Interview with Suzy Henderson, author of “The Beauty Shop”

Suzy Henderson
Suzy Henderson

I’m delighted to host Suzy Henderson, the author of “The Beauty Shop” on the Author Spotlight on my blog today. Thank you so much for the interview, Suzy!

My first question is what sparked your interest in World War II?

When I was a child I learned that my grandmother had served in WW2 as a WAAF, so I always knew there was a family connection, but it wasn’t until later in my twenties when I became interested. I saw an old photograph of my gran in her uniform, and it was as if someone flicked a switch somewhere in my mind. Following many hours of genealogy, I discovered more about our family including more world war connections, and I was hooked. As a direct result, my reading habits changed as I found myself instantly drawn to all world war fiction.

What I saw in the real story of the Guinea Pig Club, which features in my novel, was how men suffered so much and yet there was always a glimmer of light to which they gravitated. Whether they found the light themselves or whether it was offered,  it was always there, and the men of the Guinea Pig Club grasped it and held on.

As a club, they were a tight-knit bunch, and the camaraderie helped them through their recovery stages. The war had almost finished them, but with one another, McIndoe’s help and his team, they rose. It made me think of the symbolic phoenix rising from the ashes.

Having gone through a long recovery myself recently, I was moved by your understanding of the emotional and psychological strain a long healing process places on wound victims. Do you perhaps have a background in the medical field?

It’s interesting that you picked up on that – yes, I do. I trained to be a nurse first of all and qualified in 1991. Afterwards, I trained to be a midwife, although I no longer practice. My experience covers babies all the way through to the elderly, from birth to the end of life and much more in between. The medical background was useful purely for information purposes, but to gain any real understanding, personal accounts of veterans were crucial.

If your book were made into a movie, which actors could you see playing Mac, Stella, and Archie?

I’ve been asked this question before and have given it a lot of thought and I still come back to the same actors. For me, Henry Cavill would be Mac, with Saoirse Ronan as Stella. Colin Firth would be fabulous as Archie, although I also think that Tom Hanks would shine in the role – this is a difficult one so I wonder what readers think.

Are there other historical periods that capture your imagination? What are you working on currently?

I’m writing the next book which is also set during WW2, only this time the focus is on a woman – a real woman – and the reader will find themselves in France. I’ve wanted to tell her story for some time now, so I’m thrilled to be writing about her finally. She’s such a fascinating woman, and the story follows her through the war years, but also looks back at her earlier life, and the years leading up to WW2. I won’t say too much just yet, but I hope to release this later this year, all being well.

You mentioned other historical periods – well, it just so happens that I’ve always held a fascination for the Tudors, in particular, Henry VIII. I’m not sure if I see myself following any trails there as yet and I have a few friends who currently do so, and they write marvellous novels. However, I may retreat a little further to World War One perhaps, and I may just have a wander through the twenties and early thirties – I have some ideas forming which I may explore.

What are some of your other hobbies?

Time is precious when writing, and I have to make an enormous effort to remove myself from the house and go out and do something different, but just lately I’m enjoying walking & hiking around the lakes and hills here in my home county of Cumbria. I also love taking photographs, something which is becoming a passion of mine. Occasionally I go swimming and cycling too.

Thank you so much for your time today, Suzy! Here’s how readers can find out more about Suzy Henderson’s work:

The universal buy  link is:

Suzy Henderson’s Bio:

Suzy Henderson was born in the North of England and initially pursued a career in healthcare, specialising as a midwife. Years later, having left her chosen profession, she embarked upon a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing at The Open University.

That was the beginning of a new life journey, rekindling her love of writing and passion for history. With an obsession for military and aviation history, she began to write.

It was an old black and white photograph of her grandmother in her WAAF service uniform that caught Suzy’s imagination many years ago. Her grandmother never spoke of her war service and died in 1980, taking her stories with her. When Suzy decided to research her family history and her grandmother’s war service, things spiralled from there. Stories came to light, little-known stories and tragedies and it is such discoveries that inform her writing today.

Having relocated to North Cumbria, she has the Pennines and the Scottish Borders in sight and finally feels at home. Suzy is a member of the Historical Novel Society and her debut novel, “The Beauty Shop” was released in November 2016.

Dear readers, here is a synopsis of “The Beauty Shop” by Suzy Henderson:

England, 1942. After three years of WWII, Britain is showing the scars. But in this darkest of days, three lives intertwine, changing their destinies and those of many more.

Dr Archibald McIndoe, a New Zealand plastic surgeon with unorthodox methods, is on a mission to treat and rehabilitate badly burned airmen – their bodies and souls. With the camaraderie and support of the Guinea Pig Club, his boys battle to overcome disfigurement, pain, and prejudice to learn to live again.

John ‘Mac’ Mackenzie of the US Air Force is aware of the odds. He has one chance in five of surviving the war. Flying bombing missions through hell and back, he’s fighting more than the Luftwaffe. Fear and doubt stalk him on the ground and in the air, and he’s torn between his duty and his conscience.

Shy, decent and sensible Stella Charlton’s future seems certain until war breaks out. As a new recruit to the WAAF, she meets an American pilot on New Year’s Eve. After just one dance, she falls head over heels for the handsome airman. But when he survives a crash, she realises her own battle has only just begun.

Based on a true story, “The Beauty Shop” is a moving tale of love, compassion, and determination against a backdrop of wartime tragedy.


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