Hello! And welcome to the first Sunday Sojourn of 2016. Today, I’m welcoming Deirdre Palmer to the blog.
So, Deirdre, what first attracted you to the era you’ve written about?
My first book, Remarkable Things, is set in the present day, apart from the first chapter which is set in 1960, with the birth of the main character, Gus. Past events from that era feature in the story as Gus searches for the truth about his birth mother and adoptive family. I needed Gus to be born at a time when unmarried mothers were frowned upon and often forced to give up their babies, and 1960 fitted nicely with that.
My second book, Dirty Weekend, is set in 1966, and this time I deliberately chose that era so that I could draw upon my own youthful experiences of the time – a classic case of ‘write what you know’.
What sparked your first foray into historical fiction?
Personally I don’t see the 1960s as historical – which is probably something to do with my age! – but many publishers do, and I have no strong argument against that, although my publisher, Crooked Cat, didn’t market Dirty Weekend as historical. I’d always planned to write a book set in the sixties, and when I joined NaNoWriMo and needed to write quickly, the era seemed to lend itself to a fast-paced comedy/drama. I had great fun writing it.
Tell me a bit about your research process – are you able to stay focused, or do you find yourself distracted by new, interesting snippets or stories?
Although I have many memories of the sixties, I made sure I checked out the details in case my memory let me down. It did in one instance, where I had my characters phoning home to London from Brighton, and ringing the number direct. But STD hadn’t quite come in by then; you had to go through the operator. There are some great websites about the sixties, and I did find myself reading them for their own sake rather than concentrating on the bits I was actually looking for. But my web wanderings offered up some interesting plot points I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise so it was all to the good. Normally I’m quite good with research, though. I find what I want, bookmark it and move on. Pinterest is very useful for research. I have a board for each of my books. It’s quick and easy to pin pictures I find as I go along and they’re all in one place ready to go back to later.
Which is your favourite of any real historical characters who have appeared in your writing?
As I don’t write historical fiction in the truest sense, no particular characters have appeared, but the music of the sixties featured quite a lot in Dirty Weekend. My character, Mark, has a poster of The Who, the iconic Mod group, on his bedroom wall so I’ll go along with him!
If you could visit any historical event or period (as a witness only, no changing things!), which would it be, and why?
I’m most interested in social history and the way events shape the lives of ordinary people. I would visit the late 1800s/early 1900s, to the time of the industrial revolution, which saw the dramatic shift of the population from agriculture to the factories and mills of the towns. It was a time of great hardship for many of the workers, but also a time of opportunity with each new discovery and invention. A ride on one of the new steam trains would be top of my list.
Finally… You’re allowed a whole afternoon to yourself with anyone from history. Who would it be, and what would you want to discuss?
I’d spend my afternoon with the designer, artist and writer William Morris (1834 – 1896). He was also a poet, translator and social activist, and I think he’d be fascinating company. I would be most interested in his association with Pre-Raphaelite artists such as Edward Burne-Jones – much gossip to be had there, I imagine. William Morris was a major contributor to the Arts and Crafts movement. The architecture and interior designs were greatly inspired by the natural world and I’d like to talk to him about that, especially as my favourite National Trust house is Standen, in West Sussex, an Arts and Crafts style house filled with wonderful William Morris designs.
Jennifer, thanks for inviting me onto your blog. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions.
Thank you for taking the time! So, tell me a bit about yourself, and where we can find you online…
In 2015 I was lucky enough to secure publishing deals for my first two novels, Remarkable Things and Dirty Weekend. They are out in ebook and paperback, published by Crooked Cat Publishing, available on Amazon via the links above, and through other outlets such as Kobo and Smashwords. I’m working on a new novel at the moment.