan. Really looking forward to this book, since I am also an Eleanor admirer.

    Hank, I'd rather see Wilma Mankiller on the $20 bill. She was the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation, and she was a Native American, so I think she has first claim. Also, she was more like a President than Mrs. Roosevelt was.

    But that doesn't mean we only need one bill or coin with a woman on it. I'd also like to see Madeline Albright on some money, as the first woman Secretary of State. Susan B. Anthony is so lonely.

  10. It's a beautiful cover Susan, and a lovely dedication. Miss Edna would be thrilled. And your trip sounds wonderful--I'm sure it would be hard to get that level of detail from a distance.

    How hard it is to pick and choose what you'll actually use in the book?

  11. Phyllis, no, you never mentioned that you had one of the SOE for a teacher! Did she talk about what she did during the war at all?

    Karen, I'd love to see Pauli Murray on U.S. currency:

    One of my characters in MRS. ROOSEVELT'S CONFIDANTE, Andi Martin, is inspired by Pauli Murray.

  12. Wonderful pictures! Thank you for this.

  13. They could be my uncles. They look like little boys. <3

  14. Roberta/Lucy, I usually go with in idea of plot and specific places/things I want to visit and photograph and take notes on, but I always stay open to new ideas. For instance, I didn't know until visiting Beaulieu that the Abbey's domus had been used for dances during WWII — now I'm pretty sure I'm going to set a scene there.

    Reine, they do look so young, don't they? They were. Even the SOE agents were pretty much all under 30.

  15. Fabulous, all around. Many thanks

  16. I love these books.
    I only know what I've read about WWII things.
    HPR: I voted for Eleanor R for the $20. :)

  17. I love your series and will be looking forward to the next installments. Hope to meet you at one of the mystery conferences.

  18. What an impressive life Pauli Murray had, Susan. Thank you for sharing the link!

  19. Susan, LOVE the cover! And LOVE the photos. And must admit I'm envious of your research. But how did you look at those places and those memorials without crying??

    And of course I can't wait to read the book!

  20. I just read this all again. Yes, hats off.

  21. Sorry, Susan, offline all day.

    She was one of the first famous people I met so the occasion was sort of overwhelming, and all the details run together-- an older hotel banquet room, dark flowered carpeting, dusty smell, dishes clanking, people around her protecting her from the crowd.

    I just remember her being very aged and, in retrospect, quite frail. And not so tall (well, we all shrink with age). That voice was very distinctive, and she gave a speech, but I don't remember much of what she said. Just too much in awe, I guess.

  22. Coming in very late today/tonight, but I wanted to say that I can't wait to learn more about the SOE through your book, Susan. And, the dedication is just perfect and wonderful. Your covers are always great. I've enjoyed your pictures of your England trip on FB and now here. Until I can get there myself, I have to be content with pictures and descriptions of England, especially London, from you, Susan, and Debs.

  23. LOVE it ALL! But the dedication is ESPECIALLY wonderful and I thank you SO very much for sharing Miss Edna with all of us. I so wish I could have met her in person. She must have been quite the character! Can't wait to read this next book...and the next... Kudos to you, Susan!!!