A new year—already! Here's wishing you a year filled with peace, joy and happiness, along with compassion, fortitude and a bit of humor to see you through the challenging times (something always comes up, doesn't it?).
For me the holidays offer a time to slow down a bit. As an author who writes one book each year, with other writing projects to complete along the way, I use the holidays as a time to take the notes and ideas I've gathered for my next book, and set out my plan for the story. Before the first words are written—and I usually begin in early January—I want to think deeply about my series characters, to get a sense of who they are now, at this point in the overall arc of their life's journey. How will this new chain of events that I'm about to inflict upon them impact their lives? How will it change them, and how will the narrative develop against the backdrop of history? For me it's a very creative time, but also one of solitude when I try not to be distracted by demands of everyday life.
My novels often have their roots in something I've read, a place I've visited, or a story I've heard along the way. Sometimes it's family history. The spark that led me to write my new novel, Elegy For Eddie (available March 27, 2012), began to glow years ago, when my father told me about a man he had known when he was growing up. It was a true story, and absolutely fascinating—here's a brief recounting:
The man's mother was only sixteen years of age, unwed and working as a night-time cleaner at a brewery stables when she went into labor. She was scared, for she had hidden her pregnancy from her employers and her family—the year would have been about 1900 and in those days poor unmarried mothers were either sent away or they sought to end their trouble on the back streets. Stumbling into the stall of an old horse, the young woman lay down on a manger filled with hay—the mangers were made of slatted wood and closer to the floor than you might see in a stable today. She gave birth in that stable, wrapping the newborn son in her petticoats, and waiting until dawn before she left the brewery. She never lost a day of work, returning to her job the following day.
I will tell you more of this story in my next newsletter. That boy—let's call him "Eddie"—was a young man when my father was a child; he would have been in his mid twenties by the time my father was born. Eddie grew up to have an extraordinary talent, and a death that came with too many unanswered questions—and for this writer, such a true tale was too rich to leave unexplored.
I'll be telling you more about the young man and his mother in the next newsletter. In addition, the schedule of events for my book tour will be posted on my website within the next few weeks. Check the appearances link towards the end of the month.
ELEGY FOR EDDIE by Jacqueline Winspear