‘It’s actually the little things that fascinate me – the lives of everyday people’
The Revenge of Tirpitz
By Michelle Sloan
Published by Cranachan Publishing
Interview with Michelle Sloan, author of The Revenge of Tirpitz
What was the inspiration for your book The Revenge of Tirpitz?
A few years ago, I watched a Channel 4 documentary called ‘The Dambusters’ Great Escape’, all about the final, successful bombing of the Nazi battleship Tirpitz. I found it utterly compelling. My dad had always had an interest in Tirpitz too so it was a familiar subject to me. But what really caught my imagination was the revelation that a German radar operator may have been working against his own people by withholding key information about the approaching British Lancasters thus creating time for them to successfully bomb Tirpitz. I began to wonder about weaving a story about this German. I wondered if I could fictionalise his escape on the ‘Shetland Bus’ – the fishing boats that sailed between Norway and Shetland.
The story is written with a dual timeline of modern day and 1944 during WWII. What is it that draws you to that specific time period?
It’s actually the little things that fascinate me – the lives of everyday people and how they coped and lived through the fear and restrictions imposed upon them during wartime. And then there’s the extraordinary bravery and commitment at that time to the cause. I suppose I relate it to myself – could I put myself in the position of the men and women who put their lives on the line?
How did you approach the research?
The research was the real joy of the process and was very varied! I’m lucky in that my sister-in-law is Norwegian and has an encyclopaedic knowledge not just of the history of her country during WW2 but of everything from reindeer husbandry to the Sami people of Northern Norway. I peppered her with questions! I read lots of fabulous books: ‘Target Tirpitz’ by Patrick Bishop and ‘The Shetland Bus’ by David Howarth. But I also had to research many other things for example life on board a fishing boat! So I watched lots of episodes of ‘Deadliest Catch’!
Who is your favourite character in the book?
Funnily enough, my favourite character only appears in one chapter! Inga, who is from the Mountain Sami and is a reindeer herder. I watched this fabulous clip on a BBC website about the reindeer in Northern Norway that swim as a herd across a freezing fiord. And this amazing young woman was in charge of the whole operation. She inspired me to create Inga – she’s very young but is confident, strong and intelligent. I would love to write a spin-off story about her.
When you’re not writing what would we find you doing?
Reading! I am always engrossed in a book! Even when I walk the dog or I’m cleaning the house, I’m listening to an audio book! At the moment, I’m engrossed in PD James’ ‘The Mistletoe Murder and other stories’ which is a seasonal collection of short stories. Apart from books, my other great love is theatre. I love all kinds of theatre from contemporary performance to musicals to children’s theatre.
What was your favourite book from your childhood?
Absolutely, without question, my favourite was and still is ‘The Box of Delights’ by John Masefield. There is something about the combination of an old-fashioned Christmas and ‘dark magic’ that is utterly transporting. I now get to enjoy the story with my own children.
The Revenge of Tirpitz by Michelle Sloan is out now published by Cranachan Publishing priced £7.99.