I’ve always wanted to write but, like most aspiring authors, I didn’t ever seem to have the time, or make the time, to sit down and do it. So, when I found myself without a job back in late 2006, I decided that the day had finally come to tackle creating a novel. When I thought about the subject, I really didn’t have a choice. For years my family had been telling me that I should write about my great-grandmother, the matriarch of the family, which is what I decided to do.
The fact that she had died long before I was born wasn’t much of a hindrance because I’d been raised on stories of her life and her personality. Besides, I had no interest in writing a biography, this was going to be fiction. I gathered all the information I could on my great-grandmother’s life, some from notes I’d taken years before when listening to my grandmother tell her favourite childhood stories and some from a short memoir my great-aunt had jotted down. Then, armed with the “facts”, I started thinking about how to turn them into a novel. Which is when I decided that I wanted to explore the contrast between what life was like for a woman living in my great-grandmother’s time to a woman growing up in my generation.
This means that Maria is based on a fictionalised version of my great-grandmother, Mutti, and Eva is based on a purely fiction woman of today. Eva is not me. She was born a couple of years before me, had different relationships and experiences, but is a woman of my time and background.
The similarities that jump out at people who know me are mainly around places. I set Eva’s story in places I’ve lived or visited. This was primarily so that I didn’t have to research locations in the modern half of the story like I did in the historical half. I did grow up in Seattle and I studied and worked there. And I immigrated to Australia where I’ve lived in Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Darwin. I’ve also worked and lived in Stuttgart and Munich in Germany, Cordoba in Argentina, Beijing in China and Seoul in Korea. All the other locations that Eva lived in or travelled around, I’ve at least visited, mainly as a tourist. I’ve taken many diving trips in the South Pacific and enjoy exploring Europe and Asia whenever I can. But this is where the similarity ends. Eva is her own person, created by my imagination and her own personality which developed as I sat at my keyboard.
Which, to be fair, could be said about Maria as well. The characters really do take on a life of their own as you try to put them down in black and white. So, the original plan I had to write about Mutti has actually been supplanted by Maria’s and Eva’s determination to tell their own story.
Of course once the story was written, edited and published, the really hard part began. It’s impossible to remain a reclusive author once your work is available for sale. Read my thoughts on being a reluctant marketer here.