I never set out to write a book, in fact nothing could have been further from my mind. My interest was in discovering my family history … the project just sort of grew.
Was it true the family had once been wealthy?
It all started from anecdotes that some of my ancestors had been very wealthy. We heard that as a result of an untimely death and re-marriage the money had passed out of the family, never to be seen again. Many years later, when my grandfather was a young boy, the story was brought into focus when his family were evicted from their home because they couldn’t pay the rent. He never forgot the humiliation of being turned onto the streets but what made it worse was the belief that there was a young woman walking around with money that should have been theirs.
I had an elderly aunt, my grandad’s sister-in-law, who was also interested in the family history. She had been a librarian and managed to find out some useful bits of information, but with no way of being able to search parish records and with no knowledge of the internet, her search had long since stalled. She shared with me what she could but in truth I was armed with very little when I headed to Ancestry.co.uk.
Starting with the basics
My research effectively began as a name collecting exercise. Using census data I managed to get back to about 1800, which I thought was pretty good. I even found information explaining a few previously puzzling facts, and it was really quite exciting. Full of enthusiasm I started to order birth, death and marriage certificates for key family members (it’s gets a bit expensive if you’re not careful), and this was where the story really started to develop. It was one evening when I was opening the post that I had my first OMG moment. It was a death certificate and the details of the death were quite unexpected, and to me, quite shocking (in case I do ever get the book published I won’t spoil the plot!). This one piece of information took me down a path I never expected and the story gradually started to materialise.
At this stage it still never occurred to me that this was a story worth telling. Over subsequent months, however, as I unearthed more information, my sub-conscious started to tell me that this would make a good book. My immediate reaction was “I can’t write a book”, and I meant it. All my writing experience to date had been factual medical style writing and I didn’t think I had a creative thought in my head. As time went on, however, the voice in my head got louder and more persistent. Gradually my thoughts moved to “I couldn’t write a book” to “What if I wrote it and it was no good?” Eventually I settled on “Let’s give it a try. If it’s no good nobody has to see it.”
The art of procrastination
Dipping my toe in the water, I decided to write a plan, just to get me started. Then, as the story developed, I moved on to biographies for the main characters. That was quite fun – there was nothing too challenging or creative about it and it was all fact based – my comfort zone! What made it even better was that it delayed what was by now inevitable – the start of the book. Eventually, I could put it off no longer and at the beginning of 2011, I started to write…