Siobhan, aged 50, explains: “An American in Paris is dual timeline novel, featuring Sage, a social media influencer in crisis, and Florence, an American journalist living in Paris during the German occupation in World War Two who joins the resistance.
“The novel unravels the mystery of how the two women are linked and shows how lessons and examples from the past can help us navigate the challenges of today. As soon as I started researching World War Two, I was blown away by the bravery of the men and women who worked for the resistance in France and I was fascinated by the women who worked for the SOE being parachuted into France and risking everything to work undercover and help defeat the Nazis. The more I researched, the more I was struck by the contrast between these unsung heroes and our current celebrity culture. I thought it would be interesting to feature a modern-day celebrity influencer who has become completely disillusioned with her life discovering that she has a connection to one of the unsung heroines of the Second World War.
“I wanted to show her growth as a character as she learns about people who, in spite of the terrible hardships they faced, lived a life full of purpose and meaning. It is a stand-alone but my second historical novel, set during the London Blitz in World War Two, is being published by Bookouture in April.
“Although this is my first historical novel, I’ve had over 30 books published previously. I started out writing fiction and non-fiction for adults, then after four books, I got dropped by my publisher and thought that my career was dead in the water.
“I couldn’t shake the writing bug though, and in 2010 I wrote and self-published a novel for young adults called Dear Dylan. I found self-publishing a really liberating experience as I didn’t have to worry about keeping an agent or publisher happy and was able to write from the heart about things that really mattered to me.
“To my shock and delight, Dear Dylan won a national book award and ended up going to auction with eight publishers bidding for it.
“This changed everything for me and for the past ten years I’ve written many books for young adults and children. When I was a kid my parents didn’t have a TV as they thought it was bad for a child’s imagination. Although I hated them for it at the time, as I was the only one in my school who didn’t know what was going in in Grange Hill or who had played on Top of the Pops, I have to now grudgingly admit that they did me a huge favour.
“With no TV in the house, and in the days before the internet and mobile phones, I was faced with a stark choice – either I learned to love reading or died of boredom! So I became an avid bookworm and it wasn’t long before my love of reading grew into a love for writing and I dreamed of one day having a shelf of books that I had written.
“At 18, I got a place at uni to study English literature but suffered a massive crisis of confidence when I realised what a middle-class world publishing was. I grew up on a council estate and I felt that I’d never be able to make it as a writer so I dropped out of uni and ended up working in the complaints department for a frozen food company, where the only thing I got to write were grovelling apology letters! Thankfully, this gave me the incentive to rekindle my book writing dream, and I wrote my first novel when I was on maternity leave with my son, teaching myself how to write as I went along!”