Saturday, August 13, 2016

Timing is everything - and so is naming.

Island of Storms

Reading the earlier blogs, it seems to me migrants to the U.S.A. and Canada all have exciting historical stories to tell, whereas that of someone like myself with a family history rooted in one area for millennia – okay, that’s an exaggeration, but only slight – appears dull by comparison.

There again, maybe not.

Island of Storms is the tentative title of my middle grade historical fiction book in the making. Actually, it would be more accurate to describe it as in the makeover. The story deals with an American teenager on a school summer trip to Britain. Her Irish grandmother, who had emigrated to the U.S. A. with her grandfather and started the family there, has arranged for her to remain in the U.K. after the other kids return to the States. In the beginning, our heroine is full of romantic notions, and also of misconceptions. She finds the romance, the fun, and also finds herself caught up in a terrorist plot. In the end, her perception has changed considerably and she leaves with a clearer understanding of that small island’s complexities.

Some years ago I wrote this middle grade historical fiction novel about the resurgence of the Irish Republican Army in the late fifties. I had the book honed, proof-read, all ready to go to an editor I’d researched, and hopeful of finding a home. Then something happened that caused me to put it on the back burner.

A few days earlier my eldest sister had come on a visit from Scotland, her first to Canada. One day Sister got talking to my husband of the times she and my aunt – who was about the same age – would vacation in Ireland in the years before the Second World War. The maternal side of my family, and my husband’s family on both sides, have Irish roots, so her memories were very interesting for him. I wasn’t present at this discussion so was totally unprepared for what was to come.

He came home from a trip to town triumphantly brandishing a book.

“See what I found!” he cried, and handed it over for my sister’s inspection.

‘LOUISA, LADY IN WAITING’ is Elizabeth Longford’s compilation of Louisa, Countess of Antrim’s diaries. Louisa was a lady in waiting to both Queen Victoria and Queen Alexandra.

A good deal of this book is centred on Lady Louisa’s home in Ireland

“Oh!” cried Sister in pleased surprise, “we stayed at this estate many times when we visited Uncle Robbie’s farm in Carnlough.”

I hurried over for a look. What a shock! The name of the village in my novel had one letter different from that of the estate. Not only that, so many of the names I had chosen for my fictional characters appeared in ‘Louisa’.

Old sins cast long shadows, it’s said. And old villagers have long memories; tales of their childhood have been passed along to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren with the inevitable omissions, additions, and embroideries along the way. There was no way I could send that book out without extensive alterations. Crushed, I shelved it.

It is time to resuscitate what is now a work-in-progress. It was timely when I wrote it, and is just as timely now, though I will keep it set in the late 50s – early 60s. And this time, assurances the work is entirely one of fiction aside, I will do my level best to ensure none of the names are local.

1 comment:

  1. This book sounds very interesting. Hope I get to see it sometime.