I called it ‘contemporary fiction’. The way I saw it, anything happening within my lifetime was contemporary. Historical novels are set in the past, in Victorian times or earlier.
Then I came to edit ‘Family Business’ prior to launching it for Kindle, not having looked at it for years, and realised that it wasn’t contemporary at all. The later action of the book, from the mid 1940s to the early 1960s, takes place within my lifetime, helped by my own memories of those days. But as I’ve lately come to understand, the Second World War is now definitely History with a capital H. So ‘Family Business’ is going to have to be launched as a historical novel. I shall mark this up as another of those disquieting moments when I realise I really am getting on a bit!
The next thing I was faced with was the vexed question of the cover. The original print book had one of the few covers I quite liked, so I set out to trace the current copyright holder and see if I could make use of it again. Sadly, they would have made a substantial charge for its use, so I ruled that out. Time for another photograph…
There’s a remote cottage in the story, which my heroine and her young husband restore and move into soon after their marriage. So I set out for Weardale with my camera to find a suitable cottage to capture for the cover. When we first knew the area there were a good few such places, looking as if they had been untouched since the late 1930s, but most of the accessible houses are now restored to modern standards and lived in, if only as holiday cottages. And it was winter time, with few hours of daylight and the hazards of icy roads.
Then I read in the ‘Northern Echo’ that a new book on ‘The Disappearing Farms of Weardale’ was about to be launched on the world – that very week, as it happened. So I set out to find a copy, hoping that it might lead me to a suitable remote cottage.
Sadly, Chris Ruskin, the book’s author, had problems with the printer and the book was held up. Instead, I met her in person (much better than a book!) and she generously allowed me to look through her fine photographs of the many abandoned buildings that scatter the hills and fields of Weardale. Not only that, but she steered me towards several that might serve my purpose, helping me choose one that had the feel of ‘Fell Cottage’ in the story. What’s more, she adjusted the photo so that it suited the dimensions needed for an ebook cover. So, thanks to her kindness, ‘Family Business’ is just about ready to be launched on the world.
And as soon as ‘The Disappearing Farms of Weardale’ is ready, I shall buy a copy, for my own enjoyment.*
Then there’ll be the sequel to work on – ‘Queen of the Road’. Anyone know of an early 1960s Leyland wagon whose owner would be happy for me to take its picture??
*The book is now in print (£12.95, available at various outlets throughout Weardale) and well worth buying. It is much more than just a coffee table book with pretty pictures, but gives a succession of glimpses of a lost way of life. Having said which, the photographs are certainly beautiful. (September 2013)