Kate Quinn, the author of the endless bestseller The Alice Network, has taken some time to answer some pressing questions about her writing methods and her unputdownable historical fiction novel.
The Alice Network tells the story of two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I, and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947. The women are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.
What was your earliest ambition? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a writer–I wrote my first short story at seven, and my first novel (absolutely terrible!) at ten. I dreamed of other careers–Olympic equestrienne, professor of literature, opera singer–but throughout all the other plans, I was always writing.
What is the most important thing you want to deliver to readers?
The idea that women throughout history have accomplished astounding feats of courage and skill, and they deserve to be remembered so they may continue to inspire women today. It might sound trite, but I believe that with everything in me.
What drives you on?
The desire to write, pure and simple. If I never managed to publish a single word, I’d still be writing books for my own pleasure and putting them in drawers.
What kind of research was involved in creating THE ALICE NETWORK?
Lots and lots and lots of reading! From biographies and autobiographies to old letters written in occupied France during World War I to classic car manuals, I read everything I could get my hands on that would help create that world and make it real. I wasn’t able to travel for this book and retrace my characters’ footsteps–I dearly wanted to–but I pored over photographs and maps so I could track their route and visualize it in my head like a movie.
What was the most memorable thing that happened to you while writing the book?
A dear friend who was a native French speaker helped me with my French translations while I was writing, and I knew the French side of her family had come from the Lille region where so much of the book is set. Her French cousins were going through the letters in their family archives at the time, and at some point we were dumbfounded to realize that there were letters proving her great-great uncle and aunts knew several of the real Alice Network members–and were almost certainly involved in the network themselves! With permission of the family, I included my friend’s great-great-uncle and aunt in the novel as very minor characters (look for a certain bookseller and his young sister) and was allowed to quote from the beautiful family letters as well. It was a wonderful bit of serendipity.
What was the hardest thing in writing the book?
Jumping to the 20th century after writing four novels set in ancient Rome and two set in Renaissance Italy was certainly a stretch! Contemplating all the research I needed to do to get comfortable in a new historical period felt a bit like being tossed in the deep end of a swimming pool.