Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Thursday News: Author’s rights to everyone else’s life; Real life female...

I’d think twice about having an author in my house. It seems that for some authors, their acquaintances and friends are merely fodder for any novel. I’ve often thought being friends with a comedian would be bad. Maybe underneath Tenis’ snark is a “buyer beware” warning. One of the commenters suggested that maybe the host should have done a better job researching who was staying at their home in order to avoid such problems in the future.

Khan joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force as a wireless operator, and was recruited by the SOE in 1942. She was sent back to Paris a year later. There, under the codename Madeleine, she sent vital messages to London while trying to evade the Germans. In October 1943, she was arrested and tortured, but she refused to talk. In September 1944, at Dachau, she was executed by the SS. She was 30.

As Jayne said in her email, why aren’t these being written about in romance novels? Code Name Verity is a story of a young female spy, born to privilege but endures immeasurable torture and suffering when captured. There is an appetite for well told stories about female heroines. Huffington Post

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Christine M.
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 06:38:20

    Well, no one will ever be able to accuse Jordan’s widow of making a decision based on revenues cos, obviously, windowing is bad for business.

  2. Carolyne
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 07:16:16

    I’ve read more than a few stories about female spies during WWII, often with very well-researched details, and some of them certainly what could be called Romance, in…dare I say it?…fan fiction. Old school stuff, not online. Come to think of it, that’s probably why I haven’t been very intrigued Codename Verity, since I’ve read similar and didn’t feel a pressing need for another. But I can see how Verity might whet readers’ appetites.

    I wonder if this is a case where filing off the serial numbers, or at least extracting and running with the original elements, and publishing the stories to a wider audience might be a good thing for an underserved topic. I also wonder whether the “pulled to publish” stigma would be as great for something from pre-Internet fanfic archive days.

  3. Cindy
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 07:37:26

    I don’t understand windowing anyway…as long as the product is selling and the publisher and author are making money, does it really matter which format is sold?

  4. Christine M.
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 07:43:38

    @Cindy: I think it’s because the publisher and the author make, in theory, more money out of the sale of a hardcover book than an ebook. Or something along those lines.

  5. Donna Thorland
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 07:52:59

    “As Jayne said in her email, why aren’t these being written about in romance novels?”

    There’s a long history of ignoring womens’ contribution to espionage. Lydia Barrington Darragh saved Washington’s army from destruction during the winter of 1777, but she isn’t in any American History textbooks and you won’t hear her name at Valley Forge or Independence Hall. Her daughters tried to tell her story in the 19th century, but it was discounted by historians as implausible…until a Continental officer’s diary surfaced in the 20th century confirming her tale:

    When I found Lydia, I couldn’t believe no one had written about her before.

  6. Carolyne
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 08:25:05

    @Donna: is Lydia related to John Darragh? A children’s publisher recently put out a (not really great) graphic novel about him and his spying adventures. He’s a child at the time, so maybe her son? I must needs investigate.

    I’m sure there were lots of female spies slipping even further under the radar than male spies throughout history.

  7. Brian
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 08:32:45

    @Cindy: You wouldn’t think the format would matter so much anymore, but Harriet McDougal (Jordan’s widow) wants it this way because she feels the book might not be on all the “best seller” lists if there is an eBook at the same time. She has said she’s less concerned about the money than her husbands legacy. Now that there are eBook and combined best seller lists I’m not sure it’s much of a concern, but this all started with the first of the three Sanderson WoT books came out in 2009 I don’t think the lists had been combined yet. All three have been windowed and I think that even though a lot has changed since the first one they’re all sticking with what was decided back before the first one came out.

    Of course the question now is does this strategy, which might have accomplished it’s goal in 2009, work in 2013 or will it actually hinder the book being a “best seller”.

  8. Emily
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 08:41:11

    Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks is an excellent novel of a female spy sent by the British to France. She’s really setting out to find her RAF boyfriend whose plane was shot down somewhere in France. It’s gut-wrenching and dark but really, really good.

