A local writer and former Pioneer publisher’s novel on a woman’s work in World War Two has landed a significant publishing contract.
Invermere’s Elinor Florence, who owned and published The Pioneer from 2004 to 2010, has signed a contract for her first novel with Dundurn Press of Toronto.
Bird’s Eye View is about a young Canadian woman who is working for a weekly newspaper when World War II breaks out. She joins the British Women’s Air Force and becomes an interpreter of aerial photographs, searching for bomb targets on the continent through her magnifying glass.
“I finished the first draft in 2000, although I was very busy working and raising four children,” Elinor said. “Like many first novels, it ended up in a shoebox. But last year I pulled it out again, revised it and sent it off to Dundurn Press.”
“Last winter, I re-read it and thought there was some value in it,” she added. “One big change was the entire first draft was in third person; I decided it was better in first person. I think that was a big improvement.”
Ms. Florence said inspiration to write the novel came in the form of an old black and white photo in a magazine of a woman in a British Air Force uniform bent over a set of aerial photographs.
“There was no other way to find out what the Germans were up to except for spying on them from the sky,” she said.
Through a linear series of photos taken by British spy planes, aerial photo interpreters — both men and women — were able to use stereo viewing glasses to see a three-dimensional view from an airplane’s perspective.
Prior to a release of wartime records by British Intelligence in 1995, there were only “some very sketchy accounts of women in this role,” said Ms. Florence, who began writing the book in 1997.
“The history books are generally written by men, so I thought it was important to tell the story of World War II through the eyes of a woman,” she said.
During her background research she interviewed several area residents, including bomber pilot Ed Kluczny.
Others have since passed away – pilots Leo Richer, Arthur Bradford, Duncan McIntosh and Art Wilks; and women’s air force veterans Lou Marr and Nancy Tegart.
“My whole family was very involved in the war effort. My father, who died in 2003, served in the Royal Canadian Air Force; and my mother June Florence, who lives here in Invermere, volunteered on the home front,” she said.
This is Ms. Florence’s first foray into fiction. She began her journalism career at her hometown newspaper in North Battleford, then went on to the Western Producer in Saskatoon, the Red Deer Advocate, the Winnipeg Sun and the Vancouver Province (as it was then called) before moving to Invermere with her family in 1996. She was a regular writer for Reader’s Digest from 1997 to 2004.
“Unlike newspapers, the book publishing industry moves very slowly,” she said. “Bird’s Eye View, both print and digital versions, will be released in fall 2014.”
Readers interested in finding out more can reach Ms. Florence at