Friday 20 July 2012

Under a Brighter Sky: Stage 2 in My Novel Marathon

Discovering the Novel Process.

I loved this jacket design by Len Thurston
Writing a series of novels as I have over the years has been a whole learning process. With each novel I have learned something new.With Riches of the Earth I came to learn the sheer discipline of putting a whole network of stories together into one narrative that took me and the reader through twenty five years of two families' lives.

Under a Brighter Sky (now also available on Kindle) was my second adult novel; by the time I was offering the manuscript to headline I'd got to know my editor Anne Williams (now a fine literary agent) quite well and she was giving me very sound advice. I learned such a lot from Anne through the years. She enjoyed my writing and always had great structural advice. With this novel she advised me to begin my novel at the third chapter - where Greg finds Biddy the exhausted old Irishwoman in a ditch. In essence the advice was to begin with the first dramatic moment. Bingo! Anne was absolutely right. 

I have a feeling I have begun all my subsequent novels at Chapter Three...

And now for you:

About the story:
The wild Catholic Farrells and the straitlaced Protestant McNaughtons live less that a mile apart  But the two clans are only brought together when the Farrells' Aunt Biddy- who has shipped from famine-torn ireland and walked from Liverpool to County Durham to find the last remaining shreds of her family - is found exhausted in a ditch by Greg McNaughton.  But when Tommo Farrell comes home to find his sister Shona entertaining Greg and the old woman he loses his temper and  throws them both out into the winter night, leaving Greg with no choice but to take the old foundling into his own home.
      Then Biddy Farrell creates friction between the families, and when Margaret McNaughton is found wandering the streets one night and a prostitute is murdered, the finger of blame points to Tommo Farrell.

Set in the dourly impressive coal country of the North East and the teeming Metropolis of Nineteenth Century Manchester this novel centres on love, repression and freedom and I hope follows on from Riches of the Earth in  what Pat Barker judged to be  '...vivid characterisation, a compelling story combine to produce an original and memorable novel.'

From the beginning of the story:

Tommo and Shona reflect their childhood in Ireland.
      'What do you best remember? About things back there?' His voice was whistful...
        'Home?'she answered. 'Oh.... the fine days when th rain was really soft, no more than a fine veil. Our mammy holding onto Gerard's arms, laughing at Richie's antics. And our Daddy standing on the edge of a field of fully grown corn. And him by the smithy fire with your sweating st the bellows. And Maire sitting in the window waiting for us to come home.'
         He poured lukewarm water into a jug and drank it to the last drop, wiping the residue from his chin with the back of his hand. 'We're all right here, aren't we Shona? You, me and our Richie? Plenty money from the ironworks?'
        She laughed. 'Maybe. But there'll  never be plenty money as long as you pour it down your throat. Or place it on lame horses or digs...Good job I've got me own wage.'
         'Ain't no need for you to work down the pit, Shona. Dirty work that, for a woman...'

From near the end of the story:

To her annoyance Shona had hardly seen Greg all week. He spent Friday on some errand in Priorton and they had only managed to  see each other briefly after supper. The idle life at Garth End did not suit her and she took it out on Greg, 'I haven't seen you all week,' she whispered to him on the stairs.
      'I've been around,' he grinned. 'You must be blind.'
      'No!' She went bright red.'I mean properly. To talk to. i want to find some work. I'm used to working. I've earned my own money since I was a pit girl and I don't intend stopping now.'
        You want to go  back down the pit? Or back on the stage at the Variety Hall in Priorton?' His tone was neutral...

I hope you enjoy it! wx

Scroll down for more details about the writing of the earlier novel 


  1. It's great to see all your novels out there as e-books Wendy. A new lease of life!

  2. Thanks so much Kathy. I like the idea of a new lease of life. WXI've set myself quite a big task doing this sequential commentary of all the books but It's very interesting and involving.



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