  9. Donna Thorland
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 08:44:13


    I am sorry to say that the graphic novel is part of the tradition of writing women out of history. It appropriates Lydia’s story and gives it to her son. I hate that things like this are published for children. My version of Lydia is decidedly fictional–but at least she’s a woman!

  10. Jessica D
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 09:02:34

    I wish I knew who the editors were who were willing to publish stories about women spies. My contemporary-set spy-v.-spy romance just won a the RS category in a major RWA contest, but the final round editor told me, essentially, to tone the heroine’s prowess down and beef the hero’s prowess up. It cemented my decision to revise it as a mainstream thriller and try to publish it outside the romance market. I think romance readers want these stories, but editors don’t know how to sell them.

  11. Karenmc
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 09:32:56

    @Emily: The movie version of Charlotte Gray, starring Cate Blanchett, is good. I don’t know how closely it follows the book, but the acting is quite fine and it was filmed on location in France.

  12. Laura Florand
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 09:40:42

    @Jessica D: OMG, don’t do it! Don’t tone it down. That drives me ballistic. And for crying out loud, if there’s a market for Kate Daniels and her ilk in paranormal, there’s a market for strong women elsewhere, including in contemporary romance. Just forge ahead and also…never, ever listen to one person trying to argue you out of your story. If a lot, lot, lot of people do…then give it some thought. (This is not the same as not listening if someone says this scene is slow or that someone’s motivation isn’t clear. That’s very different from changing the real, underlying story. Or characters! The characters ARE the story. I hate it when I hear about someone changing their characters because someone else didn’t like them.)

  13. Laura Florand
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 09:50:31

    There’s quite a lot of work on female Résistance fighters, spies, etc., during World War II. This is not my field, and most of what I’m thinking of is in French, so I don’t know, maybe there’s not as much as I assume in English? Probably someone else on here knows.

    I would say, though, that some of these true stories can be very cruel to read about. When I work on texts and films that came out of World War II, it can be very painful. People got tortured to death in order to save small children…and we all know how many small children didn’t get saved. I can understand readers being reluctant to immerse themselves in that degree of pain, when they would just like to curl up and escape for a while. It really depends on the reader.

  14. kiahzoe
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 10:06:20

    I’m wondering if the movie Zero Dark Thirty will have an effect. I saw the movie with several female friends and we all came away with a fascination of the woman that Jessica Chastain’s character is based on. And I don’t think we’re alone in wondering. Slate has an article about the possible real people the characters are based on:

    And in print work recently there have been a small slew of WWII female spy books – most in mystery or straight fiction rather then romance, but I’m hoping romance will follow suit.

  15. library addict
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 10:27:28

    Windowing makes no sense. If someone wants the ebook they aren’t going to buy the hardcover, period. And windowing means you’re putting all of your eggs in one basket trying to make only the hardcover list as opposed to trying to make all three: the hardcover, digital, and combined lists.

    I would read about female spies. It’s a shame TPTB try (and sadly seem to succeed) at reducing/removing women’s roles in history.

  16. Moriah Jovan
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 10:38:11

    @Jessica D:

    tone the heroine’s prowess down and beef the hero’s prowess up

    It’s Da Rulez.

    And this is one HUGE reason people self-publish. But we all knew that.

  17. Jessica D
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 11:22:13

    @Laura Florand: Oh, definitely not toning it down. Probably aiming at different (i.e., non-romance) publishers, though. :)

    @Moirah Jovan: Da Rulez. Yeah. Never been a big fan.

  18. Moriah Jovan
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 11:27:57

    @Jessica D: But you know exactly what I’m talking about. I really admire you for going to a publisher outside romance. I’d have never thought to do that.

  19. Kim in Hawaii
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 11:55:45

    Tracey Devlyn’s debut novel, A LADY’S REVENGE, featured a lady spy who was tortured by Napoleon’s henchmen. It was an intense book for a Regency historical, but still enjoyable.

