Close your eyes and imagine you are standing on ship at sea. Your lover comes behind you and holds you in his arms and the powerful strands of My Heart Will Go On echo in your head. If that didn’t work, come share some wine with our guest today and hear about her version of a girl on the Titanic. Welcome Hazel Gaynor!
Lexi: Reading the blurb for The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic I couldn’t help but draw some parallels to the movie Titanic. A girl boards the Titanic, looses her love, survives and keeps her memories to herself for years. A great recipe because by the end of the blurb I was hooked! I can’t wait to read about Maggie! And you say this was inspired by true events?
Well, first of all, thank you for inviting me to your fabulous blog (love the name). I presume we are drinking a chilled Sancerre? Great! So, to the book. Yes, THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME was inspired by a group of fourteen Irish emigrants (friends and relatives) known locally now as the Addergoole Fourteen, who left their homes in a small parish in County Mayo and sailed together on RMS Titanic. Although my main characters are all fictitious, Maggie’s background and life in Ireland was based on an amalgamation of some of the female members of the fourteen.
Lexi: You are going to make us envious as I know the answer to this question. Where do you live?
LOL! I grew up in a rural village in Yorkshire, in the north east of England, but I now live in a small town in County Kildare, Ireland, about an hour outside Dublin. I’ve lived in Ireland for twelve years and am very happy here. It really is a beautiful country and it’s true that the Guinness tastes better here than anywhere else!
Lexi: Ah-ha. Green with envy. Green...Irish, can’t get away from it! Did living in Ireland inspire this book in any way? Where did you hear about this group of Irish emigrants?
I’ve always been fascinated by Titanic (I was a teenager when the wreck was discovered) and when I decided to write a novel set around the ship and the tragic events of that April night, I knew I wanted to explore the experience of a third class passenger, rather than that of the wealthy millionaires we know so much about. Living in Ireland, I was also keen to find out more about the Irish passengers who boarded Titanic in Queenstown, County Cork. In the survivor records of Irish passengers, the name Annie Kate Kelly kept coming up. It was that which led me to the story of the Addergoole Fourteen. History has, in some ways, neglected those of the lower social classes because they were ordinary people. We know plenty about the likes of the Astors and the Strauss’s, but little about the passengers who travelled on third class tickets, many of whom were leaving their homes in England and Ireland in the hope of finding a better life in America. I felt that it was these, ordinary people, who had the most extraordinary stories to tell. I also wanted to explore the aftermath of the disaster and how such an event can have lasting repercussions on a survivor’s life.
Lexi: This is your debut novel. Quite the undertaking, a solid historical novel. Congratulations to you! How long did you work on your MS?
Thank you! I’ll admit that I was really nervous about tackling a subject as well-documented as Titanic – especially since this was my first novel (although there have actually been two others written, but they are best left hidden under the bed!) The event fascinates people and because of that, there are a lot of official and unofficial experts out there! For months, I read everything I could about Titanic and her passengers. I read survivor accounts and newspaper reports from the time. I read other Titanic books, such as Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember and I got lost in Titanic websites like www.encyclopaedia-titanica.org. While some historical fiction writers struggle to find material about their subject, my problem was that there was so much! Once I felt I had an idea for the direction my novel was taking, I started to write. The first draft took six months (early mornings, late nights, snatched opportunities on the rugby sidelines and while my husband took our children swimming) and I took a further five months to rewrite and edit the manuscript.
Lexi: Historical Fiction is tricky. You will have readers that have in depth knowledge of the time or events you write about yet you are also weaving in pieces of fiction. How did you strike that perfect balance?
I couldn’t agree more – it really is difficult to get the balance right between fact and fiction. When I was writing the novel, I was very conscious of the reality of my story. How would the descendants of those who had inspired my book react to my retelling? How could I tell their story in a way that was respectful, yet also engaging to the reader? I wanted to do justice to the memory of the Addergoole Fourteen, and all of Titanic’s passengers, but I also wanted to tell my story in my own words. Of course, when you’ve spent so long researching a subject you are fascinated by, it is very tempting to throw in every tiny fact and detail. My challenge was to know what to leave out, as well as to know what to put in. I could geek out for hours about Titanic but my job in writing this novel was to tell an engaging story and let the characters – not the history – take priority. The painstakingly researched historical facts should, ideally, just become a part of that story; noticeable and enjoyable, but not distracting.
Lexi: The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic struck a perfect chord with me, I am very excited to go find a copy! Thank you so much for stopping by the blog today Hazel; who happens to not be an 80 year old woman but a beautiful young woman! Yet another reason to be jealous. Jealous or not we are happy for you, enjoy your book’s release!
Thank you! It’s especially exciting to be publishing my debut novel in America – although my two children still don’t believe their mummy’s book is being sold in bookshops there. To be honest, I think they’re just looking for a holiday, so I can prove it to them!
Titanic poster as well as 3 copies of the book!
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