Sunday, November 25, 2012

"The Summer Before the Storm" by Gabriele Wills Guest Post

Description of The Summer Before the Storm:
Publisher: Mindshadows, 2006
Category: Historical Fiction
Tour Dates: November, 2012
Available in: Print and Kindle, 551 pages
It’s the Age of Elegance in the summer playground of the affluent and powerful. Amid the pristine, island-dotted lakes and pine-scented forests of the Canadian wilderness, the young and carefree amuse themselves with glittering balls and friendly competitions. The summer of 1914 promises to be different when the ambitious and destitute son of a disowned heir joins his wealthy family at their cottage on Wyndwood Island. Through Jack’s introduction into the privileged life of the aristocratic Wyndhams and their illustrious social circle, he seeks opportunities and alliances to better himself, including in his schemes, his beautiful and audacious cousin, Victoria.
But their charmed lives begin to unravel with the onset of the Great War, in which many are destined to become part of the “lost generation”.
This richly textured tale takes the reader on an unforgettable journey from romantic moonlight cruises to the horrific sinking of the Lusitania, from regattas on the water to combat in the skies over France, from extravagant mansions to deadly trenches – from innocence to nationhood.
The Summer Before The Storm, the first of the epic Muskoka Trilogy, evokes a gracious, bygone era that still resonates in this legendary land of lakes.
This novel was chosen by the Muskoka Chautauqua for their esteemed Reading List in 2010.
If you are a Downton Abbey fan, chances are you will love this book and the rest of the series!
About Gabriele Wills:
The author of five highly acclaimed historical novels, Gabriele loves to recreate an era in which she can immerse herself (and readers), by weaving compelling stories around meticulously researched facts. Her characters are best friends, whom others are now calling “cherished friends”.
With degrees in the social sciences and education, Gabriele has had a varied career as an educator, literacy coordinator, and website designer, and has been an active community volunteer, particularly in heritage preservation. But writing fiction has always been her passion. Her first short story appeared in the Canadian Authors Association Winners’ Circle 5 Anthology. In 2001, she produced an award-nominated feature on CBC Radio’s “Outfront”.
Born in Germany, Gabriele emigrated to Canada as a young child. She grew up in Lindsay, Ontario, enjoyed several years in Ottawa, and currently resides in Guelph with her husband. She is the proud mother of an accomplished daughter, with whom she is collaborating on an historical YA novel. Visit her at for more information.
Gabriele’s Facebook Page:
Gabriele on Twitter:

Guest post (by the author)

My Writing Process – Guest Blog for Ruth, Nov. 27
By Gabriele Wills
(787  words)
Places inspire me, so the first time I set foot in my friend’s century-old summer home on a rugged island in the beautiful Canadian lake district of Muskoka, I was hooked. When I learned that steamships had dropped off Edwardian-gowned ladies and boater-hatted gentlemen on the dock with all their baggage for a two or three month stay, I began to envision who these privileged people might be and what adventures they could get up to.

I relish sitting down at the computer every day, wondering where my characters are going to take me. They are best friends, anxious to have their stories told, impatient when I don't have time for them. I start out with a vague idea of plot and relationships, but their strong personalities and the chemistry between them usually sideline my ideas, and they take over. In retrospect, their way always seems so natural and inevitable, and I'm delighted to give them free rein.

So writing is a daily adventure. It’s travel into a different time and place. It’s meeting new characters I hadn’t even thought of, but who just introduce themselves, fit in, and sometimes become essential to the story. It’s interacting with real people, pre-eminent in their day, like Nancy Astor, Lord Beaverbrook, the Prince of Wales, and a host of others.

Because I’m a stickler about getting the facts right, research is a huge part of my work. For my three “Muskoka Novels”, The Summer Before The Storm, Elusive Dawn, and Under the Moon, I read about 250 books, consulted hundreds of websites, visited museums, WW1 battlefields and cemeteries, and joined three war forums, where I asked experts about obscure facts I couldn’t find anywhere else.
I’m particularly fascinated by the odd, intriguing - often unbelievable - bits of social history, which I like to incorporate in my novels. When I discovered that the Duchess of Westminster set up a hospital in her villa at Le Touquet on the French coast, I couldn’t resist using this tantalizing fact, because in the early days of the war, she and her friends would dress in full evening regalia, including diamond tiaras, to greet the incoming wounded whatever time of day. "It's the least we can do to cheer up the men," the Duchess would say, her wolfhound at her side. Notes at the end of my novels assure readers that these bizarre events are true.
One of the perks of research is travel. You can only get so much from books, photos, and Google Earth. Writing about the Calais area of the French coast, where my heroine drives an ambulance, I needed to actually see the imposing cliffs at Cap Blanc-Nez, drive the winding, hilly roads, feel the gale-force winds sandpaper my skin. The hotel where my family and I stayed in Wimereux was little changed from the turn of the last century, so some characters also stay there.  At the military cemetery nearby, we visited Lt.-Col. John McCrae’s grave. The doctor was the author of the famous poem “In Flanders Fields”, and since characters work with him, they – and we - attend his funeral.

You can really connect with the past on a visceral level when you stroll through the vast Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries, like the one at Etaples with 11,000 graves, where one of my characters also lies. Reading the ages on the tombstones is heartbreaking - they are mostly young men and a few women who never had much of a chance at life. At the Canadian Vimy Ridge Memorial, you can wander through preserved trenches and the damp, claustrophobic tunnels where the men lived. Danger signs are posted, restricting visitors to designated paths, because there is still one unexploded shell for every square metre of the land that has been left undisturbed since the war.

In Ypres (now Ieper) Belgium, you’ll find it difficult not to shed tears when The Last Post is played during the nightly ceremony at the Menin Gate, where 55,000 names of those Allied troops who have no known grave are inscribed. Aside from a few years during WW2, this has been taking place every evening since 1928!

In Paris we dined at Les Deux Magots, a favourite café of writers in the 1920s, where one of my characters has a drink with the young and ambitious Ernest Hemingway. On the Riviera, we discovered the perfect location for a fictional villa, and waded on a beach where Picasso and the notorious Fitzgeralds – Scott and Zelda – had bathed.

Once I have a rich background of facts, my passion is to immerse readers in this bygone world through a compelling story played out by engaging characters. I can’t think of a more delightful job!

Come back tomorrow for a review/giveaway.  And follow the entire tour here.  I know I have giveaway scheduled for today, but it will work better for tomorrow.  


  1. Thanks for taking part in the tour. I'm looking forward to reading your review.

  2. Thank you for your interest, and this opportunity to talk about my work!
    Gabriele Wills


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