Behind the Book

The Girl From Vichy: Top 5 Questions

Adèle will do anything to bring her family back together, except marry a known collaborator in the Vichy police. Unfortunately, this is exactly what her father asks her to do…


The Girl from Vichy will be out in a couple of weeks! I’m so proud of this book, and I honestly can’t wait for it to be out in the world!

Since the release of The Girl I Left Behind last year, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about publishing and writing. So, I decided to break down my writing process and go behind the book, so to speak, and give you the receipts on The Girl from Vichy. Oh, and I asked some of my author friends to chime in too, because why not?


The Girl from Vichy top 5 questions:


#5 What made you write about this subject? I always laugh when asked this question. What the person really means is, how did you EVER come up with this story? To answer this question, you’ll need to know what The Girl from Vichy is about. Here’s the jacket copy:

Vichy France, 1942. As the war in Europe rages on, Adèle Ambeh dreams of a France that is free from the clutches of the new regime. The date of her marriage to a ruthless man is drawing closer, and she only has one choice – she must run.

With the help of her mother, Adèle flees to Lyon, seeking refuge at the Sisters of Notre Dame del la Compassion. From the outside this is a simple nunnery, but the sisters are secretly aiding the French Resistance, hiding and supplying the fighters with weapons.

While it is not quite the escape Adèle imagined, she is drawn to the nuns and quickly finds herself part of the resistance. But her new role means she must return to Vichy, and those she left behind, no matter the cost.

Each day is filled with a different danger and as she begins to fall for another man, Adèle’s entire world could come crashing down around her.

Adèle must fight for her family, her own destiny, as well as her country.

I started this book in 2013. I was inspired after reading an out-of-print memoir by Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, leader of the French Resistance network “The Alliance” (she was in charge, baby!). I already knew some history about Vichy, but after reading her book I learned a lot more. I ended up reading several books about women in the French Resistance, and quite a few more about Vichy. After that, I let my imagination take hold.

Badass women + The Resistance = Too good to resist.

#4 How long is the book? When writers talk about how long their book is, we talk in terms of word count. When I turned in the structural edits to my publisher, The Girl from Vichy was 104,611 words and 367 Word pages long.

That’s a lot of words! (For me, anyway. The Girl I Left Behind was 94,000 words.)

#3 How did you write this book? I wrote this book in pieces. It took me 6 months writing in my spare time to get to 150 pages (including research time), and then after a break, another 4 months to finish the first draft, and when I say 4 months, I mean sitting at my computer regularly typing away until I had a complete story. Number of hours it took me to write and revise this book? Hard to tell. I looked at 3 different Word files of this book and in the “properties” section I saw numbers like 456 hours, 59 hours, 125 hours, and I must have twenty different files. So… hundreds.

It took hundreds of hours to write and finish this story, possibly thousands.

I wrote three drafts of this book before it was acquired by my publisher. I took 3 notebooks worth of notes, and composed over 50 notes on my phone (when I’m out and have an idea, I have to write it down). I had a writer friend critique my manuscript, and I took her advice very seriously. I listened to music.

How much music?

(This might surprise you) According to iTunes, the top two songs I listened to while writing The Girl from Vichy was Trois Gymnopédies at 2504 times/2.57 min long, and Symphony No. 5 in C-Sharp Minor by Mahler at 770 times/9.43 min long. During the final structural edit with my publisher, I listened to Mazzy Star’s Bells Ring on a continuous loop for hours (days) and more songs by The Joy Formidable than is humanly possible.


I wrote this book from first chapter to the last and never jumped ahead.

I sometimes change character names after a book is finished or just before. Adèle’s love interest changed names about ¾ of the way through the 1st draft. I honestly can’t imagine him by any other name now.

I have a daily word count I stick to now, but when I wrote this book I was all over the place, no set goal.

Did I plot? I plotted out a general outline, but minor plot points changed as I wrote. I’m what you call a pantser-plotter, with scattered notes and ideas and a rough plot. I always know the big scenes, and the ending before I start. I also know the main characters, but there are surprises along the way. Mme. Dubois is one of those surprise characters. She came out of nowhere and I just rolled with it, and I’m so glad I did. She adds a little spice.

I wondered how other authors write, so I asked some of my friends. In other words…



Bella Osborne, author of A Walk in Wildflower Park, is very organized (and my hero after reading how she approaches her novels). Bella writes character bios and composes a beat sheet and then transcribes it all onto Post-its, and presumably sticks them on a Post-it wall. If you’ve ever seen a writer’s Post-it wall it is mesmerizing.

Casey King, soon to be published crime writer, writes a synopsis after the first 3 chapters (Oh my God!). Hats off to this writer. I will tell myself a 1000 lies to get out of writing a synopsis. A THOUSAND LIES! These are laborious documents that will make a writer pull their hair out, mainly because writers are told to show vs tell, and in a synopsis you can only tell.

Glynis Peters, USA Today best selling author of The Secret Orphan, listens to mood music, but Deborah Carr, USA Today best selling author of The Poppy Field, needs complete silence. I’m not sure I can say The Joy Formidable is mood music, but I sure did listen to a lot of it!

Natalie Normann, author of Summer Island, is a master note taker. I asked her if she’d ever jotted down notes on a paper towel (like I have) in extreme circumstances, and she said no, but that she has written on her arm (I love this!).

Fiona Leitch, author of the Bella Tyson Murder Mystery Series, sets a 2000 word daily goal (mine is 1000). Fiona’s books are laugh out loud funny, so I can only imagine she laughs through most of those 2000 words (I’m sure of it, actually).

Murder mystery writer Helena Dixon splits her books into sections and works from notes. I’m working in sections now with my newest book, and although at times I feel like a blind surgeon, it’s starting to come together.

Terry Lynn Thomas, USA Today best selling author of House of Lies, says she writes in sprints and goes on walks in between. Here’s the best part: When she’s walking, she pretends she’s one of her characters and talks to herself, which freaks out her neighbors! Now, my only question is… WHY haven’t I tried this?

Sandy Barker, author of One Summer in Santorini, writes whole scenes when she sits down to write. She is also very organized, and she hasn’t admitted to a Post-it wall, but I suspect she has one.

Terri Nixon writes historical sagas and makes a lot of notes and also uses Scrivener. I’ve heard of Scrivener, and I’m intimated by it (scared might be a better word), so I’m in awe of anyone who says they use it!

Nina Kaye, author of The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating, writes a rough outline and semi-plots, but she also says her story changes as she writes. For this book in particular, she got to do some really fun things for research like go to a proper gin tasting. (Jealous!)

D.E. White, author of Glass Dolls, likes to write in silence, at least that’s what she keeps telling her kids. I tell my kids this too, as I turn up the music.

#2 Why did you write a book? HA! Good question. Going back 7 years ago, I thought, why not? After I wrote The Girl I Left Behind, I thought I’d be exhausted. Like a one-and-done. Turns out I love to write. More so, I love to tell a story. I also write children’s ghost stories, though I’m not talking Casper stories here. I’m talking scary tales that will keep your kid up at night and sleeping with their lights on.

#1 So, how does it work? How does what work? Oh, you mean how do you write a book and then find an agent (if you’re lucky), then get it published, and THEN get people to buy it? That is a different blog post, my friend.

The Girl from Vichy is a thrilling spy novel that will have you on the edge of your seat. Release date is August 13th. Pre-order the digital today HERE. Paperback available on release day.

Thanks for reading! If you are a writer, how do you write? Do you have daily word counts? Do you listen to music? Do you have one of those Post-it walls that will haunt my dreams forever? Comment below.

Happy reading!



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