An Okotoks author recently released a novel based loosely on the life of her grandmother.

Debbie Sands' second and latest book, Tropical Rose, draws inspiration from her maternal grandmother Thérèse.

Sands says during the pandemic, she decided to start work on another book, this time fictional, but feared she'd lost the imagination that fuelled her writing when she was younger.

Her first book, A Moth to the Flame, was released in 2016 and was based on the life of her daughter Amy.

A friend of hers suggested she take inspiration from another inspirational figure in her life.

"I had a French grandmother who grew up on a tropical colonial island, and she grew up with servants, lived on a big plantation, met my grandfather who was an English soldier, and he brought her to England, which is cold and wet in the winter. She raised a family there, did all her own housework, and looked after his old auntie, and was a very resilient and strong woman," says Sands.

Sands describes the novel as a work of historical fiction, though much of it is based on events in the life of her grandmother.

Over the years she had accumulated stories of Thérèse's life from relatives, a few of which are woven into the narrative.

That includes Thérèse's time in France during World War II.

"When my mother died, we were going through her apartment and we found a letter addressed to my grandmother from the French president thanking her for her service to France, I thought 'Oh, I can do something with that,'" says Sands.

Information on Thérèse's time in France is sparse, leaving plenty of room for Sands to fill in the gaps.

By the end, she shed any pretense that she'd lost her creativity with age.

"I guess I should've given myself more credit for still having some imagination."

She conducted some research into World War II in order to retain historical accuracy, with some help from her husband Ed.

"I thought I knew a lot about World War II from listening to my parents talking, but I had to do quite a bit of research. Then Ed edited it as well, he did some geographical and historical edits."

She also poured some time into learning about Mauritius, the island country where Thérèse grew up.

Sands set a goal of working on the book each Tuesday morning and finished the book in about two years. After a year of working with the publisher and editors, the book was released in October.

It's available at Yooneek Books in Okotoks, and Sands is hosting a launch and signing event at the Okotoks Public Library this Saturday, November 25, at 2 p.m.

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