I invited Rebecca to tell us about her writing life and the inspirations for her work. I’m sure you’ll enjoy finding out about this amazing author.
I spend far too many hours a day at my laptop. It’s not the writing that takes the time; I rarely write more than a thousand words a day and sometimes none at all, it’s research and marketing. Once I had a published book, I had to promote it. The more books, the more time needed in marketing, and the less writing and research gets done. Such is the lot of the independent author – a jack of all trades. That said, I have control over my books and my life, which is far more important to me than writing to deadlines and travelling to book signings, etc. as I might were I a traditionally published author.
Since beginning my writing career, some fifteen years ago – quite accidentally, by the way – I’ve completed thirteen novels, ten of which have been published. The accident arose after proof-reading for a friend and my husband asking me why I didn’t have a go at writing, too. I told him I wouldn’t know where to begin. I had no ideas, and no imagination.
Tip number one. Begin at the beginning. One day, I sat down at my desk and typed Chapter One. Jem frowned and scanned the horizon with absolutely no idea where the story was going or what it was about. It evolved over a number of years into Where Hope Dares, a fantasy.
I still tend to approach a novel in the same way, though I do usually have a theme in mind. Once the characters begin to develop in my mind, they take over and write the tale for me. It’s their characters and their reactions to situations that drive the story.
Ideas – inspiration – occur quite randomly and have included TV articles and news reports, family history, two elm burr boxes, the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, the release from prison of Angela Canning, a doll sitting in the bedroom window of an empty house, and a cheese sandwich.
Tip number two. If an idea occurs to you, write it down before you forget it and let it stew for a while.
As for imagination. I really don’t have any. I write from my own experiences, regrets, loves, hates, and passions and my settings usually include places I know well. One reason I find myself writing mainly historical fiction is because there’s a thread of solid fact that runs through each story on which I can hang my characters and the plot – in fact, the historical timeline usually determines much of the plot and I enjoy working a tale within the constricts of historical accuracy.
Most of my main characters are strong women who are much braver than I am, so I can live a few fantasies about what I might have done in their situations, were I braver. But I’m not brave, so I have an understanding of the cowardice and guilt some of my characters also exhibit.
I’m a sucker for stories of social injustice and the underdog, and most of my novels explore social or criminal injustice and bigotry. The women of Auschwitz, the wrongful imprisonment of women for ‘cot deaths’ in the seventies, the women of the 1800 and 1900s who had no rights in marriage, no rights over their own bodies or children, no right to earn the same rate of pay as a man for the same job, no right to vote…
In fact, it’s impossible to write historical fiction from a woman’s point of view and not be appalled by the inequalities women have endured over the centuries, and these are grist to my mill – never more so than in my latest historical series, The Chainmakers.
This series was inspired by an article on the TV program FLOG IT! When they visited the Black Country Living Museum in the English Midlands and talked about the women chainmakers and their fight for a living wage in 1910, the term the white slaves of England made my social iniquity nose twitch, and I began researching the area and the period. I was appalled at what I unearthed.
The Chainmakers’ Daughter was born – Rosie, a ten-year-old girl in 1901, is working twelve hours a day making chain for starvation wages but is determined to better her lot and that of her family. Enter Mary Macarthur, a political activist fighting for women’s rights and Rosie is swept along on a current of industrial strife. And the story would have ended in 1910 with the end of the strike action but for a reader who wanted to know what happened to Rosie and her husband, Jack, up to and during the Great War.
I began researching again and was drawn into the fight for women’s suffrage – votes for women. Again, the inequalities women faced, and the resistance they faced from men and the struggle they had to press their cause by one inch of ground made my blood boil. Naturally, Rosie’s social conscience made her the perfect vehicle to show the truth behind the sanitised popular myth of the suffragettes – another huge eye-opener for me. And so The Chainmaker’s Wife came into existence. I am resisting book three at the moment…
I think The Chainmaker’s Wife is one of the quickest books I’ve written, probably because of being in lockdown for almost all of it, but it’s also been one of the trickiest to research – I was totally out of my comfort zone. But for finding a wonderful website http://www.Jutland1916 and contacting the site owner Gerry Costello, I would have come to a full stop. What a knowledgeable and generous man! He answered my every question, and there were many, with well-researched and detailed information that let my story unfold in the direction my characters wanted to go.
As an artist as well as an author I love designing my covers though they usually go through several versions before I settle on a ‘final’ one. I’ve also written a ‘how-to’ book on painting watercolour seascapes.
I think my books will appeal to anyone who is interested in an insight into the lives of ordinary working-class men and women and how we won the freedoms we take for granted today.
The Chainmaker’s wife is now available to pre-order for only 99p/99c at http://mybook.to/Chainmakerswife
The Chainmakers series
For Their Country’s Good Series
Non-Fiction by my alter-ego, Ruth Coulson
http://mybook.to/WatercolourSeascapes – a step-by-step guide to painting seas in watercolour.