Historical Fiction Set in WWII


This year marks seventy-five years since the end of World War II, an important part of our heritage. And perhaps because of the pandemic and other modern day hardships, books set in WWII seem to be more popular than ever.

Stories of WWII heroines and heroes continue to inspire us.

When working on another book set in Paris, I stumbled across true accounts of Muslims at a Paris mosque who saved Jewish children during WW2, and it became the inspiration for my new book, Beyond Belief – Heroes of the Holocaust.

Beyond Belief – Heroes of the Holocaust

In 1942, in the Grand Mosque in Paris, 11-year-old Ruben is hiding from the Nazis. Already thousands of Jewish children have disappeared, and Ruben’s parents are desperately trying to find his sister. Ruben must learn how to pass himself off as a Muslim, while he waits for the infamous Fox to help him get to Spain to be reunited with his family.

One hint of Ruben’s true identity and he’ll be killed. So will the people trying to save him. But when the mosque is raided and the Fox doesn’t come, Ruben is forced to flee. Finding himself in the south of France, he discovers that he must adjust to a new reality, and to the startling revelation of the Fox’s true identity.

Family stories about my grandfather’s time in Dachau and my father’s escape from Austria after Kristallnacht, made me want to write about the Holocaust and when I came across the true life interfaith solidarity story of Muslims saving Jews from the Nazis, I knew I had to tell it.


Today I’m featuring three amazing  books set in WWII –  Conspiracy of Lies by Kathryn Gauci released in 2017 and two new books out this year, The Deceptions  by Suzanne Leal and Red Day by Sandy Fussell.


When Claire meets the mysterious Marcel, she knows there will never be another man like him in her life. But he’s not the man she thought he was and by the time she realizes, it’s too late. She’s already in love with him. When she takes on a pivotal role in the Resistance, Claire is risking her life for both her man and her country, but ultimately she must choose between them.

Conspiracy of Lies

Conspiracy of Lies is rich with suspense, and interwoven with complex relationships, both past and present. The dual timeline story keeps us turning the pages as we discover the truth alongside Claire’s daughter, Sarah.

This is a book for adult readers with the relationships explored on both an emotional and physical level. The characters are so well drawn that we feel like we know them, even the minor players.

One of the things I loved most about this book was the way the incredible historical detail was woven seamlessly into the story. The story starts in Brittany in 1940. The Phoney War is over and the real war has begun in France.

Author, Kathryn Gauci’s depiction of occupied France and life in the Resistance is so visceral that we can imagine ourselves right there in the story.

Kathryn and I talk about the research behind our books, Beyond Belief – Heroes of the Holocaust and Conspiracy of Lies here.

THE DECEPTIONS by Suzanne Leal

I interviewed author Suzanne Leal on my blog on 17 April so I already knew some of the background to The Deceptions and the fact that it was inspired by true events, and perhaps that’s why the authenticity of the story and setting shine through.

The Deceptions

It is both tragic and inspiring as we follow the survival story of Hana Lederová taken from her home in Prague in 1943, and imprisoned in a ghetto where she accepts the advances of a gendarme in return for his protection, but soon discovers that nothing and nobody can protect her from the Nazis.

This is another dual storyline as we follow the stories of Hana and her modern day granddaughter, Tessa who is suffering the same kind of manipulation by a man in power.

When their two worlds come together, secrets of the past are spilled and deceptions revealed that have far reaching consequences.

Suzanne Leal draws us into Hana’s life of fear and hardship, and we take each step with her, wondering what new horror is around the corner and whether she can survive it. We know she does because she has a granddaughter, Tessa, but we wonder whether her life can ever have any semblance of normality after what she has gone through.

Powerful characters, suspense and the eloquence of the narrative kept me turning the pages of The Deceptions and made me ponder at the end whether truth really is more important than anything.

RED DAY by Sandy Fussell

Set against a backdrop of the 1944 Cowra Prisoner of War Camp breakout, this powerful story explores an important part of Australia’s past and how it informs the future.

Set in a modern-day small town among the remnants of a Japanese POW camp, this is the story of Charlie. Charlie has synaesthesia and hence sees and hears differently: people have auras; days of the week are coloured; numbers and letters have attitudes. But when Charlie meets Japanese exchange student Kenichi, her senses intensify and she experiences flashbacks, nausea, and hears unfamiliar voices in her head pulling her back to the town’s violent past.

Red Day

Main character, Charlie isn’t looking forward to the arrival of Japanese exchange student, Kenichi, especially seeing as he’ll be occupying the room that used to be her brother’s.

