Well, Family Matters is ready at last! Or almost. Just a few tweaks needed…
As with the other books, family events have intruded and even now I am trying to get it published whilst moving country (yet again). So the theme of the book is very relevant – it concerns itself with problems to do with family, and shows that family events have a great effect on one’s life.
For several years I have been tracing my family and building up a family tree. Being a computer person I of course wrote a website, which you can see here. And being a writer, I started to wonder what these people were like and began to give them life in my imagination. I zeroed in on my ancestor John Weston because he took the momentous step of enlisting and going to India. The family had lived in the same part of England for generations, but at this particular time they started to move in all directions – to Australia, to Canada, to the USA and to India. As I delved deeper I discovered how much a time of turmoil and change the middle of the 1800s was.
No doubt they tried to give us an idea of this at school, but it was all dry facts – Corn Laws, Chartists, Industrial Revolution. Lots of capital letters, boring description, facts and dates to be learnt by heart, but no feeling for the people and the reasons why they acted as they did. Or none that penetrated my teenage consciousness anyway. They were not us; they were old, un-hip, uninteresting.
But now, with the internet, and I suspect with maturity, I started to see the people of the time as people, and to see how such massive changes must have seemed to them. They would feel themselves to be on the front of a wave, sweeping forward, riding high, different to their staid forebears. Just like our generation, in the technological revolution which started in the mid twentieth century and shows no sign of stopping. So John and his family became people I could relate to, they acquired personalities, needs and desires, and their story emerged.
Of course there must be a murder – which death to choose? John’s mother died in 1844, he went to India in 1848, and his father married a much younger woman, Maria Kett, in 1849. John had been in Canada – could he have returned just as his mother died, fallen in love with Maria, and lost her to his father? His mother’s death certificate gave Visitation of God as the cause – there would have been an inquest.
And so the story grew, John and his five brothers developed distinct characters, and quite suddenly the family was complete – Robert the autocratic father, Edward the compliant eldest brother who yearns to go to the new lands in the USA, John who hated Canada, but has set his heart on India, Robin forced by his father to be a surveyor when the only thing that interests him is steam technology and the inventions which are springing up from it – and so on as the other sons quickly invented themselves.
There are romances too – with men in their late teens and early twenties how could there not be? And I see no reason why a mystery has to be a dry puzzle in the Christie tradition. As I said in an earlier post, there is plenty of precedent for portraying real people with preoccupations of their own outside the main thread of the book.
I hope you enjoy reading about John and his brothers, and that I have been able to give you a feel for how it would have been to live at that time.
Contemplating the transformation of our society since John’s world in 1844, I fell to thinking about more recent changes. I wondered what Molly and Zoë would make of 2013. (more…)
It must have been very difficult to research the hard facts in a novel before the internet. Of course, not everything you read on the internet is true, but the gathering of initial ideas does not require slogging around libraries and buying reference books. (more…)
However you intend to present your novel to the publisher, with modern word processors you can see it as it will appear in print. That is a great incentive. And the Open Source program Writer from OpenOffice.org is ideal. And free. (more…)
How did novelists manage without the word processor?
A minor character starts to develop into a recognizable human being, becoming a powerful mover and shaker, but he entered it small and insignificant several chapters back. (more…)
This is quite a recent development. The idea is, on the face of it, ludicrous. One cannot laugh at murder. However, even Shakespeare’s tragedies have their comic relief. (more…)
Any hint of a love interest in the genre used to be pretty basic.
In the cozy whodunit type of book it served to define people, or provide a motive for the crime, or it was a red herring diverting our attention from the clues. (more…)
We all know how it was in Victorian times – we’ve seen innumerable films and BBC series showing precisely how they lived. But the households shown are large, with many servants, children going to boarding schools, the parents nobility or upper classes. (more…)
Well, why write a book? Lots of work for days, months or even years for some, frustration when it doesn’t work, times of absolute boredom as your brilliant ideas convert to dross on the page. Why do it? (more…)