Work became my solace, my sanity. I poured my heart into my writing, and I was lucky in the years following to have two books in the top twenty Sunday Times bestseller lists: Polly’s War and The Favourite Child.
But what is a saga?
As well as this strong sense of place, the genre uses a multi-layered viewpoint and a page-turning plot. They deal with universal themes in a small domestic setting, social history at ground level, dealing with the position of women and the working classes, often forgotten in the larger dome of history. But then not all history was made on the battlefield. And it is important to set this domestic scene against a view of a wider world.
Catherine Cookson is considered to be the instigator of this genre, and made a point of dealing with difficult subjects, in particular women’s issues: illegitimacy, abuse, class, divorce, rejection, adoption, betrayal, loss. There is no limit to the topics covered, and emotion can run high in these stories. In The Bobbin Girls the issue is how much damage can a lie do if it is big enough? In Kitty Little it is loyalty and betrayal. The Favourite Child concerns bringing contraception to the masses in the 1920s. Candy Kisses is about child abuse. And there are many more: 35 published titles so far, including my other historicals. In my latest sagas: The House of Angels and Angels at War, the story examines how the three sisters overcome the damage caused by an abusive father.
It is not always easy to write such difficult scenes yet from the emails I get, they often touch a chord. Anyone who has ever suffered abuse, whether as a child, or bullying in school, in a violent marriage, or even in the work place, will appreciate how the first thing you lose is self-esteem. You are demeaned, humiliated, debased and shamed so that you come to hate yourself, a deliberate ploy on the part of the abuser as it puts the power in his hand. The Angel sisters have to deal with all of that, find love and a happy ever after. Wherever human emotion is involved you can find a story, and a writer must be honest with her reader and write from the heart.
Here's the blurb for Angels at War, now out in paperback:
Two years have passed since Livia and her sisters suffered at the hands of their brutal father and Livia is set to marry the handsome and caring Jack Flint while her sisters are contentedly living at Todd Farm. Yet she dreams of bringing back to life the neglected drapery business which was left to her when her father died. But is she prepared to jeopardise the love she shares with Jack to achieve her wish?
Racked with guilt over the tragic death of her sister Maggie, she promises never to let anyone down again and to do something worthwhile with her life. But standing in her way is the wealthy and determined Matthew Grayson, who has been appointed to oversee the restoration of the business. His infuriating stubbornness clashes with Livia’s tenacity and the pair get off to a bad start. But as her problems with Jack worsen, Livia finds it increasingly difficult to resist his charms. Despite all the emotional turmoil, she is also resolute in her support for the Suffragette Movement which puts further strain on her relationship with Jack. With the extra pressures of her sisters’ problems, is it possible for Livia to regain control of her life?
I’ve now published 25 sagas and a couple of years ago began to feel the need for a change to freshen my creativity and add to my output, so struck out in a new direction.
I'll tell you more about that next week.