I didn’t get stuck while writing, Through the Barricades. That happened after. I explain all in an article published on writing.ie, a great resource for writers. In the meantime, here’s an edited version:
Traditional wisdom advises sticking to your genre and building your audience. It makes sense. To me, though, writing is about the very opposite of sense. It’s about sharing the stories that come my way. They are gifts to me. That’s how it feels. I’m not writing, I’m channelling. The stories are coming from somewhere else. Somewhere magical.
Through the Barricades is my first historical novel. I have written contemporary family dramas under my pen name, Aimee Alexander. I have written for young adults under my own name, Denise Deegan. Switching genres has never bothered me. A story arrives, I write it. I’m not restricted by how it will be categorised. I do that, I get bored. I get bored, my readers get bored. The End.
Through the Barricades is a story of duty, love and sacrifice. Maggie Gilligan, driven by the weight of expectation from her dead father’s last request, tries to ‘make a difference in the world.’ Not an easy thing to do in 1913 Dublin. Maggie is frustrated, angry and passionate. Daniel Healy is one of the few people who understands her. Each is prepared to die: Maggie for her country, Daniel for Maggie. Their mutual sacrifices put them on opposite sides of a revolution that alters the course of history.
If a story like this arrives to you, you don’t walk away. You open your arms wide. You immerse yourself in research. You try to get it right. You try to understand all those people who risked their lives for what they believed in – whether it was fighting in the Great War or becoming rebels and rising up for Irish freedom. I read, watched, listened to everything I could from that era.
For me there were two research highlights. One was finding a book written in 1917 that recorded what happened my beloved Irish regiment when they arrived in Gallipoli in 1915. It would break your heart. The second was reading actual witness statements from people who were involved in the Irish revolution that became known as the Easter Rising. Here were people I had read about in books, now recounting in their own words what had happened.
For two years, I lived in the early 1900’s. I occupied a world of war and revolution. I saw it, smelled it, tasted it, touched it, heard it. Breathed it. This went beyond research. I was in the trenches with the men in Gallipoli. I felt their fear, their boredom, their homesickness, their thirst, their optimism and pessimism. I was in the trenches again on St Stephen’s Green on a chilly April night as gunfire exploded from a nearby hotel wakening rebels to the treacherousness of their positions.
With Gallipoli in particular, I felt a real connection to those young Irish men in the trenches. I still do. Some day, I will visit those ghostly Turkish beaches. There will be tears. There is no question about that.
I did not think of genre. I let Daniel and Maggie (and Lily and Patrick and Michael and all the many others I have grown so fond of) take me along with them wherever they needed to go.
Then it finally came time to publish the book. That’s when things got real.
You can read more by visiting: writing.ie.