Some of you will know I’m a big fan of writer support groups, both online and in person and am a member of several. My local group is called Chindi and I’ve benefitted from all their support and encouragement.
Today, I’m delighted to be interviewing one of my Chindi buddies, Patricia Osborne, who is celebrating the publication of her new book, The Coal Miner’s Son, this week. Since we write in different genres there is no direct overlap in our books, but the writing process has many similarities and we focussed on the research process here. Over to her …
Firstly, thank you to Lexi for inviting me over to her blog during my ‘Chindi Author of the Week’ which happens to coincide with publication of my second novel, The Coal Miner’s Son.
When it comes to writing family sagas, my favourite era is the 50s and 60s. This is partly due to the fact that my late mum would have been a similar age to my protagonist Grace Granville in House of Grace (Book 1 of the trilogy) which meant that I already had a fair grasp of what life was like in Britain during those decades. My mum inspired my character, Grace Granville, and Jack Gilmore, Grace’s first love, was based on aspects of my dad. On my regular visits to Mum, I’d quiz her on details such as what Dad was wearing when they first met and where they went for their first date.
Reading family sagas, non-fiction books, and watching television series played a big part in my research. For example, I researched mining accidents, and coal miners’ wives’ communities. George Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier aided the latter and it was from this I was able to create a coal miner’s wife.
Mr Selfridge and House of Elliott were particular inspirations for House of Grace while a villain, Reverend Osborne Whitworth in Poldark inspired my villain, Sir Gregory Giles, in The Coal Miner’s Son.
Facebook memories of Bolton sites were really good sources for research in the fifties and in particular the FB Palais site. The members were so helpful in providing details right down to what the furnishings were like in the dance hall in 1950, how all the youngsters would meet their boy or girlfriends under the clock, and even how much a cup of coffee cost. I’m pleased to say that when these members read House of Grace they felt they were back all those years in the Palais.
One of my aunties helped me choose an illness in the early sixties that could be a childhood killer at that time which I was able to use in House of Grace. I followed this up with research, making my first port of call the internet, and at that time I was also lucky enough to have access to Brighton University online library, in particular searching academic sites such as JSTOR.
Researching the sixties was easier for me as I was able to build on my own memories. For instance, poor Mum dragging a tin bath in from the backyard and filling it up with water boiled in buckets on the stove. And the dread of having to go outside in the yard to the toilet, especially when it was cold and wet – these recollections enabled me to enact scenes in The Coal Miner’s Son when George bathes in the tin tub by the fire.
To heighten these memories and fill in any gaps, I studied non-fiction books such as: “A 1950s Childhood: From Tin Baths to Bread and Dripping” and “A 1960s Childhood: From Thunderbirds to Beatlemania” both by Paul Feeney. And “The ’50s ’60s: The Best of Times: Growing Up and Being Young in Britain” by Alison Pressley.
The internet is a great source too and Google was my friend. For example there are quite a few weddings in the House of Grace trilogy so sites like Pinterest were a great help. Here I looked at pictures of different dresses and took details from a few of them to come up with a beautiful gown for each of my brides. I’d search to see what fabrics were around in a specific era, satin, silk, etc, then I’d look at designs on Pinterest and maybe take something from three or four different pictures to come up with a unique gown, adding netted petticoats, broderie-anglaise bodices etc. I’d go through a similar regime for flowers and cars too.
Growing up in Bolton as a child aided my research too, particularly for Part I of House of Grace as most of the story is set there. My visits to the townhall and museum with mummies and famous lion sentinels outside proved a valuable use of time. I was able to use these places in scenes in House of Grace when Grace stayed with her best friend, Katy, in Bolton.
When I’m not questioning relatives or memories of Facebook groups I find Facebook friends in general are always accommodating in answering questions. In fact they love it, they feel like they are having input in the book. It’s a great feeling. For instance I may ask what the most popular toy for a ten-year-old boy was in 1962. The answers will come back in floods.
So I suppose for me, for research, I like to wherever possible, write what I know, develop it using research, and then embellish and fictionalise to create extra drama. I love the idea of learning something new while writing.
Blurb for The Coal Miner’s Son
After tragedy hits the small coal mining village of Wintermore, nine-year-old miner’s son, George, is sent to Granville Hall to live with his titled grandparents.
Caught up in a web of treachery and deceit, George grows up believing his mother sold him. He’s determined to make her pay, but at what cost? Is he strong enough to rebel?
Will George ever learn to forgive?
Step back into the 60s and follow George as he struggles with bereavement, rejection and a kidnapping that changes his life forever. Resistance is George’s only hope.
About the Author
Patricia M Osborne is married with grown-up children and grandchildren. She was born in Liverpool but now lives in West Sussex. In 2019 she graduated with an MA in Creative Writing (University of Brighton).
Patricia writes novels, poetry and short fiction, and has been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. Her first poetry pamphlet ‘Taxus Baccata’ is to be published by Hedgehog Poetry Press during 2020.
She has a successful blog at Patriciamosbornewriter.com where she features other writers and poets. When Patricia isn’t working on her own writing, she enjoys sharing her knowledge, acting as a mentor to fellow writers and as an online poetry tutor with Writers’ Bureau.
The Coal Miner’s Son is the second book in the House of Grace trilogy.