The working title of my first book was Rendezvous with Death (after a lovely poem by Alan Seegar, 1888-1916). I later changed this to The White Lady, which references the recurring motif of owls (barn owls are known as les dames blanches in French) and the code name for the resistance network in occupied France in the Great War. I will probably change it again because The White Lady is destined for a major rewrite.
The White Lady is a historical romance set in the First World War. It tells the story of Charlotte, an ex-suffragette, who has a profound encounter with a mysterious man only for him to walk away the next morning. She finds love elsewhere but her world is shattered by the outbreak of war. Charlotte is recruited for espionage work in occupied France where her resilience and courage are tested to their limits – until fate once more intervenes.
In its present form, The White Lady is too long and too convoluted. It’s superficial and sexy and contains enough material for at least two books. It’s the book I had to get out of my system in order to calm down and write something better. The realisation has been painful – but I’m now almost at the stage when I can look forward to revisiting Charlotte and adding some depth and meaning to her wartime romps.
The working title for the book I’m working on now (August 2018) is Soldiers from the Wars Returning (note plural), taken from a poem called Soldier from the Wars Returning by AE Housman and referencing the focus of my story on post-war lives. (Soldier from the Wars Returning is also the title of an excellent Great War memoir by Charles Carrington plus at least one other book chronicling subsequent wars.)
Will I jinx it if I say that Soldiers from the Wars Returning is already a far better book? Probably – but who cares! I learnt so much whilst writing The White Lady – a life-time’s worth of writing theory and Great War mythology – and now I’m taking it slowly; analysing, experimenting, thinking, discussing and, above all, reading. As promised elsewhere on this blog, I’m not going to delete or edit my past posts; however naff or naive, each one is a marker on my journey.
Here is my 60 second summary of Soldiers from the Wars Returning:
Hope, a young VAD nurse in the Great War, has a brief love affair with Kit, a pilot. Faced with disgrace, she is tricked into an engagement with Ashley, a sophisticated Army doctor. After the war, Hope meets Gerard who is deeply disturbed by memories of his dead brother Arthur, Hope’s childhood sweetheart. Hope and Gerard eventually realise their love for each other but their happiness is threatened by the secret of Arthur’s death. Alone once more, Hope finds strength and resolve to build an independent and fulfilling life.
(This page updated August 2018)