MM: What drew you to post–World War I as a landscape for these stories?
JW: On a personal level, my paternal grandfather was severely wounded in the Battle of the Somme in 1916: he was shell-shocked and gassed. As a child I saw in him an old man who still suffered from those wounds, and indeed, he was still removing shrapnel splinters from his legs when he died at age 77. My maternal grandmother was partially blinded in an explosion at the munitions factory where she was working during the Great War, and some of the girls working alongside her were killed. I know this has been said many times by many writers, but I am really interested in how ordinary people are affected by the events of their time.
MM: There are many titles in the Maisie Dobbs series — did you start off with a wealth of ideas, or do they come one by one?
JW: When I first came up with the idea for Maisie Dobbs [the first book in the series], I did not have ideas for other books. However, as I continued to write, certain scenes were coming to me that I knew did not fit the story. Instead of ignoring them, I simply described the scene in a couple of paragraphs, and I stuck them in a file on my computer entitled “Fragments,” which became the bare bones of quite a few more stories in the life of Maisie Dobbs. The history of the Great War, and especially the way it impacted the lives of women in Britain at that time, has always been of interest to me.
MM: What excites you most about the newest installment? What do you think will excite readers?
JW: I found Journey to Munich compelling to write on several levels, first because it was inspired by the true story of a man my late mother worked for during the Second World War. In Journey to Munich, Maisie Dobbs — a woman who gave so much in the years 1914–1918 — is in the midst of the preparations for another war. She is in a position to see it coming
Local Page Turners
by Jacqueline Winspear (San Anselmo), Harper, $26.99. In 1938, the Nazi SS agrees to release an imprisoned British industrialist — but only if a family member comes to retrieve him. Maisie Dobbs must pass as his daughter to ensure his release. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera’s Mystery Writers Conference, July 28–31.
by Peggy Orenstein (Berkeley), Harper, $26.99. With insights gleaned from interviews with young women, academics, sociologists and psychologists, and a compassionate, nuanced perspective, journalist Peggy Orenstein vividly describes how young women experience our current sexual culture. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera April 19, 7 p.m.
by Adam Hochschild (Berkeley), Houghton Mifflin, $30. During the Spanish Civil War, nearly 3,000 Americans headed to Spain to voluntarily join the fight against Francisco Franco’s fascist regime. Infused with captivating historical detail, Adam Hochschild’s unique exploration of this brutal war depicts the diverse experiences of a dozen individuals involved in the conflict. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera April 26, 7 p.m.
by Aileen Ah-Tye (San Francisco), Counterpoint LLC, $30. Inspired by the expressive, atmospheric language with which revered food writer M.F.K. Fisher described Provence, photojournalist Aileen Ah-Tye set out to photograph the south of France through the author’s eyes. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera April 10, 4 p.m.
Jungle of Stone: The True Story of Two Men, Their Extraordinary Journey, and the Discovery of the Lost Civilization of the Maya
by William Carlsen (San Francisco), William Morrow & Company, $28.99. In 1839, when U.S. special ambassador to Central America John Lloyd Stephens and British draftsman Frederick Catherwood embarked on a journey through the mysterious jungles of the Yucatan, the impressive Maya ruins they found revealed the legacy of a highly sophisticated culture with a rich yet unknown history. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera April 28, 7 p.m.