There are several things that kickstarted the idea for this novel. I was at a hotel on the coast and on the wall they had documented the story of a baby who had been washed up on the beach one day. She and her mother had been in a little boat, but when they were found, the mother had died and sadly nobody ever found out the identity of the baby. there have been countless times when this must have happened through history, and also recreated in fiction, but Far Across the Ocean was my take on how that ‘baby in the boat’ situation might have played out.
The next part was choosing the setting for my novel. Within my own family we have a long line of Quakers from the Yorkshire area. One branch of the family had a Worsted woollen mill in Bradford and looked after their workers very well, as did most Quaker employers at that time. It made sense to weave this part into my story, and Clara’s mother, aunt and uncle came from this fictional family of mill owners.
The last part of the setting came from another snippet I found when looking up details on the Quaker family, and I discovered some had travelled to Madagascar in the late 1800’s. This island setting, so far from home seemed to be the perfect setting to place my ‘baby in a boat’ situation.
What are the challenges you found when writing your novel?
I always wanted to ensure that I had done enough research to be respectful of the past history of the Malagasy people and represent their culture properly. I did have access to memoirs of European people who lived for a while on the island, but none of any Malagasy people from that time, which I would have liked, so that was my main challenge.
What’s your typical writing day like and in your opinion, what are the essential tools of the trade for a writer?
I’m afraid I don’t really have a typical writing day. I have a day job in a school, so generally work in the afternoon or evening, but I’m quite flexible. On the other hand, I can’t do without using Scrivener. All of my early drafts are written on it, and then when structural edits come back, I’m still using it. I’d be lost without it as I like to dip in and out of different chapters when things occur to me.
I tend to have an idea about something that interest me for years before it comes to fruition. I love reading non-fiction books and when something stands out, I bookmark it, or jot down story ideas in a notebook or on Scrivener for the day I’ll get to write it. It could be anything up to five years before I finally commit a story idea to paper. In that time the story idea is percolating in my brain and I’m coming up with characters and plot ideas or gathering more information that I’ll need. One day I’ll get to sit down and write that story.
Which authors do you admire?
There are so many authors I admire! Most of my favourites are female authors who write historical novels, either from my childhood are ones who write now. For example I loved Catherine Cookson, Daphne Du Maurier, Jane Austen and Mary Wesley. Recent authors are Dinah Jefferies, Kate Morton, Liz Fenwick, Jenny Ashcroft and Jojo Moyes.
Any advice for aspiring writers?by
Novel Kicks is a blog for story tellers and book lovers.