Elisabeth Storrs, author of The Wedding Shroud, tagged me in the Next Big Thing Author Blog Hop. Elisabeth is passionate about legends, myths and history, having studied Classics as a student. Inspired by a terracotta sculpture of two ancient lovers, she wrote The Wedding Shroud – A Tale of Ancient Rome. Endorsed by Ursula Le Guin, the novel tells of a young treaty bride married to an enemy nobleman from a decadent society. Determined to stay true to Rome, she instead finds herself seduced by her husband and the sinful freedoms his society offers her. Yet as war looms, she must decide where her allegiance lies. You can read Elisabeth’s contribution to the Next Big Thing at her blog, Triclinium.
How The Next Big Thing Blog hop works: An author answers ten questions and then tags five authors (if you are able to find them during the festive season – I managed to get four) to do the same thing the following week on the same day, which in this case is a Wednesday.
Here’s my answers to the ten questions:
What is the working title of your next book?
The Winding Road Home. I must add that this is only a working title. I don’t think I’ll find the real title for it until I’ve completed the book and know every nuance of the tale.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The Winding Road Home is the sequel to Hitler and Mars Bars, a novel I wrote several years ago. The story follows naturally from events in the first book. The Winding Road Home opens in 1955 when showbands were revolutionising the Irish social scene. After doing a bit of background reading about the era I knew the story that this sequel to Hitler and Mars Bars had to tell.
After spending a year at a Barnardo’s Home near Chester, England fifteen year old German orphan Erich Schnell is poised to leave school and begin an apprenticeship. Despite his burning ambition to join the railway, a letter from the Elliotts, the Irish foster family he loved but was forced by circumstances to leave four years previously, sends him rushing back to their farm in County Cavan, Ireland. Ecstatic to be reunited with his foster family, he also finds camaraderie and an outlet for his passion for singing in a local showband. When he takes to the road with the band he forms new friendships, has tense a reunion with his estranged brother, Hans, discovers girls and renews a friendship which will lead to love with his former neighbour, Rebecca Neill despite often encountering pervasive, subtle prejudice as a foreigner in Ireland. When his foster mother Aunt Elsie’s heart ailment worsens he is compelled to choose between loyalty to his foster family and his career with the band. He returns to the farm to help his foster father but he is persuaded to join the band for one more gig, the prestigious Rose of Tralee Ball. After tasting success at this gig he once more considers whether his future path leads toward or away from the only real home he has ever known.
What genre does your book fall under?
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
That’s a difficult question. I have a clear image in my mind of each of my characters but I can’t match actors to these images. A young actor with Colin Farrell’s ability to portray a lovable imp would be ideal to play Erich and a young actress with Niamh Cusack’s poise and quiet strength would suit Rebecca.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Against the backdrop of the Irish showband scene, Erich Schnell, an outsider who knows no home except Ireland, struggles to find love, acceptance and his niche in his adopted country, battling the subtle undercurrent of prejudice in a parochial society that distrusts aliens.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I haven’t decided yet. I self-published Hitler and Mars Bars and also my short story collection, Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves and I don’t regret those decisions. But I may approach an agency this time to try another route to publication.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I haven’t completed it yet. Soon after I started work on the book I was asked to ghost write a memoir for a polio survivor and I’ve been concentrating on that project. But I plan to complete the first draft of this novel within the coming year. Editing it will then take a few more months.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The novel will be written in a style similar to books by Anne Doughty (On A Clear Day, Shadow On The Land) and Helen Forrester (Tuppence To Cross The Mersey, Liverpool Basque). I will probably never write epic novels about monumental events in history; I prefer to delve into ordinary individual’s lives to understand the everyday events of the past. So this is a character driven story set into the small canvas of a rural, parochial community.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Hitler and Mars Bars, the prequel to this story, begins Erich’s story. He is brought to Ireland, from war ravaged Germany, by the Red Cross humanitarian aid effort, Operation Shamrock a decade before The Winding Road Home opens. Hitler and Mars Bars follows the boy’s struggles to find his place in a new, strange land. Erich is a complex character – appealing and frustrating at once. As I wrote the first novel he crept off the page and plonked himself in my mind. I wanted to find out where his journey would take him so I had to write the sequel.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Although it is little more than half a century ago, 1950s Ireland was a place and time so different from the present that it could be centuries rather than decades ago. Irish society sauntered into the modern era, far behind England and America. The 1950s and 1960s dance and showband craze was a driving force for social change on the island. It was a turning point in modern Irish social history but it has attracted the attention of few novelists. This story juxtaposes the excitement and intensity of the showband scene with the life of the slower moving, close knit rural community – I hope it vividly evokes the era for readers.
The authors I have tagged are:
Laura Elliot is the author of three novels, Stolen Child, The Prodigal Sister and Deceptions, which have been widely translated. Aka June Considine, she has written twelve books for pre-teens and young adults. She gives regular workshops on creative writing and is on the board of the Irish Writers’ Centre.
June Considine’s website
Laura Elliot’s website
Hazel Gaynor is the author of the self-published debut novel, The Girl Who Came Home – A Titanic Novel which was a Kindle Historical Fiction bestseller in 2012. Her second novel is currently in submission with several publishers. She writes a book review blog for Hello Magazine and is a feature writer for writing.ie – recently interviewing Philippa Gregory and Sebastian Faulks. Hazel lives in Ireland with her husband and two children and is represented by Sheila Crowley of Curtis Brown, London.
Hazel’s Facebook page
Hazel’s Twitter: @HazelGaynor
E. M. Powell is the author of The Fifth Knight. She was born and raised in Ireland, a descendant of Irish revolutionary Michael Collins. At University College Cork, she studied Anglo-Saxon and medieval English. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Historical Novel Society, and International Thriller Writers. A reviewer for the Historical Novel Society, she lives today in Manchester, England, with her husband and daughter.
E. M. Powell’s website
E. M. Powell’s blog
James Vella-Bardon commenced work on his debut potboiler ‘The Sassana Stone’ in 2009. In 2005 he completed a doctoral dissertation entitled ‘Self-Determination of Indigenous Minorities’ at the University of Malta. A stint spent working as lawyer-linguist with the European Parliament in Belgium was followed by a move to Sydney in 2007.