Charlie is determined not to like the new arrival, but they have a connection that she has no control over, and he seems to have special abilities just like her.

As their friendship develops so does the mystery and intrigue in the story, and the widening gulf between Charlie and her mother.

It’s only through exploring the past that they can possibly find some resolution to the events that have come between them, and find closure for Kenichi and his family too.

I loved the uniqueness of Charlie, the main character and the way this story transports us between different worlds in such an unusual and vibrant way.

There’s also a strong theme of family and here again we see the effects of war through the generations. Red Day not only transported me into the fascinating world of synaesthesia but also Japanese war history of which I had very little knowledge. And it depicts an Australian experience of WWII.

With its elements of fractured families, fear and prejudice, Red Day is very relevant in today’s world.


I have another book on order set in Australia in this era and also for young readers – Haywire by Claire Saxby and I’ll be interviewing Claire right here so keep your eye out for this post.

Have you read any other great books set in WW2II that you can recommend? Please let us know in the comments below.


Sad the dog – Sandy Fussell

My very talented author friend Sandy Fussell has just produced her first picture book, Sad the dog and it’s a truly extraordinary story.

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 7.37.37 pmSandy is best known for her Samurai Kids’s Series and award winning Polar Boy, and although it’s for younger readers, Sad the dog is bound to be every bit as popular.

Sandy had kindly agreed to share her picture book writing truisms with us today and I’ll be telling you more about Sad the dog after that..


I’m a junior fiction novelist by design and a picture book author by happy accident. My learning curve had more twist and turns than a Zentangle doodle.

These are the six key things I learned from writing Sad, the Dog:

  • The first draft of a picture book is lightning fast. Do not be deceived by this.
  • It is followed by more redrafts than a 40,000 word junior novel.
  • Not a single word is safe from the editing process. In a picture book there is nowhere for a word to hide.
  • Under 400 words does not mean you can’t still have a plot hole.
  • An illustrator is a picture book story’s best friend.
  • A first picture book is writerly love at first sight.


Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 7.35.45 pmSad is given as a present to a couple who don’t want him. They look after all his physical needs but give him no love or positive attention. Whenever they interact with him it’s to yell about his bad behaviour, which is brought on by the fact that he is desperate for attention.

When the Cripps move house, they leave Sad, the dog behind. This actually could turn out to be a good thing – especially when the new owners are a family with a young boy.

Sad’s story is simple, but so moving. It’s completely relatable to our modern day life when people are given pets or somehow acquire them, but don’t give them the love that they need.

This is an important story for the home or classroom on so many levels.

Sad postcardeditIt’s not just about pet care and responsibility.

Sad could easily be a child – and Sad the dog is a book that can help build empathy towards other children who may be physically or emotionally neglected.

The poignant text blend harmoniously with Tull’s soft, whimsical illustrations.

Tull has captured Sandy’s beautiful words and added a new layer of meaning to them with stunning, heartwarming illustrations.

Young readers will also relate to the kinds of activities that Sad gets yelled at for when he is really just being playful and not trying to cause  trouble.

Sandy has even provided a knitting pattern so you can make your own Sad the dog.

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 9.26.17 pm

Sad the dog is for readers aged 3+

A touching look into the life of an unloved pet and the heart-warming journey towards finding your true home.

Sad, The Dog

by Sandy Fussell and illustrated by Tull Suwannakit.

Thursday 1st October, Kids’ Book Review
Friday 2nd October, Kirsty Eager’s Blog
Saturday 3rd October, Buzz Words
Sunday 4th October, Sandy Fussell’s Blog
Monday 5th October, Susanne Gervay’s Blog
Tuesday 6th October, Boomerang Books Blog
Wednesday 7th October, The Book Chook
Thursday 8th October, Creative Kids Tales
Friday 9th October, Dee Scribe Writing
Saturday 10th October, Children’s Books Daily
Sunday 11th October, Reading Upside Down
Monday 12th October, Sandy Fussell’s Blog

The Samurai Kids’ Story with Sandy Fussell

SK Sandy 300dpiThe Story Arc that Wasn’t

Every story needs an arc – a beginning, middle and end. Inside sit surprises, conflict and complications. It’s common writing knowledge. It’s common sense. A series also needs its own story arc, an arch stretching across all the titles with hooks backwards and forwards to make the set a cohesive whole. Could a series be written without the organisational structure created by a story arch? Surely the writer would get lost? Would it still be possible to end the series with any authenticity?

