Today’s interview is with George Stratford, author of I Spy Bletchley Park.
1) What is your author name and in what state do you live (or country if not in the US)?
I publish novels under my own name of George Stratford, and I live in the south coast holiday resort of Bournemouth, England.
2) What is the title of your newest book and what is the genre?
Currently, I am more than halfway through writing a new murder thriller set in the popular music world of 1970s London, but my most recently published novel is an historical adventure/thriller titled, I Spy Bletchley Park. This has been excellently received and reviewed here in the UK.
Before long, the two women inevitably clash, and a desperate Betty finds herself as the only person in a position to save Bletchley Park from complete destruction.
4) Where did you come up with the idea?
My late mother was a WAAF stationed at BP for two years during WWII, and subsequently at one of the vital Y listening stations. Like so many others, she never breathed a single word of this until the 1980s when the secret had already become common public knowledge.
I wanted to write a fictional tribute to Mum. The codebreakers themselves have (rightly so) had volumes of both fictional and factual stuff written about them, but how about an adventure story featuring one of the less acknowledged workers in a heroic role? That was my reasoning at the start of things. After that, it was quite a logical move to create a spy who would place Bletchley Park in great danger. And better still, a female one with an aristocratic background in complete contrast to Betty’s south London working-class upbringing. Once Lady Margaret had been created, all the other pieces began to fall naturally into place.
5) How long did it take you to write it?
The amount of research required for this story was enormous, so if you include that, the whole process took me just about a year.
Spending time at the current Bletchley Park site was of course a mandatory requirement, and whilst there I was fortunate enough to become friends with one of the dedicated volunteer workers who do so much to enhance the centre’s visitor experience. John Bladen was a mine of invaluable information. Numerous times throughout the course of that year I needed to get back to him with some question or other on historical or technical detail, and he was always only to happy to help. I owe John a lot. So here’s another great big thank you, mate.
6) Did you learn anything from the project?
I suspect that you mean aside from the obvious mass of information during research that amongst many other things took in: the 1929 Stock Market crash; British politics of that era; the1936 Berlin Olympics, especially the equestrian events; and a host of personal details concerning Hermann Goering.
What I did learn was to totally rubbish the theory that females can’t keep a secret. At one time or another during the course of WWII, approximately eight thousand women (mostly WAAFs and WRENs) worked at Bletchley Park. Just like my own mother, not a single one of them ever sought to break the Official Secrets Act that they had all signed. Forty years were to pass before they were free to talk about their part in something that was truly amazing. How’s that for keeping Mum?
7) Do you have an author website and/or blog? How about a book video?
Please do come and visit my website at georgestratford.com . Amongst other stuff, you can read an extract from I Spy Bletchley Park in which Lady Margaret is first introduced to Hermann Goering by a Nazi loving former boyfriend. This extract is not available to read anywhere else. There is also lots of info here about my other novels, together with a middle grade children’s story set in the Philippines, and a memoir of my time when I went from being an out of work no-hoper to an award-winning copywriter at the world’s most famous advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi. Mad Men? More of a Mad Ride, I’d say.
8) Do you have any success tips to pass on to fellow authors? How about any great editors/cover artists?
The best tip I can pass on is always use the ‘Read Aloud’ function to check your manuscript. With anything that you have written yourself, the eye so very often will read what it is anticipating seeing rather than what it actually there on the page.
Being an editor myself who has worked very closely with best-selling fantasy author Brian D Anderson on fourteen of his novels, including all of The Godling Chronicles and the Dragonvein series, I know how well this simple trick can work.
As for cover designers, I’ve always found Lou Harper to be efficient, speedy, and very reasonably priced.
9) What genres do you like to read? Are you open to reading new authors and reviewing their work?
Adventure stories and thrillers, sometimes with an historical background in the way Ken Follett does them, are my most preferred reads. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed quite a bit of Stephen King’s work, especially the Mr Mercedes (Finders Keepers) trilogy.
Thanks to my work with Brian, I am now also rather more open to some kinds of fantasy work as well.
I always try to set aside at least half an hour a day (usually just before hitting the pillow) to read a new book. Of course I am open to new authors, and am very happy to post a positive review when I feel it is deserved. The only problem is, if I find that I can’t get on with a book, I would rather not post anything at all than be destructive. Why stamp on something when others might genuinely enjoy it?
10) What is your favorite book of all time and why?
My thesaurus: Without it, where would I be when I’m stuck for the right word?
11) Fun Question: Do you have any pets? If so, what kind?
No pets as such, although I do have a make-believe Dobermann posted outside my door to keep away unwanted visitors when I’m on a writing roll.
12) Fun Question 2: Do you own an electronic reading device? If so, what kind and how do you like it?
Yup, I’ve got what might be termed as a pretty ancient kindle that still gets used a fair bit. The truth is though, I honestly prefer the feel of a proper book in my hand. It’s also so much easier to flip quickly back to check on something with physical pages. You know, when a character who we haven’t seen for several chapters suddenly appears again and you need reminding of who exactly they are. This is especially true if you find you only have time to read in small daily bites the way I tend to do.