One of my favourite books is Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. In a nutshell, set in London after World War 1, the main character, Clarissa Dalloway sees her job as creating connections between people and to that end the story focuses on a party she is throwing. During her preparations for the party, Mrs. Dalloway’s mind continually travels back and forth across time and in this way the reader is in both the past and the present, raising the concept of endless possibilities that could/might happen through these human connections.
When I wrote my second Historical Fiction, After Paris, I was inspired by an old photo album of my grandmother’s. She (Mary Thomson) was a Dutch nurse who went to Paris to work in WW1.
Although the Netherlands was neutral during WW1, Dutch benevolent societies funded medical teams to support the Allies. Mirroring my grandmother’s experience, my main character goes to work in a hospital fully funded and staffed by the Dutch ‘Ambulance’ situated in a fine dining restaurant (still there today) called Le Pré Catelan in the Bois de Boulogne (Paris), which, for the duration of the war was transformed into a hospital.
The story continues after the war as my character struggles to fit back in to society, and with the loss of her career and confidence she makes a series of poor choices on her journey to reinvention and self-awareness.
The reason I am so bold as to mention both Mrs. Dalloway and After Paris in the same piece is because a reader of my book reached out to me to tell me that her grandmother had also been a Dutch nurse in Le Pré Catelan. Through a series of email notes and a scour through my photo album, I discovered a photo of her (Laurie’s) grandmother. There, in my grandmother’s writing was the name of her friend, Catherina Theadora Warnsinck (nicknamed ‘To’).
How magical is it that more than one hundred years after the end of WW1 a woman in California (Laurie) forges a connection with a woman living in rural Ontario Canada (me!) because two Dutch nurses were friends..and because of a book?
Being an author is a constant delight to me. It’s a thrill to tell stories that people read and enjoy. It’s an honour to follow in the footsteps of Virginia Woolf and all the other great writers as I try to reach out and make connections in a world that is increasingly alienated.
The influence that each of us writers (authors, bloggers, reviewers, marketers, poets and journalists) have is often little understood. My new book Torn Asunder looks at this question of influence. Here’s a short summary of what the book is about:
He is an inspiring journalist, but Emmet Ryan has no idea that his words have the power to destroy those he loves the most. Opening in 1916, this is a story about a conflicted man set during one of Ireland’s most turbulent eras.
Torn Asunder is now available in all the usual places – amazon, smashwords, and kobo.
Like the expanding waves that ripple out from a stone falling into still water, our words reach out and touch people in surprising ways.
I’d love to hear from you! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org