Yes, no and yes. Sometimes you don’t get a choice.

White Crane, the first in the Samurai Kids series, was originally a stand-alone book. It was my first accepted manuscript. I knew nothing about narrative structure; I had never even heard the phrase ‘story arc’. I just wrote. Experience soon taught me that a while a story arc can naturally assert itself within a manuscript, when an existing book becomes a series, the organic approach is difficult to sustain.

Walker Books Australia felt White Crane had wide appeal and asked me if I could write a second book. Did I have an idea? I did, even though it wasn’t really my own. When I read White Crane to # 2 son, he asked: “Where are all the ninjas?” I was about to explain this was a book about samurai when he said: “I know. They are in Book2.” I thought Owl Ninja was the end of the Samurai Kids’ story and on the last page I left Sensei and the Kids waiting on the shore for a boat to China. I even said that Nezume would stay behind.

So when two more books were requested, I’d accidentally set the third book in China and deleted a character. What to do next? The Kids had learned samurai and ninja skills, so I decided Sensei would take them on a journey across China to learn Shaolin fighting (Shaolin Tiger) and Chinese Lin Ninja moves (Monkey Fist). The incremental nature of the series’ expansion dictated each book was a complete free-standing story. In retrospect I am glad of this. Students often have trouble getting the books in numerical order from the library and ask me whether they can read them in any sequence. I like that I can say yes, once you’ve read the first one and met all the Kids. There is a chronology but not following it doesn’t significantly impact on each individual story. Of course, now that there is a final book, it needs to be read last.

When a fifth book was mentioned and more alluded to, it became clear I needed a series arc. It was a bit late for that but perhaps I had accidentally given myself something to work with. Rereading the early books, I found it. In White Crane, I said Sensei had once committed a great wrong and that the village women believed he served penance by turning into a tengu (winged mountain goblin) at night. The Kids laughed but Niya was never quite sure because he knew Sensei’s past troubled him. This was initially a throw away piece of description. I added it simply because Sensei was too good, wise and kind. He needed a flaw. So I casually and carelessly put one in his past. I never elaborated and occasionally referred to it in the next three books.

SAMURAI KIDS A3 POSTER.inddIn Fire Lizard and Golden Bat I began to develop this thread actively. My problem was I still didn’t know what Sensei had done and that meant I didn’t know what he had to do to ultimately pt things right. I had written myself into a corner that could only be answered by the question: What could such a wonderful and wise almost magical teacher have once done that was truly, truly terrible? I didn’t know but I am an excellent researcher and I knew who to ask. I asked my readers! They gave me the answer and I started to think about how Sensei could redeem himself.

My story structure had assumed an almost mathematical element of geometric progression. Every book the kids learned a new martial art skill. One kid was the story focus with Niya, the narrator, featuring first and last. Sensei was a story teller so each book included a tale based on an existing myth or fable. Some were from Japanese culture such as the story of the snow maiden Yuki–Onna and some were classical such as Sensei’s story of the Cockroach and the Dragon which is a retelling of Aesop’s Lion and Mouse.

Every book introduced new characters that sometimes travelled into the next book. I would reach a point where I had to leave characters behind because I had too many to keep track off. This created wonderful turning points but I can’t claim that I planned them. Each book had its own villain and settings varied, as the kids travelled from Japan to China, to Korea and Cheju Island, to Cambodia and home. All these elements dictated the story.

When I reached the seventh book, Red Fox, I knew number eight would be the last. I couldn’t survive on mathematics any longer. I had run out of permutations and I was concerned that my series arch, built in retrospect, was not strong enough to hold any more titles.

I knew my final setting had to be a return to Japan. I knew Sensei had to face his past. I knew what had happened thanks to my readers but not why, or how it would be resolved. I had to shape all this in the pages of the last book and I had to make it fit seamlessly with the existing titles. I sat down and reread these carefully, making notes.

I love a snow and ice setting so I sent Sensei and the Kids to Hokkaido in northern Japan. I decided this was Sensei’s birthplace. Historically it was a time of deepening conflict between the samurai and the indigenous Ainu people. Sensei’s childhood straddled this backdrop, the tengu myth hovered and how the terrible thing happened became clear to me.

Some of it was luck but I believe much of it was about knowing my characters so well it was obvious what they would all do once I had set the circumstances. I wish I could share the end now without spoiling it for future readers. It fits perfectly even though when I started the first chapter of Black Tengu, I still didn’t know where I was going. I built the image – a castle, the snow and the great himuga brown bear. Build it and they will come, I’ve heard. They did and the story, as usual, told itself.

