Tag: writing historical fiction

Stepping into History

Stepping into History

Stepping into history.

Getting immersed in the culture and times of a historical period can involve a lot of exhausting research but also immense fun. The trick is to choose a time that really interests you. Where would you go if you could time travel? Then stepping into history is fun. Otherwise, it’s just plain hard work. For me, I don’t really fancy the history before the Twentieth Century, so I am not really a long-ago history person but a modern history person. Even modern history has a huge scope.

The time period 1900 onwards is my time. Stepping into history and writing historical fiction started with my sister embracing Ancestry.com and finding some stuff about our grandparents. Reluctantly I read this stuff when bored on a rainy week at a seaside holiday resort and found there were gaps and silences about my granny. Why did she do this or that? Like hop on a boat alone to go to Australia from London just a few months after the sinking of the Titanic? I mean there are icebergs in the Indian Ocean too. Why too are there no photos of her?

A dalliance with ideas

This along with the ever-fascinating topic of the Titanic were enough to get me going. But I never planned a book, just a dalliance with ideas about my granny’s motivations on a rainy afternoon. Then the long sinuous arm of history grabbed me and sucked me down along the cob-webbed tunnels into the past, not so distant, but still a century ago. Off I went back to 1905 and my grandmother’s youth. She worked in a bakery in Hampstead Heath, London with an Elsie and a Johnny. This explained my mother’s name, Elsie and my uncle Johnny. Tick, Tick. Clever me.

The family were musical. Great grandfather was a piano journeyman. This term is interesting. I thought it meant travelling men but the journey bit comes from the French word journee meaning a day’s work. But I think my great grandfather still went about the London tuning pianos. At home his musically gifted older children gave lessons in the front parlour. Did they enjoy this, I wondered or was this child abuse? Then once I read more of my sister’s stuff, I discovered that the oldest brother just disappeared and never turned up later anywhere in any of the possible searches. And my sister is thorough. Before the days of digital searches, she used to write to the registries etc. Fifteen years of research and still going.

Lots of kids back then

Stepping into history, I set about creating personalities and motivations for this family. There were ten children, three boys and seven girls! Whoa! in a three-bedroom house. How does that work? Lots of bed sharing, that’s how. Children slept three to a bed.

No privileges back then like your own room or ensuite. No, a chamber pot under the bed was the best you’d get. Long cotton night dresses for boys and girls and twisted rags in your hair for the girls to keep their curls. A lot has changed in a hundred years and not all for the good. Big families were often happy families, sharing what they had not wanting more.

Anyway, the rainy week passed, as Time so quickly does. By then I had quite a few jottings in my notebook. These exploded over five months of secretive feverish writing into 60,000 words. The family blossomed into a family of characters with real personalities and reasons for doing or not doing stuff. I imagined Granny and Grandpa meeting on the ship to Australia in 1912 and falling in love. That seemed possible as they arrived on the same ship and married later that year. Then voila, I had a story based on true events and people. It’s called historical fiction. lol.

Whispering through time

Publishing? never occurred to me. I am a math and science teacher, not an arty type. But my sister once presented with my story, thought otherwise. She sent my story off to four publishers. She was secretive about it. All four liked it and so we chose one in London. Austin Macauley. Maybe not the best choice in retrospect but we knew nothing about publishing back then in 2018. Whatever, they made me a lovely book and called it a debut novel. Sounds posh, heh. It had a title too. Whispers through Time.

The publisher saw potential whereas I thought been there done that. Why not keep writing? Do a sequel? Really? You want more of my crazy imaginings? You’re a natural, they said. Without such encouragement from them and my sister, Granny and Grandpa would have been left on the Sydney pier on arrival. But now they have marched through history to this present day almost.

Covid was history in the making

The story continued through World War One and up to The Spanish Flu. I was researching this when ominously Covid 19 erupted. This event delayed the sequel Time Heal my Heart as I became seriously sick. Not with Covid or The Spanish Flu but with CRPS. This is a weird unfortunate disease that attacks your nervous system in a debilitating and super painful way. I lost the use of the right side of my body, moving my arm was excruciating. The prognosis was poor. Dire in fact.

There was no writing happening. I couldn’t even brush my hair or get dressed. Only hope (after much left-hand googling) was a clinic in Italy. Off I go, a week before Covid hits Europe. Bad timing but at least I get there. I have the two-week treatment of infusions and emerge from the hospital in Genova into lockdown. The suggested rehab and physio is not going to happen. Arm in a splint, I move from one hotel to another as they close in response to Covid restrictions. Fortunately, I have my husband to help. Italy asks all tourists to leave. We get to France. It goes into lockdown. The rest is history. We were part of history in the making. Stepping into history.

Shit is meant to happen

In lockdown in France in a hotel, I write another book. The Last Hotel. How, did you write it if you had no useful right hand? Good question. Answer is; with my left. Tippy tapping around my old battered IPad keyboard, I somehow wrote this contemporary romance set on The French Riviera. Think it was some type of weird channeling. Just poured out of me, figuratively speaking. It is my best seller at every book signing.  See shit is meant to happen. Good things come from bad. Just have faith. All bad things pass in time. Rainbows follow the rain.

So the historical sequel to Whispers through Time had a two-year setback. The Last Hotel took its place as my second novel and another novel, Colour Comes to Tangles took third place. Eventually, Time heal my Heart hit the bookshops in August this year. It’s a heart-rending story of love and loss during World War One era. Stepping into history once more it is a true story set in true and troubling times. It can be read as a stand-alone or sequel novel.

Last Time Forever

The last instalment of this family saga is also complete but yet unpublished. Last Time Forever will emerge at some future time and transport my family through the interwar and World War Two years up to 1950. What a turbulent life they had. Two world wars and a Great Depression. They were tough. But this last one has a surprise ending which I won’t tell you about because it’s a surprise!

Enough chatter. Thanks for reading my rant if you got this far.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels; Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel, Colour comes to Tangles and Time heal my Heart. Read about her books on https://joniscottauthor.com.