I didn’t set out to be an author. The fact is, when the idea of writing a novel kept nudging itself into my mind, I did everything I could to resist it. I am a scientist by training, and creative writing was something I had only done, very badly, at school.
The whole idea came about while I was researching my family history. I was intrigued to know if there was any truth to the rumour that our family had once been very wealthy. Based on our circumstances during the 20th century, it seemed highly improbable, but this begged the question. If my ancestors were wealthy, where did the money go? Did it pass out of the family as a result of a death and re-marriage as we had been lead to believe?
As I picked my way through an assortment of historical records, it appeared that, yes, the family had once been very wealthy, but no, the money did not leave the family as a result of a re-marriage. It was much more complicated than that. As I delved deeper, the story I uncovered astounded me. The more I learned, the more I needed to know, and within a couple of years the idea of turning it into a book started to build.
With no clue about where to start, I pushed the idea to the back of my mind. Eventually, however, when the idea wouldn’t leave me alone, I started to write. Initially, didn’t expect to produce more than about a hundred pages, but now, six years later, I have a five-part family saga entitled The Ambition & Destiny Series. Part 1, Hooks & Eyes was published on March 9th, 2017.
The story takes place in and around Birmingham, England. It was triggered by an event in 1839 that is now the basis of a short story prequel to the series, Condemned by Fate. Condemned by Fate was inspired by three months in the life of my 3x great grandfather and recounts the time he met my 3x great grandmother and the turbulent months they encountered before they married.
The main series (Hooks & Eyes) starts in 1846 with the family moving to the town of Birmingham. At first, they struggle to survive among the back-to-back houses, but eventually, they leave their working-class origins and become part of the affluent middle classes. Unfortunately, the good life didn’t last and with one fateful event in 1882, followed by a second in 1885, everything changed.
As the story started almost two hundred years ago, there are no living relatives who have any knowledge of the people involved. That means I have no idea how close to the truth the story comes. All births, deaths and marriages are correct, and most of the major storylines are based on fact. I will never know, however, the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s’ that drove the actions of my ancestors. To deal with this I took what I knew, and where I wanted to go and tried to create a plausible storyline that linked the events. Many of the sub-plots and all characterisations are fictitious. I have also changed the names and places of those involved to protect the identity of the real individuals.
Initially, one of my biggest regrets was that I didn’t find out what happened in time to tell my grandfather. He spurred my interest in the whole story because he said there was money in the family and yet he lived with the shame of being made homeless as a child when his father couldn’t pay the rent. Knowing what I know now, however, I think it’s perhaps as well he didn’t know the truth.