I would love to be a planner and to have my story arc firmly in place before I begin but I accept now that this is how I write best, building my story arc as I go, whether it’s one book or eight.


Sandy Fussells’s fabulous Samurai Kids’ series is published by Walker Books and is available at all good bookstores.

There are some great resources for teachers at the Samurai Kid’s website.

HOW TO THROW OUT YOUR 65,000 WORD STORY – And Use The BEST BITS To Build a Better One

I’m currently working on my next YA novel, Street Racer.

This novel was one of those ones that just came to me. The main character sat on my shoulder and told me his story – and I knew who he was and what he wanted from life.

The problem was, he told me his story in verse.

This wasn’t actually a problem for me, but it was for my publisher. Apparently, verse novels don’t sell.

More important than the publisher’s comment was the feedback from my teenage son. My eldest reads just about anything, but he told me he wouldn’t read a verse novel and neither would any of the boys he knew.

Street Racer was a book that I WANTED teenage boys especially to read. This story was really important to me so I had to try and rework it in prose.

I’m now on the fifth draft and it’s better – but still not working. In the transition from verse to prose I’ve had to add a lot more detail and here’s what’s happened:

  1. I’ve ended up with character ‘devices’ that don’t ring true.
  2. I’ve ended up with too much plot detail that takes the focus away from my main character.
  3. The setting needs to be more clearly established.
  4. Some of the character reactions aren’t authentic.

All these things were pointed out to me by my editor on the weekend – and she is absolutely right about every single one of them.

I read my latest draft over and over, and had it workshopped by a number of writer friends, but none of us picked these things up. Of course we’re not trained editors, but it made me wonder why.

Another author friend, Sandy Fussell and I were talking about this and I think she’s right. She says that workshoppers and the author can get distracted by beautiful writing…and I think it’s true.

If something sounds good when you read it, it can be hard to recognise the fact that it’s not actually relevant to the story or doesn’t move it along…and shouldn’t be there.

After thinking about what my editor had said and my discussions with Sandy, I realised exactly what the problem was with my story. In the transition from verse to prose, I LOST my character’s voice – and to some extent, my character.

So hard as it is,  this means discarding my 65,000 word current draft and starting again. There are lots of parts I can use. I think the plot is sound and I think that most of the other characters in the story are working well. There are some action scenes that I like that will hopefully just need a ‘tweek’ and I don’t think the dialogue needs a whole lot of work. So these are the good bits that I can use in the next draft.

But for the rest of it, I’m going right back to basics. I’ve started by doing another interview with my main character and trying to find his voice again.

I’ve asked him all sorts of questions about

  • where he lives
  • what his relationships with his family and friends are
  • what makes him happy or sad
  • how he spends a typical day
  • how he sees himself
  • how others see him
  • the best thing that could happen to him would be
  • the worst thing that could happen to him would be
  • his biggest problem
  • how he’s going to solve it
  • things/people/situations that are stopping him from getting what he wants

Fortunately, despite the fact that he’s a teenage boy, he has had plenty to say. He has let me inside his head again… and although he’s not quite sitting on my shoulder yet, he’s getting closer.

I’ve also realised there are too many issues in the current draft so I’m taking out one of the main characters to simplify the plot and strengthen the themes that will stay in the manuscript.

And I’m starting my next draft of Street Racer from a different point – from somewhere further into the action.

Have to go now. Ric is calling me. He’s impatient for me to tell his story – and get it right this time.

Happy writing



It was fun visiting Sandy Fussell’s blog today to talk about Reading to Write.

For the complete interview go to http://www.sandyfussell.blogspot.com

Here’s Sandy’s tip for us:

Dee: Do you have a tip for writers about what they should be reading to enhance their own writing skills?
I call it free range reading. Writers need to read all over the place. It’s a bit messy and unstructured but it’s fun and it will help improve not only your writing technique but the scope of your ideas. Read within your own writing genre, read what appeals to you as a reader, read what your target readers are reading, read non-fiction that catches your eye. Anything and everything. Perhaps the most important point is to read outside your comfort zone.


We’ve got lots of great writing tips coming up for you over the next few weeks.

We’ll be looking at all sorts of stuff including more about Point of View, Adding Layers to Your Writing and Good Writing Habits.

Thanks for your support for Tuesday Writing Tips. It’s fantastic!

