Today Roberta Eaton Cheadle is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about her latest novel, A Ghost and his Gold.
Welcome, Roberta. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
My novel, A Ghost and His Gold, is not part of a series. It is a stand-alone paranormal historical novel which is partly set in South Africa during the Second Anglo Boer War and partly set in modern South Africa.
One early reviewer said: “A Ghost and His Gold is a tale of love and hatred, the impact of the past on the present, greed and decency, war and peace, and sinning and redemption.” I was delighted by this brilliant description which really sums up the themes in this book.
There is no doubt that our history impacts heavily on our present and this is the idea I wove into this novel, albeit in a more tangible manner, through the haunting of Tom and Michelle by three ghosts: Pieter, a Boer who has to flee his farm when the British army marches on Pretoria in 1900; Robert, a young British soldier stationed in Mafeking during the siege of that town; and Estelle, Pieter’s daughter, who is despised by her conservative and jealous mother.
All the phantoms have tragic pasts and experience lingering bitterness due to their untimely deaths. Their grudges and anger spill over into the present and disrupt Tom and Michelle’s previously peaceful life.
Michelle must unravel the events of their entwined pasts and understand the circumstances leading up to their untimely deaths in order to help them achieve redemption.
Her investigation gradually reveals why she and Tom are the focus of Estelle’s revenge and exposes a deeply buried secret which could destroy their marriage and even result in their deaths.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
This book is based on a short paragraph I read in a book about the history of General Jan Smuts, prime minister of the Union of South Africa from 1919 to 1924 and 1939 to 1948, and his wife, known affectionately as Ouma [Grandmother] Smuts.
The Smuts’ lived in an old farmhouse in Irene which is believed to be haunted by the ghost of a farmer who fled the property when the British army marched on Pretoria in June 1900.
The farmer is said to have buried a fortune in gold coins somewhere on the property although the treasure has never been found. He never returned from the war to retrieve his gold.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
My main intention with this book was to describe the events and circumstances of the Second Anglo Boer War which resulted in the anger and resentment that remained among the different cultures and populations after the war and set the stage for the future of South Africa.
Gold, and people’s desire for wealth, is a repeated theme of this book and is included in the title, together with ghost as this book is historical but has a strong supernatural thread.
I had the general themes for A Ghost and His Gold in place prior to starting the writing of this book and I expanded them as it progressed. The main themes are as follows:
- The impact of greed and corruption on countries and people;
- Bad decision making and their effect on soldiers and civilians;
- Evil perpetuating the development of hatred and evil;
- The effect of war on the political and social development of a country;
- The individual mindset versus the group mentality including pro-war propaganda;
- Death; and
- The reality of war.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
I create an outline for each character before I start writing. I describe their physical attributes and their general natures. I always have the ending of the book in my mind before I start writing, it is the goal I work towards, and I know how each character is going to develop. I then write up their characters based on this understanding.
An example of this is Pieter, the Boer. He is not typical of his fellow countrymen as his grandmother was an English woman. His grandmother played a bit role in his life and he was greatly influenced by her love of literature. He has inherited her few books and treasures them. Pieter is unusually intelligent and a deep thinker. He is kind to his workers, and they hold him in very high regard. Pieter’s one blind spot is his relationship with his wife, Marta, a narrow minded and jealous woman. He does not see her for who she really is and overlooks her poor treatment of Estelle.
Pieter is the person who questions the decisions of the Boer generals and the potential outcome of the war. He is contrasted by his brother, Willem, whose attitude was typical of the Boers at that time. He followed blindly and thought the war would be over in three months with success for the Boer Republics.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
I live in Johannesburg and have visited all the places that feature in this book, so it wasn’t difficult to describe the countryside and places. I realise that most people do not know much about South Africa and I tried to provide insight through observations by the characters and some descriptive writing.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
I do a lot of research before and during the writing of my historical books. I used 22 sources of information for this novel ranging from personal diaries, to a thesis on the experiences of native Africans in the concentration camps. I also read some fictional books written during the period to help me understand the attitudes and emotions of the time.
There are three different perspectives on this war, the Boers, the British, and the native African, and all of them are quite different. It was for this reason I decided to introduce the ghost of Robert, the British soldier. I wanted to include both the British and the Boer perspectives through the eyes of the characters.
The native African perspective was the most difficult to research as there is little recorded history from their perspective. For this reason, I told this side of the story through the eyes of supporting characters. Writing the story this way, also helped to explain the relationships between the cultures at the time.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
Although I have focused largely on the historical aspects of this book, it does also have a strong modern supernatural story that binds it all together. There are some interesting ideas presented about the healing of paralysis through gene therapy and the book also explores certain modern issues including misogynistic attitudes in the workplace and sexual harassment.
Thank you for answering my questions, Roberta, and good luck with A Ghost and his Gold. Readers can learn more about Roberta by visiting her author website and blog, and her Facebook and Goodreads pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.
The novel is available online at:
About Roberta Eaton Cheadle: Robbie Cheadle has published nine books for children and one poetry book. She has branched into writing for adults and young adults and, in order to clearly separate her children’s books from her adult books, is writing for older readers under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle.
Robbie Cheadle’s Sir Chocolate children’s picture books are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions that children can make under adult supervision. Her books for older children also incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.
Roberta Eaton Cheadle’s supernatural stories combine fabulous paranormal elements with fascinating historical facts.