Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Where can I send my heroine? By Roberta Grieve

Where does a story come from? For some of us it is a character, others a setting, sometimes a plot. For me, the character is the start. I have a young woman in trouble of some sort; she has a problem to solve, Since most of my books are set in the past, the problem might not be the sort of thing that would daunt a modern heroine. Women’s lives were more circumscribed in Victorian times. They often had very little freedom. Whether rich or poor they were bound by the constraints of society. It is my job as a writer to find a way for them to overcome those constraints and find happiness at the end of their journey through the chapters of my book.

I have created heroines from .all classes of society from rich girl Arabella, whose one desire is to be a singer in ‘On Wings of Song’, to orphan housemaid Ruby in ‘Farewell Innocence’.

Arabella is leading a double life, desperate to keep her career as music hall singer Bella a secret from her respectable family. Her rebellious ways lead her into all sorts of adventures which brings me to the title of this blog. ‘Where do I send my heroine?’

Arabella ends up in the Crimea alongside Florence Nightingale, a far cry from the respectable London square where she lives, and the smoky seediness of the music hall. My heroines may have problems to solve but this is where my problems start.

The answer is research - probably one of the most enjoyable parts of my writing life. I love searching out contemporary accounts of the places my characters visit. I don’t use the internet much, preferring to linger in libraries and museums.

When you have not had the opportunity to travel to far off places it is possible with a writer’s imagination to submerge oneself into the atmosphere of exotic places. In ‘More precious than Jewels’ my heroine Grace ends up in India. I found a wonderful book, ‘Women of the Raj’ consisting of letters and diaries which painted a perfect picture of the country and the sort of life Grace could expect when she arrived in that strange place with its colours and smells.

It is often said that writers should write about what they know and when I started out as a writer I was very nervous of depicting places I could never hope to visit. But I grasped the nettle, did the research and, I hope, managed to show my readers what those places were like – India, Australia, Malta, Crimea – and, next on the list – Russia. Once I’ve done the research, that is.