The lovely Madame Gilflurt has invited me to participate in the 'My Writing Process' blog survey. It’s an honour to do so, and my contribution is below:
1) What am I working on?
I’m currently in the midst of delving into a substantial amount of primary source material and manuscript research for two separate yet interrelated projects I’m writing about regarding William Pitt the younger. Regular readers of my site will be aware that I’m primarily interested in the private life of Mr. Pitt, and I’m always on the lookout for previously unpublished material.
Currently my focus is on the historical novel Insurmountable Obstacles, a tale of the love story between Pitt and Lord Auckland’s eldest daughter Eleanor Eden. It explores their affair partially from Eleanor’s perspective, and delves into the reasons behind why Pitt broke it off. The other protagonist of the novel is the twelve year old daughter of a servant in Pitt’s household called Elizabeth Williams. Elizabeth and her younger sister Louisa Jane grow up being educated and provided for far beyond the experience of other daughters of servants, and when their mother Jane becomes seriously ill at the beginning of January 1797 their lives will change forever.
My other work in progress is a non-fiction book on the private life of William Pitt as related in the accounts of the people who personally knew him. I have much more archive material to explore, but it has been an amazing journey thus far! I’ve vastly enjoyed the experience of piecing together the multifarious aspects of Pitt’s life from the varying accounts and placing them into a coherent three-dimensional picture. I would argue that Pitt was a difficult person to understand, and as he is a man who has been dead for over two hundred years, this process of capturing Pitt the Man as opposed to Pitt the Minister is an even harder endeavour. Nevertheless, I have felt challenged throughout to persevere in this project, and some of the evidence I have encountered along the way calls into question existing theories about Pitt's life.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I wouldn’t say that my historical novel about Pitt’s love story with Eleanor Eden is very different to other novels of its genre. It does have two vastly different female points of view, however: Eleanor Eden is the aristocratic eldest daughter of a British peer of the realm, and Elizabeth Williams is the daughter of a servant in Pitt’s household. The women, of course, never personally knew each other, although they were united in their connection to, and love for, Mr. Pitt. The main thread of the novel is the choice Pitt ultimate has to make between his sense of duty and his future marriage prospects.
In the case of my non-fiction work in progress, I definitely believe it’s different to other books of its kind. For instance, every other biography written about Pitt’s life has thus far primarily explored his political life as there is a dearth of collated information about his private hours. My goal is to create a compilation of the numerous accounts of Pitt in private life solely through the accounts of people who directly knew him. To my knowledge, this has never been done before, but the challenge doesn’t daunt me. I’m well aware that this is going to take years to finish - and I keep finding new material!
3) Why do I write what I do?
I write about William Pitt’s personal life from both a historical fiction and non-fiction perspective because I’m very passionate about having his private life known to a wider audience. In some respects, I’m trying to reform his reputation, and show that he wasn’t the cold, stiff, and unfeeling man that his opponents made him out to be. Instead, he was one of the most tender, loving, and compassionate politicians that Britain has ever seen.
4) How does your writing process work?
I’m quite an organised researcher and writer. I plan far ahead about which particular items I’m going to explore before I get to the record office, or private country estate, and I think ahead - sometimes months in advance - about where I’m going to do research next. I’m constantly multi-tasking and working on multiple projects at once, so I keep organised files on Google Drive, Evernote, etc. to keep everything tidy and easily accessible.
If I find myself becoming stuck on something, I normally switch to another lead or take some quiet time for myself to think, read, or listen to music to clear my head and focus. Sometimes eating cake helps, too! All of the characters in my novel were real-life people, and I have a heavily developed sense of who these people are in terms of character sketches. Nonetheless, with more research they have a way of continually surprising me! In the case of one of my female leads - Elizabeth Williams - it isn’t known what she looked like so I have had to invent, as it were, her physical attributes. I write and revise the same draft so that I don’t get bogged down with numerous manuscripts in various states of completion or confusion.
For my blog, as with my writing, I research as much as I can around that chosen topic before I write my post. I try to keep my blog posts relatively short and concise as I don’t want to fatigue my readers - my aim is to keep them interested, and to leave them hankering to learn more about Mr. Pitt!
Although I have not tagged anyone else, do get in touch if you’re interested in doing this as well. I always enjoy reading about other people’s work, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this little writing survey.