A Conversation with Historical Fiction author, Susan Lanigan
Please give a warm Coffee Pot welcome to historical fiction author, Susan Lanigan.
Mary Anne: A huge congratulations on your fabulous new release, Lucia's War. Could you tell us a little about your book and what inspired you to write it?
Susan Lanigan: Lucia was already a character in my previous novel, White Feathers, but most of her story had to be omitted for length. Ever since then I have felt I owe her a book of her own, and that it would be worth the effort to tell her story. It took me a few years and a lot of personal investment, but it was worth the effort!
Mary Anne: What drew you towards the era in which you set your book?
Susan Lanigan: I’m fascinated by World War One, BY the clash of traditional morals with emerging nihilism and liberation - all the more so since the Marketing Department (or whoever makes the call about these things) has decided that since the centenary years are over, nobody cares about that period any more. (Or at least they did until the advent of Covid-19. 1918 and 1919 are receiving renewed interest in its wake.) The Great War – the Bangarang, as Lucia calls it - is such a horror show, and has such massive social ramifications, that you could be telling stories about it for years but still as Sassoon puts it, the singing would still never be done. Since Lucia yearns to be a classical singer, this analogy would resonate with her!
Mary Anne: What were the challenges you faced in researching this period of history and were there any unexpected surprises?
Susan Lanigan: Because Lucia is a Black Jamaican woman, I was writing out of culture, so I had an expert reader as well as an editor check that historically the story was plausible. I thought I’d got some idea of Jamaican dialect but I had lots of gaps in my knowledge. Thankfully, the process was not as daunting as you might think from reading social media – I have to say I found it fun, and an interesting learning experience. All you need is an open mind.
Mary Anne: What do you think is the most challenging aspect of writing Historical Fiction?
Susan Lanigan: I find detail regarding clothing or surroundings tricky – I try to make sure my characters are grounded in the time period, but I find description sometimes tough because I’m an aural more than a visual person. However, I’ve got favourable reviews saying they particularly like that my books aren’t weighed down with research, so maybe I have the balance just right!
For Lucia’s War, I found people who resembled the main characters in my head – and many of the minor characters, Edgar Manning, for example – were real people, so that helped.
Mary Anne: What advice do you have for aspiring Historical Fiction authors?
Susan Lanigan: I think you have to be very engrossed in the period. Even in school I was writing essays about the clustershow that was the Battle of Verdun, so I was obviously intrigued by WWI for a long time. For my first novel, White Feathers, I was entranced by the use of a symbol of peace to perpetuate such a divisive mentality as accusing men of cowardice, and how feminism was put on its head. With Lucia’s War, my love of music was something that permeated the pages.
For writing: Use the real events as waymarks in the first draft if you feel lost. If a battle definitely occurs on x date, so that gives you something to plan towards if your story is getting lost.
By Susan Lanigan
Soprano Lucia Percival has overcome racism and many obstacles to become a renowned opera singer. She is now due to perform her last concert. But she has no intention of going onstage. A terrible secret from her service during the First World War has finally caught up with her.
London, 1917. Lucia, a young Jamaican exile, hopes to make it as a musician. But she is haunted by a tragic separation that is still fresh in her memory - and when she meets Lilian, an old woman damaged by a similar wartime loss, she agrees to a pact that could destroy everything she has fought so hard to achieve.
From the Western Front and the mean streets of Glasgow, to black society in London, Lucia’s story tells a tale of music, motherhood, loss and redemption.
From the author of "stirring" wartime saga White Feathers, shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2015, Lucia's War is ideal for fans of Andrea Levy and Sebastian Faulks.
The Coffee Pot Book Club
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I graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a degree in English and History, then pursued a Graduate Diploma in I.T. in Dublin City University and a Masters in Writing in NUI Galway.
My first novel, White Feathers, a tale of passion, betrayal and war, was selected as one of the final ten in the Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair, 2013, and published in 2014 by Brandon Books. The book won critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the UK Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2015. My second novel, Lucia’s War, is out now and has been awarded the Indie Books We Love badge from LoveReading.co.uk.
I live by the sea near Cork, Ireland, where I go for walks, get more involved in politics than I bargained for, and continue to work as a software developer.
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