“With a vivid cast of unforgettable characters, Gable expertly and cleverly delivers wit, humor, and intrigue on every page. What a delightful escape.”—Susan Meissner, bestselling author of The Nature of Fragile Things
The latest novel from New York Times Bestselling Author, Michelle Gable, introduces us to the world of Nancy Mitford. Nancy Freeman-Mitford, was an English novelist, biographer, and journalist, and the eldest of six sisters all of whom belonged to a group of socialites known as the ‘bright young things’. The Bookseller’s Secret takes us between Nancy’s world in 1942 to present-day London where the hunt is on for her lost wartime manuscript.
In this interview, Michelle shares about her about when she first had the idea to write a novel about Nancy Mitford, the most interesting find she made during her research process, and a sneak peek at her next book.
When did you first come up with the storyline for The Bookseller’s Secret?
I’ve been a longtime fan of Nancy Mitford and became obsessed with the entire Mitford clan after reading The Sisters by Mary S. Lovell, about twenty years ago. In short, Nancy was one of six beautiful sisters with very distinct (and controversial!) personas: Nancy the novelist, Pamela the countrywoman, Diana the Fascist (and “most hated woman in England”), Unity the Hitler confidante, Jessica the Communist, and Deborah the Duchess. Writing something about this crew had been in the back of my mind since long before I was published.
When tossing around ideas for my fifth book, my agent brought up Nancy’s time at the Heywood Hill bookshop during the war. I love London, and any novel set in a bookstore, as well as new takes on the World War II genre, so I was game. Even better that while working at Heywood Hill, Nancy was struggling with what to write for her fifth book, just as I was struggling with what to write for mine. Some of this is reflected in the modern-day storyline and the character Katie Cabot.
Where is one of your favorite places to write?
I started writing this book in March 2020, right as everyone went into lockdown. One of my daughters commandeered my office for online schooling, so I was forced to write wherever I could find a quiet space, which wasn’t easy with everyone home. I have a new appreciation for writing in my office, in a quiet house, with just me and my dog.
What was one of the most interesting finds you made during your research process for the novel?
When it comes to the Mitfords, the list goes on and on. I’d forgotten that the dog in The Pursuit of Love is called “Labby,” which was my dog’s name when we rescued her. I also loved all the unexpected facts about Nancy’s sister Decca (the Communist), who emigrated to California during the war. Decca was a civil rights activist, and her best friend was Maya Angelou. Her husband ran a civil rights law firm, which once employed an intern named Hillary Rodham.
How much did you know about the group of socialities known as the ‘Bright Young Things’ prior to writing the book?
I knew quite a bit about Nancy, and some about Evelyn Waugh, but it was great fun to dive headfirst into that world.
Have you read all of Nancy’s books?
I have, even the biographies! The Pursuit of Love remains my favorite.
If you could have met Nancy Mitford in real life, what would you have asked her?
“Did you really blame yourself for your sister Diana’s incarceration during the war?” I’d also like to know which was her favorite sister!
Which of the scenes/chapters from the book did you enjoy writing the most (or) which scene was the hardest to write?
My favorite scenes were the ones featuring Nancy and her pals. I loved bringing Evelyn, Hellbags, Eddy, and Jim Lees-Milne to life.
Who are some of your favorite fellow authors who inspire you?
I’m a huge reader, across many genres, so this is almost impossible to answer! I love Kate Quinn, Kristina McMorris, Fiona Davis, Steven Rowley, Heather Webb, Hazel Gaynor, Susan Meissner, Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke, Lily King, John Irving, J. Ryan Stradal, T. Greenwood, Dani Shapiro…gosh, how many hours do you have?
What is the best part about meeting readers in real life and virtually?
Learning which characters and even books the readers connect with and there is always at least one new question or point that is raised that I hadn’t thought of before. As I mentioned, I’m a huge reader, so it just feels like hanging out with my people.
Are you working on your next book, and if so can we get a sneak peek?
Though I vowed no more WWII novels, I couldn’t help myself! This book takes place in Rome, near the end of the war, and centers on women who created propaganda to feed to the Germans. The goal was to lower morale. It’s an exploration of how misinformation not only affects those receiving it, but those creating it.