My Favourites So Far – From Broke In Belfast to Brian D’Arcy

As anyone who has read my posts over the past few weeks will know, since October 24 I’ve been on 24/2, my Virtual Book Tour that runs from October 24 to December 24. I’m enjoying the experience – it’s been lots of fun. I’ve had a chance to talk about how I named Irish villages, what kinds of spaniels are brown, Halloween traditions in Ireland and Canada, the research required to write an historical fiction, facts about Germans in Ireland and why I wrote my novel, Hitler and Mars Bars. I’ve also been answering dozens of questions each week. They have covered a wide range of topics and some have really made me think. The past couple days I’ve been looking back over the tour, so far, and I’ve picked out five of my favourite questions, from the interviews I’ve done. Here they are:


1).  Who or what is the inspiration behind this book?


The people who participated in Operation Shamrock were the inspiration behind my writing. I spent a lot of time researching the project and acquired quite a bit of material. For a history lover, like me, it was exciting to uncover little known facts but I also encountered amazing people (in person and in others recollections) – men and women who had survived the horrendous conditions in World War II Germany and kind, generous people who opened their homes to them. It was these individuals stories that moved me and captured my imagination. After Id written the article for Irelands Own and I thought I was finished with my research, I still had impressions and images of these people filling my head. So, a little prompting from my family set the wheels in motion and I began writing. BBC broadcaster and journalist, Brian DArcy, when he reviewed my book, understood that individuals experiences were the foundation for my story. He commented that the book was beautifully written with a strong human element running through it.

Posted: November 6 on Zensanity


2).  Writing a historical novel takes a lot of research. How do you know when its time to stop researching and start writing?


I think the two go hand in hand. Even once you start writing you are always checking details and doing that little bit more reading to make things clearer. When I began my research, Ireland and Germany sixty years ago were completely foreign worlds to me. Though it involved more time and effort than Id envisioned before I started, I tried to be as thorough with my research as I could. I have to admit that I didnt really mind as I found the research fascinating. Sometimes I had to tear myself away from it to write.


Before I could begin writing I needed a good background knowledge of the historic events that related to my story and the era in general. Once I had a clear understanding of what was happening in both countries at the time I was able to write about it. I spent a year doing the initial research before I started writing. As Ive said, I continued to research as I wrote. There were always details that I needed to find when was electricity installed in rural Ireland, how much was a farm labourer paid, what year was Dublins main street named OConnell Street, how old were boys when they began to wear long trousers. The list of details that occurred to me as I wrote is almost endless so the research was never done. But I did get to a point during the initial research when I felt I knew enough about life in the era to begin writing about it.  

Posted: November 26 on Shauna Roberts For Love of Words


3).  Did anything in your research into Germany and Ireland over sixty years ago surprise you?


Before I began researching Hitler and Mars Bars I had general impressions of German and Irish society during this era. I was somewhat surprised to discover how much Ireland especially has developed in the last sixty years. I hadn’t realised society changed as much as it has. Sixty years ago it was a very rural, non-industrialised place. I could have been stepping back in time over a hundred years instead of only sixty. I didn’t expect to fid so little industrialisation such a short time ago. For instance, in Ireland mains electricity only came to most rural areas in the mid to late 1950s and television broadcasts didn’t begin throughout the country until 1960.

Posted: November 25 on Broke In Belfast


4).  What inspires you about the hero or heroine in your book? What makes them memorable for the reader? What motivates the hero or heroine?


Erich’s resilience and courage inspire me. He’s only a child yet he survives hardship and misery, keeping his hopes and dreams. He isn’t cowed and doesn’t give up no matter how hard life is.


Readers will remember Erich’s resilience and courage. They will also be struck by his irrepressible spirit. 


Hope is one of Erich’s main motivators. Even in the worst times he believes that everything will work out and his life will improve. He doesn’t give up. Love is also a powerful motivator for him. Love for his mother and a desire to see her again carry him through the move to Ireland and into life with strange families. Later he forms a strong bond with one foster family and, when he is not able to stay with them any longer, his love for them carries him through the difficult next few years.

Posted: November 9 on Historical Novel Review


5).  How hard was it for you to write about Ireland? Ive always found the place to be so mystical that it seems hard to put the place into words.


I think many people see Ireland as a mystical place. The landscape in many parts is beautiful yet desolate. Misty hills and fields inspire us to dream. Im writing about day to day life and people struggling to make a living in rural Ireland. But even with these rather mundane aspects of life it was hard to capture places and people accurately – especially the Ireland of sixty years ago. Ive lived in Ireland for nearly two decades. I speak the same language as everyone else here and Im married to an Irish man but my cultural background differs from those around me. I still think like an urban Canadian. With my fast paced, impatient city background, when writing I have to remember that my characters see the world differently than I do. Worldwide mass communication didnt encroach on their lives. They are more interested in stopping for a chat with their neighbours on the way to the creamery than rushing to catch a subway so as not to be late for work. They know all their neighbours and expect to see friendly faces wherever they go whereas I never expect to meet anyone I know when I walk down the street and am initially distrustful when I meet a stranger. So, even though I live here, in some ways I see it as an outsider and  I had to get into a different mindset to create believable characters and places.

Posted: October 24 on Great New Books That Are A Must Read


Hitler and Mars Bars has also been reviewed by several of my tour hosts, including Readings and Ruminations and Armchair Interviews  . They were very enthusiastic about the novel and I appreciated their comments. In June BBC broadcaster and Sunday World columnist, Brian D’Arcy, wrote one of my favourite reviews of the book. The review has become part of the tour as it is reprinted on the Book Hookup this week. You can read the full review at


I hope you’ve enjoyed me sharing some of my favourites with you. Do drop by upcoming stops to see what’s next! I will keep you up to date on where I’ll be next right here at Ascroft, eh?


About Dianne Ascroft

I'm a Canadian writer and author, living in Britain. My first novel, 'Hitler and Mars Bars' was released in March 2008. More information abo
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