Published by Poolbeg Press
available in ebook and paperback (5 September 2017)
I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour for The Tide Between Us. This is a book that I would very much like to read however with no reading space at the moment, I have a guest post from Olive on why she writes historical fiction.
Why, Oh why Historical Fiction?
by Olive Collins
I’m often asked why I don’t write a contemporary novel, something involving the lives of the various characters I meet in my daily life. Wouldn’t it be easier to dip into the lives around me than painstakingly pour over history books, memoires, diaries, and academic papers. The answer is that there is little to discover, what happens around me is familiar and known. Most of my writing is done to satisfy my curiosity. Yes, it comes with a price. There are times when I feel studying for a degree in history would have been an easier way to spend my nights.
Researching historical fiction involves delving into an atmosphere, sometimes as unknown as if it was life on mars – even life on mars is speculative, historical fiction must be accurate. It must convey a sense of the time, the characters expectations of that era and the dialogue, the food, the politics, and facts – facts conveyed through a story without the novel boring the pants off the reader. And the period of history must interest the writer – otherwise we might as well write about life on mars.
My novel The Tide Between Us was a novel I tried not to write. It began with a chance encounter. Years ago, before the age of Google, I attended a St Patrick’s Day party in Israel. There was a mixture of wonderful characters, Scottish, English, Welsh, Irish, some of whom were familiar with Irish songs and history. During the party I noticed a black man who appeared to enjoy the celebrations as much as the most earnest Irish person. Afterwards he told me that he was Jamaican of Irish descent. I looked at his colour and thought of my white freckled nations. He told me how thousands of Irish had crossed the Atlantic for centuries for various reasons and thousands of Jamaican’s claimed Irish ancestry – I didn’t entirely believe him.
When Google became accessible I found myself researching his Jamaican-Irish story and found my old Jamaican friend (whose name I’d long forgotten) had been telling the truth. 25% of Jamaican’s claim Irish descent, there are enough Irish named towns and streets to realise the imprint the Irish left. I read several accounts of exiled Irish but one particular story that grasped my imagination was about 2,000 children. They were aged between 10 to 14 years and had been deported to Jamaica in 1650 to pick cotton and sadly, breed.
Knowing the research that was involved, the hours I’d spend locked in a room growing paler each day pouring over their history and understanding everything from the beginning – I tried to ignore the story. I knew nothing about the history or culture of the Caribbean yet I imagined their sea voyage. The image of a boy began to form in my mind, I called him Art O’Neill. I wanted to know what was waiting at the other side for Art and his fellow deportees, their lives afterwards, their children’s lives and the impact of slavery and emancipation. Did Art O’Neill take his home with him in his heart and dip into melancholy like so many other immigrants? The more I thought of the research, the harder I tried to forget Art, I wanted to wave him off at the pier and forget him forever more.
Finally when I sat down to write my novel, I only heard Art’s voice.
Following his story was fantastically rewarding and a reminder whey I write historical fiction. There were times I felt as if I was gliding over the slave villages and coral beaches of Jamaica with a birds-eye view of the 19th century. I was emotionally involved in all of Art’s little happiness’s and sadness’s. With each decade I celebrated his small and great achievements, I joined Art as he rose a glass of grog on the birth of his first child, I was proud when his grandchildren prospered, utterly jubilant on the night of emancipation. And like all characters, there was sadness at his eventual death.
To understand today, we need to go back, back to the beginning. That is why I write historical fiction.
| About the Book |
The Tide Between Us is historical fiction (1821 – 1991) based between Ireland and Jamaica
Part 1 (1821 – 1891) tells the story of Art O’Neill, who records his life in his final years. He begins with his boyhood in Ireland where he lived in the shadow of Lugdale Estate. After the local landlord was assassinated, Art was deported to the cane fields of Jamaica as an indentured servant on Mangrove Plantation. When he acclimatises to the strange exotic country and bizarre customs of the African slaves, he assumes his days of English tyranny are finished until the arrival of the new heirs to Mangrove Plantation. His new owner is Col Stratford-Rice from Lugdale Estate. Art must overcome his hatred to survive. He takes us through the decades of his life, the coarseness of Jamaica, fatherhood and slave emancipation which liberated his coloured children. His greatest battle was fought quietly as he struggled with his abhorrence at his Anglo-Jamaica oppressors, a mutual loathing that passed from father to son. Eventually Art is promised seven gold coins when he finishes his service. Art doubts the plantation owner will part with the coins.
Part 2 is based in Ireland (1921 – 1991) It opens with the discovery of a skeleton beneath a tree on the grounds of Lugdale Estate with a gold coin minted in 1870. Yseult, the owner of Ludgale Estate watches the events unfold and recaps on the rumours that abounded about her father’s beginnings in Jamaica, a county with 25% of the population claiming Irish descent. As the body gives up its secrets, Yseult realises she too can no longer hide.
| About the Author |
Olive Collins grew up in Thurles, Tipperary, and now lives in Kildare. For the last fifteen years, she has worked in advertising in print media and radio. She has always loved the diversity of books and people. She has travelled extensively and still enjoys exploring other cultures and countries. Her inspiration is the ordinary everyday people who feed her little snippets of their lives. It’s the unsaid and gaps in conversation that she finds most valuable.