This is my breakdown of what kind of drafts happened over the course of me writing my first novel. The speech details my opinion of the effort taken in writing a book.
Good afternoon. I suppose I should start at the beginning when it comes to talking about my book. The origins weren’t quite as long ago to warrant me aping the Grimm fairytales and saying ‘Once upon a time’ but it has taken me a long time to get to this stage, and having a published book.
I started researching and writing it at least three years ago, and some of the people present know that I was more than a little unsure of what direction that I wanted to go in.
The first draft was inspired by Pride and Prejudice, Cinderella and some of those books that have attempted to follow Austen’s template. It involved a woman living in the Victorian period, raised by her stepmother, and alongside her two stepsisters, one of whom was nicer to her than the other. Rebecca the heroine at the time, had inherited a fortune from her mother and was the only living descendant of her mother’s line.
It was called Driftwood at the time and had Rebecca getting rescued from drowning in an early chapter by the brother of a local landowner. It was also in part influenced by Madonna’s song Frozen, as I had the idea of a woman unfolding slowly over the course of the novel, much like Darcy does. Rebecca was closed off at the start of the novel, and her rescuer Luciano encourages her to let the walls down.
The world of that initial draft expanded when my parents told me of a monument in Kirkby Lonsdale’s churchyard dedicated to five maids who had died in a fire in 1820.
I went over to Kirkby Lonsdale, and investigated the five maids’, trying to trace their family histories. When I discovered that one of the maids, a Bella Cornthwaite had originally come from Lancaster, I decided to make it a dual perspective piece, having Bella’s working class experiences and Rebecca’s upper-class experiences of the same time period.
Then I discovered a real life family who had lived in Halton, a village not far away from Lancaster, at the same time period. The Bradshaws seemed to be the principal landowners in the village and owned Halton Hall, a building that’s sadly not standing. I went over to visit Halton on more than one occasion, trying to get a sense of the place, and was pleased to find that there a number of Victorian buildings. The local newsagents were helpful at that stage, as they stocked books about the history of the village, and one of them provided background on the family, as well as photographs of some of the children.
The Bradshaws had a mystery, as the parents decided to sell their holdings, and go to Australia, but only take some of their children. I opted to use the name of one of their daughters, Millicent and fictionalise their story, making this character instead of Rebecca the focal point of the Lancaster-based strand. I continued to bring sections to the writing group that I was involved with but remained unsure about whether I was taking it in the right direction.
I then decided to complicate things, further, opting to bring in elements of the fanfiction series I had been working on. It had been niggling me why certain American fantasy shows, whose series finales typically involved the world being at risk, didn’t have more crossovers. I created an alternative to the Greek gods and goddesses, taking the conceit that the legends had been based on real people. I created a race of beings that were capable of incredible things, and could live for thousands of years, who were the reason behind the odd things that have happened in the Bermuda Triangle.
The character of Aella was my version of Aphrodite and surrounded by characters such as my version of Hephaestus, Apollo, Ares and other prominent members of the Greek pantheon.
The fifth draft was inspired by many things, I have been a long-standing viewer of both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Doctor Who, drawn in large part by the fact that the female characters are so strong and well crafted. They’re never made perfect creatures, or demonised. The ‘good’ characters have their weaknesses and selfish tendencies, and the ‘bad’ characters have strong connections and moments of intense bravery or love. I wanted to make sure that the female characters I was creating displayed the same depth.
It was around this time that I became a member of Preston archives, gaining access whenever I wanted to, the vast amount of records there. I spent a good deal of time both at that record office and travelling to Kendal’s record office. I spent some time in Barbon, a small village not far away from Kirkby Lonsdale, after learning that one of the landowners in the area during the 1820s and 1830s had a home in that village.
The character of Mr Kettering was created at that stage. He was supposed to bridge the gap between the wealthy landowner, and Bella. I gave him the position of estate manager, and a tendency to drink at the Sun in Kirkby Lonsdale, where Bella’s little sister worked.
I had changed the perspectives so that it was in the first person, and had given Bella a fictional experience. She was saved from the Rose and Crown fire and got a position in the Bradshaw household as a nursemaid. She was fired from that because she had a close bond with Mr Kettering, something that caused scandal.
I decided to have her spend time in America, and take the route of falling in love with an escaped slave named Sebastien. I did a lot of research into the Slave Trade and used some of the real names of the people who took part in the Underground Railroad. There is a wealth of information on the internet, even down to who went were, during those years.
The seventh draft, inspired by the kind encouragement of members of a writing group I attended on West St, had the introduction of modern day, alien and future sections. Aella’s past in her home, her interaction with a character named Serena, and a character from Basilica’s future called Paute providing a large section of the plot.
Despite having a number of people who had been positive and reassuring about the quality of what I was writing, I still was a long way from finishing it. I’m one of those that need strict deadlines, and that’s why I’m glad that a recently made friend Erol gave me a solid deadline of the 1st April. It was that and the fact that he kept asking at regular intervals, how far along I was, that made me change the book. It gave me the will and the drive to finish it.
I opted to use a combination of a set of diary entries that I had written for a fictional couple beginning in the nineteen eighties, and tracking their development from friends, to lovers and then to parents. I used Aella, detailing one of her lifetimes. The character changes her appearance, her name and her connections each time that she dies, but retains her core characteristics. The diary entries were rewritten to include some of the events of Aella’s past lives, such as fighting in the battle of Megiddo. I created the characters of Luciano, Dawn and Mary, to be Aella’s children during that lifetime, and had Mary be the main point of view. The idea was to have Mary be the narrator during the present day sections, but have the voices of Jared and Sara relaying their thoughts through their diary entries.
I managed to complete the document well before the deadline and formatted it as best as I could. The act of uploading to Createspace was something that I’ve never done before, and I made a number of errors. The steps are clearly set out, but there are many different choices that any writers that choose to self-publish that way have to make. You have to choose the cover, the size of the book, the colour of the pages, where you want the book to be distributed, the price of a copy in various different countries such as America, UK, Ireland and elsewhere.
I accidentally just created kindle version for the first printing but then added a paperback copy.