  20. Helen
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 12:45:05

    I remember a movie that I LOVED from the early 90’s Shining Through with Michael Douglas and Melanie Griffith. It sent me on a spy book glom. I remember thinking at the time that it was a shame the books I was able to find did not portray strong female spy characters like the one Melanie Griffith played. I gave up on the genre after a year or so. Just a couple of years ago when the Julie and Julia movie came out my interest was renewed but I still had the same poor luck finding novels in the genre that portrayed interesting female protagonists.

  21. cleo
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 13:28:53

    My favorite novel about women (spies and others) during WWII is Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy. It’s not a romance, although there are several romances in it (some with heas, some not, mostly m/f with one f/f). There are many story lines and one of them includes female spies – or at least women in the French Resistance, which I count as spies. It tells the interconnected stories of several women (and some men iirc) throughout the war – there’s a Jewish woman in the French Resistance (her father is a Zionist, iirc), her younger sister who’s sent to stay with relatives in Detroit, a Jewish American journalist and romance novelist who writes war propaganda, an American woman pilot, an American man in military intelligence tracking the Japanese navy, and others. It’s a wonderful, sweeping historical novel that completely absorbed me, but it’s really wrenching at points, because some really bad things happen to the characters.

  22. Lynnd
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 13:42:56

    @Jessica D: I’m with others who say don’t tone it down! I have pretty much stopped reading contemporary romantic suspense published by mainstream publishers because the prowess of the heroines is so toned down that more often than not they come across as complete nit wits. Given the success of kick-ass heroines in paranormal, why don’t editors and publishers understand that there is a mrket for that in hisotricals and contemporaries as well.

    It will be interesting to see how the windowing of Sanderson’s book affects overall sales. I expect that they will lose many ebook sales to pirates because of the windowing of the ebook. From the comments I have heard, there are a number of people who are pretty angry about this decision.

  23. Erin Satie
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 14:07:44

    Both Joanna Bourne and Lauren Willig write female spies in the Napoleonic era. Both great authors, too.

  24. CHH
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 14:31:58

    I’m currently reading Julia Gregson’s Jasmine Nights which is set during WWII about a singer who is sent to Africa to entertain the troops and is recruited to be a spy. It’s historical fiction more than romance but it appears there will be some since the hotshot pilot she meets in the opening chapter follows her to Africa. I haven’t finished the book so I have no idea if they have an HEA.

  25. Evangeline Holland
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 16:10:18

    @CHH: They do ;)

    On the topic of female spies, we don’t even see them very often in today’s films or TV. Last year, I devoured an 80s BBC series called “Wish Me Luck” that was based on the lives of female SOE agents in Vichy France. I believe there was a series that aired slightly prior to WML called “Tenko,” and that was about female POWs in the…Pacific…I want to say. And before then, the Golden Age of Hollywood always loved a good spy thriller or a female-oriented war film (1943’s Cry Havoc comes to mind).

    Perhaps the female spy is too entwined with sexuality and the chance that it will make the male protagonist seem “weak” or not “alpha” enough to truly work in the romance genre. And if there is an appetite for these types of heroines, they’ll usually be published in mainstream historical fiction, not romance. :/

  26. Estara
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 16:30:41

    For everyone looking for some English info about women spies in the War, Elizabeth Wein did a guest post on her research there when CNV launched in the UK in February. There are links and names here:

  27. Susan
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 18:48:52

    Ugh. Shining Through ranks right up near the top of worst ever movie adaptations. Susan Isaacs’s book was pretty darn good, but the screenplay and some truly terrible acting ruined the story.

