I’m tinkering with the idea of writing a novel for serialization in weekly parts. It will, I hope, be of some use to my students on BA programmes in English/History and Creative Writing. Making up the story as I go along feels daunting, though I do have a detailed synopsis to start with. Dickens did it with all his novels, so I’m certainly following in illustrious footsteps!
I’ve entitled the book Across the Great Divide, for reasons which will soon become apparent. The setting will be Yorkshire and London, 1776-1778, exploring the relationship between a white girl of gentry stock and the black slave she is ‘gifted’ by her rich sugar planter father. I hope to explore what it would feel like both to own a slave and to be that slave on British soil (the setting is usually American or Caribbean), and how friendship might be forged with all its attendant problems.
Though the genre is historical fiction, there will be elements of thriller, adventure, romance, mystery and the supernatural. Having two teenage girl protagonists is an added strength, in that it allows inclusion of gender issues in what was then a male-dominated world. I think the tale will appeal to an educated readership (black and white) interested in exploring racism, gender and class with an open mind against a backdrop of eighteenth-century England.
Good historical drama sees the past as a polished mirror of the present, making painful problems clear and, perhaps, more bearable. In our own time, where racial antagonisms are still common, it may be helpful to view such issues from a safe distance. That said, many readers will feel affinity with some of my characters who, misguided or not, are essentially us.
The opening chapter will follow shortly …