If you have a writing question you’d like us to address, please leave it in the comments section of this post and we’ll tackle it in future Tuesday Writing Tips.

Happy Writing



I often hear writers talking about how important it is to ‘read’ – and it makes sense.
After all, it helps you to check out the competition, and also gives you an idea of what readers like and don’t like – of style, technique and so many things.

As a writer, I know how much I learn from what other people have written.

Today we’re off to visit Samurai Kids author, Sandy Fussell at www.sandyfussell.blogspot.com to talk about why writers need to be avid free-range readers.

Sandy’s going to be giving me a great tip that I’ll be posting back here when I return from my visit to her place.

I’m also excited to advise that Sandy’s new book, Jaguar Warrior is coming out on 1st March. Here’s more about it:

I hope you are enjoying the Tuesday Writing Tips Blog Tour. I know I am. I’m collecting so many great tips along the way.

Next week we’re off to visit Robyn Opie to talk about adding layers to your story.

In case you’ve missed any stops. Here are the complete tour dates.

2ND February 2010 Claire Saxbyhttp://letshavewords.blogspot.com Writing Picture Books – Leaving room for the illustrator.
9th February 2010 Dee Whitehttps://deescribewriting.wordpress.com Reviewing ‘There Was an Old Sailor’Reviewing vs Editing skills.
16th February 2010 Sandy Fussellwww.sandyfussell.blogspot.com Writers Need to be avid free range readers
23rd February 2010 Robyn Opiewww.robynopie.blogspot.com How to make your story longer – adding layers.
2ND March 2010 Angela Sundewww.angelasunde.blogspot.com More about Point of View – head hopping.

Happy writing (and reading)



Tomorrow our Tuesday Writing Tips blog tour continues. I’m very excited because we’re going to visit the home of my good friend Sandy Fussell, author of the wonderful Samurai Kids books and award winning Polar Boy.

I hope you can join us then. Sandy will talk to us about writers and reading and she’ll have special tips for us.

See you here tomorrow and I’ll give you the directions to Sandy’s place.


MONKEY FIST – by Sandy Fussell – A DeeScribe Review

Monkey Fist cover


Monkey Fist

By Sandy Fussell

Published by Walker Books Australia

ISBN: 9781921150913

When Sandy Fussell’s fourth Samurai Kids’ book, Monkey Fist arrived in my letter box this week I confess that I felt a combination of excitement and guilt.

I interviewed Sandy and main character Niya on my blog http://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com when Monkey Fist was first released on 1st August. After that intriguing interview, I couldn’t wait to sit down and read this book – that was the exciting part.

The guilt was due to the fact that my own ‘writerly’ activities had kept me so busy that I’d run out of time to read Samurai Kids number 3, Shaolin Tiger. Fortunately, as I soon discovered, it doesn’t matter whether you have read all or none of the Samurai Kids’ books, Monkey Fist is a book you can enjoy in its own right.

When Kyoko, one of the Samurai Kids is kidnapped, the others must examine their own weaknesses, and call on their greatest strengths if they are to set her free. Although Monkey Fist features the well-loved characters from the previous books, it is very much a complete adventure on it own.

There were so many things to engage the reader in Monkey Fist; the action, the endearing characters, the tension, and the visual descriptions of places and events. Sandy is meticulous in her attention to detail and Monkey Fist is another thoroughly researched book that takes the reader into an amazing world.

One of the things I find most appealing about the Samurai Kids’ books is that they are able to dispense great wisdom without talking down to, or overwhelming their readers.

Whether they have read all or none of the Samurai Kids series, children aged 8-12 (and beyond) will find Monkey Fist a gripping and thought provoking experience.



Sandy from websiteTomorrow, author Sandy Fussell will be visiting my blog http://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com to talk about her latest Samurai Kid’s book, Monkey Fist.

In a very special post, we’ll also be talking to Niya Moto, the story’s main character.

Drop in and see us tomorrow.


Monkey Fist cover

LETTERS TO LEONARDO BLOG TOUR – DAY 11 – We visit Sandy Fussell and Matt reveals some interesting things about himself.

Tomorrow we’re off to visit Sandy Fussell and Matt Hudson will be coming out of hiding. He’s going to be talking to Sandy and revealing all sorts of interesting things about himself. You can join us at http://sandyfussell.blogspot.com

And tomorrow is the ACTUAL launch of Letters to Leonardo.

Catch you in cyber space.

Dee and Matt:-)