    Ah, Tenko! Loved that series. ( I have it on DVD; unfortunately, it’s a non-US version so I can’t watch it. Now that they’re so inexpensive, I’ve been seriously thinking about getting a universal DVD player so I can watch Tenko and some of the other great series/movies not available in the US.) It’s well worth watching if you can get your hands on it. But, a word of warning: Tenko is not a spy story; it’s more a prisoner-of-war-story along the lines of A Town Like Alice or Empire of the Sun.

  28. sao
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 22:51:52


    Most DVD players have a cheat code that can be found on-line to turn them into a universal player. Google cheat code and your DVD make and model. In E. Europe, at least, universal DVD players are region-encoded for whatever stupid region they stuck us in and the instructions tell you how to do this. This is because actually manufacturing different models for all the different regions is a pain. Technically, it is illegal to fix your DVD player or, sometimes, to watch your legitimately purchased DVDs in the “wrong” country. You can decide for yourself if laws designed to ensure Hollywood’s profits that leave you as collateral damage are worth upholding.

    Apple, which is very careful to keep prices high, has some of the DVD region encoding in software, some in firmware. You are never advised to try and flash your firmware. There are programs that get around it if your Mac CD/DVD drive maxed out its lifetime region changes (a measly 5, meaning if you have DVDs for more than one region, you can’t watch them interchangeably). The Apple Store in Russia will put them on your computer for you, to “repair” your “broken” DVD drive, whether or not this is sanctioned by Apple, Inc, is not something I asked.

  29. Susan
    Jan 18, 2013 @ 02:15:11

    @sao: Many thanks for this info!


    I wasn’t going to comment on the first piece about the author/bad book, thing but it’s continuing to eat at my craw.

    As a favor to a family member, you let a stranger stay in your home at an inconvenient time for you. In return, the stranger (author) abuses your hospitality and privacy by writing about you using your real name, all without your permission. (Forget about the perceived crappiness of the book; that’s irrelevant.) The family member you did the favor for–as well as some snide ass named Cory Tennis–think it’s no big deal and, in fact, that you’re the one being a jerk or a fool.

    Maybe I’m just sadly disconnected from reality, but in what universe is this OK? Forget whether it’s legal or ethical, is there really no such thing as basic good manners anymore? Why would you treat someone who showed you kindness and hospitality in such a way? I mean, there’s nothing that prevents me from standing on the street corner and picking my nose in public, but does that mean I should? Just because you can get away with something doesn’t mean you should do it.

    I know, I know–I’m overreacting. This just made me incredibly sad for some reason.

  30. Patricia Briggs
    Jan 18, 2013 @ 02:37:51

    Shining Through was a terrific movie based on the book by Susan Isaac’s novel of the same name. Highly recommend the book, too.

    Nita Abrams wrote several spy-type books set in the Napoleonic era all loosely set around an Anglo-Jewish family. I enjoyed them very much and, as I recall, they were best read in order beginning with A Question of Honor.

    The Modesty Blaise novels by Peter O’Donnell (better know to romance readers as Madeline Brent) were very James Bondish (something, I think, he was trying for).

    A list of real life American women spies should include Virginia Hall (and her wooden leg Cuthbert).


  31. Donna Thorland
    Jan 18, 2013 @ 06:36:54

    A terrific online exhibit about American women in espionage here:

  32. Kris Bock
    Jan 18, 2013 @ 17:45:23

    That article on spies is going into my idea document on women’s spies. (Doesn’t everyone have one of those?) Thanks for all the new resources in the comments, too! One of these days I’ll get around to actually writing a spy story.

    There’s a fun autobiographical series by Aline, Countess of Romanones, that starts with The Spy Wore Red, chronicling her undercover work during WWII and later.

  33. SonomaLass
    Jan 19, 2013 @ 02:54:53

    There’s a female spy in Pam Jenoff’s upcoming post-WWI book, The Ambassador’s Daughter. A secondary character, but fascinating.

    I hate windowing! But I have to admit hat I know several readers (not me) who would have preferred digital, but they bought the hardback because they wanted the book right away.

%d bloggers like this: