Tuesday, June 17, 2014

It All Started at a Jumble Sale

RHYS: Today I'm delighted to welcome my dear friend Jacqueline Winspear to celebrate the much anticipated release of her new historical novel, set during the First World War.

JACQUELINE: When Rhys asked if I would like to be a guest blogger on Jungle Red Writers, it took me no time at all to tap out an email in reply:  “I’d love to!” I said. So here I am, and it’s great to be here.

 


 

I’ve always been interested in where stories come from, how a germ of an idea ignites in a writer’s mind and then takes hold until it sparkles with possibility.  And sometimes it’s a pretty small event that starts the ball rolling, something you almost miss, but you don’t because you’re paying attention – a chance meeting in a shop, or something seen while on a train in another city.  Perhaps that’s why I love just walking around without a map when I’m in a place for the first time – I can feel myself tingling with anticipation, wondering what might cross my path to light a fire that becomes another story.
 

 


It was over twenty-five years ago that I came across a book that would go on to inspire my new novel, The Care and Management of Lies.  At the time I was working in academic publishing – which, in case you don’t know, has as much in common with general book publishing as flower arranging has with explosives. My job involved visiting professors in university science departments to introduce them to the company’s products, in addition to perhaps getting them to write textbooks, on subjects as riveting as, say, compiler design, or electronic control systems, or biochemistry, or magnetic imaging.  Yeah, can’t wait to read them, can you? 
 

 

 

It was a pretty intense job with little time outside work, however, when a friend asked me if I would join her in running a weekends-only stall on London’s Portobello Road, I said yes immediately – anything for a break from academia!  We sold art deco pottery and china, as well as costume jewelry from the same era – and we had a blast! However, the enterprise needed new stock constantly, so I would occasionally go to jumble sales (rummage sales) on a Saturday instead of the market – and I would look for gems amongst other people’s throwaways, items we could resell on the stall.  It was during one of these forays that I came across a copy of The Woman’s Book, published in 1911. 

 

 

 

The book was battered and torn, the cover was hanging on by threads and the pages were foxed.  But it was the inscription that took my breath away, for the book had been given to a young woman on the occasion of her marriage, just one month before the outbreak of WW1 – a war that became the first defining human tragedy of the fledgling twentieth century.  And as I read that inscription, I wondered what had happened to the young couple.  Had the husband marched away to war and been killed?  Had he returned wounded and shell-shocked?  And what of the young woman – had she been widowed before even knowing a year of marriage?  I could not stop thinking about the woman who had received this book.

 

Over time, my imaginings began to take shape, and soon I’d given the young couple names – Kezia and Tom.  Kezia was my great-grandmother’s name, and I loved it. I gave them a home in Kent – it’s where I was born and raised, a place always in my heart.  Other characters gatecrashed the story and I allowed them in – the oh-so passionate Thea, and honorable Edmund.  I loved creating Kezia’s father, who becomes an army chaplain, and even though she has only a small part, Kezia’s mother is a woman who sets her boundaries with ease.  Then Tom goes to war.

 

 

 

I never thought I would write my novel inspired by The Women’s Book, but there came a time when I knew I must, so the fact that The Care and Management of Lies will be published on July 1st is a milestone for me.  When I first had that idea I was in my mid-twenties, a young woman with a dream of being a writer who didn’t quite know how to go about it, except to write, I suppose.  Frankly, it took me a long time to stick my neck out and try to get my work in print – I was in my mid-forties when Maisie Dobbs was published.  So, I suppose that when I see the first bound copy of my new novel, it will be quite an emotional time for me – you see, when I think back to the moment I picked up that copy of The Women’s Book, I never imagined I would one day be a published author writing about where stories come from on a blog alongside authors I so admire.

 

 

 

So, dear reader, if I had just one piece of advice for you – when you have that idea for a story, get to it and start work.  Now. 

 

 

 

And thank you Rhys, and everyone at Jungle Red Writers for inviting me along today!

 
RHYS: Thank you for this lovely piece, Jackie and we're all raising our glasses to your new book!
The Care and Management of Lies will be in stores and winging its way to your Kindle, Nook etc on July 1.

23 comments:

Joan Emerson said...

What a terrific story about how the discovery of The Woman’s Book led to such a wonderful novel . . . .
It’s amazing to see what sparks the imagination and brings books to life.

Mark Baker said...

I'm sorry, I lost interest after those academic books you talked about. How could anything be more fascinating than them?

Kidding. I'm only kidding.

Thanks for sharing where your new novel came from. I know not all books have a back story that interesting, but I enjoy hearing about the ones that do.

Ellen Kozak said...

Amazing what will set one's imagination racing, isn't it?

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

Welcome, Jacqueline! What a terrific back story — looking forward to the new book!

Deborah Crombie said...

Hi Jackie!!! So thrilled to have you here, and you already know I can't wait to read the book! I knew some things about the background, but I didn't know the story about it being inspired by a book you found when you were looking for stock of your stall on Portobello. You know that's dear to my heart.

We will all be cheering you on July 1st!

FChurch said...
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FChurch said...

Hello, Jacqueline! I've read your Maisie Dobbs' books and your latest is tugging at my heart. My paternal grandfather fought on the Western Front during WWI, so the war has a personal connection for me. I've learned more about the cost of that war in your books and other mystery novels than I ever discovered in an academic textbook.

I love the backstory for your newest book--and love hearing about your path to becoming a published writer. I think that, along with observing details, a writer also possesses the ability to turn the prism of observation and look at events, details, snippets of conversation from a slightly different angle--sometimes immediately, sometimes much later.

For myself, I read an interesting article some months ago. And just recently, the information popped up in my mind again--and I thought, instead of "How amazing!", "Wouldn't that make the perfect alibi for murder?"

Judybusy said...

Thank you, JR, for hosting Ms. Windspear! I am so excited about the new book. I've been a bit immersed in WWI history lately, having read Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August and Ken Follet's Fall of Giants. The Maisie Dobbs series got me interested in learning more about the time period. I'm sure this will be a great additon.

Mary Sutton said...

Love this story. Even being a writer, it's always fascinating to me where story ideas come from. This one is really special. Best of luck with it.

And I love the story behind it - realizing that the glimmer of a story you saw as a young woman has come to fruition. Wonderfully inspirational!

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

LOVE this story Jacqueline--and the title is brilliant!

Lisa Alber said...

Is this novel your first standalone, Jackie? That's so exciting in so many ways. I love that the idea germ sat in your head for so many years. So inspiring!

Kathy Reel said...

What a fascinating back story to your new novel, Jacqueline! I am definitely putting this one on pre-order. I love thinking about peoples' lives that were the recipients of old books I have with inscriptions. That you made the connection with The Woman's Book so many years ago is a sweet memory trip for you as well. Thanks for sharing your writing journey as well as your book's journey with us.

Hallie Ephron said...

Hi, Jackie! Just checked out your web site to discover you'll be here in Boston at Brookline Booksmith in July! http://www.jacquelinewinspear.com/appearances.php
Hoping to see you then.

Love the title, and so interesting where the story came to you from.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Kezia! I just came across that name today, researching spices for my new series. It was the name of Job's 2d daughter, and came from cassia, the cinnamon-like spice; in those days, daughters were often named for spices or jewels, to emphasize their value. And of course, when your great-grandmother was born, exotic names were in vogue again. Great find, great story!

Leslie Budewitz said...
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Leslie Budewitz said...
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Gail in Seguin, TX said...

I am so looking forward to reading this book (and all your others, too). If only you were coming to San Antonio on tour!
Finding that "little" book of only 756 pages was quite fortuitous! Checking the internet to see if it might be available, I found that it is. If others are interested, see https://archive.org/details/womansbook00jack
Contains everything a woman needs to know? Perhaps for the times, yes. I was happily surprised to see how many areas are included, not just the home domestic details. It might be interesting to delve into a chapter from time to time.
I feel certain your book will sell extremely well!

Jungle Red Writers said...

So glad you could drop by, Jacqueline! What a terrific premise for your novel. It's on my preorder list for sure. Look forward to chatting with you at Bouchercon if not sooner. Yours, Red Julia

Pat D said...

I'm looking forward to reading this book so much! I've enjoyed the unfolding Maisie Dobbs' saga and I'm waiting for the next one too.

Denise Ann said...

Already pre-ordered! Old magazines are great troves of information and inspiration -- not only the articles but the ads. An inscription!

I have been on a road trip, and need to catch up with JRW!!

Denise Ann said...

Already pre-ordered! Old magazines are great troves of information and inspiration -- not only the articles but the ads. An inscription!

I have been on a road trip, and need to catch up with JRW!!

Anonymous said...

Rhys, thank you for the wonderful introduction.

Jacqueline. welcome to Jungle Red Writers. What a fantastic story about how the discovery of The Woman's Book led to an idea for a wonderful novel and the background of the story you wrote.

We find inspiration everywhere. The rummage / jumble sale is a great place. My inspiration for my WIP came from an exhibit, which I saw when I was in college.

Looking forward to the new book in July!

~Diana

Carole said...

Can't wait to read The Care and Management of Lies. Thanks for the honest, insightful post!