‘My adventures in genealogy were a fantastic foundation for the research I do for my novels and short stories’
Irish Historical Fiction author, Pam Lecky, is my guest on this week’s #IrishWritersWed.
Pam has just published, PAST IMPERFECT, a collection of short stories filled with historical tales of love, tragedy and the supernatural. (see more info below)
Today Pam has written a piece for us all entitled ‘Inspiration in The Family Tree’, so I’ll hand you over to Pam’s wonderful words now…
Inspiration in The Family Tree
by Pam Lecky
Many writers draw on their family history, or indeed history in general, when putting pen to paper. Let’s be honest — those skeletons in the cupboard are hard to resist. For anyone involved in researching their family tree, it can be quite frustrating trying to pin together their ancestors’ lives. For many years I dug around in Irish and UK records, trying to hunt down and piece together the lives and times of various characters from my past. It was a challenging business as many Irish records were destroyed in the War of Independence, leaving very few sources. But I was often lucky. Through various contacts I made, some progress was achieved and I often came across a clue buried deep in a library or an online source.
On one of my many visits to the Dublin City Archives held in Pearse Street Library, I found a most intriguing book entitled The Memorials of the Dead. A wonderful gentleman by the name of Michael J.S. Egan had visited cemeteries in the 1990s and copied down the inscriptions on the headstones. I had found my great grandfather’s headstone in Killossery cemetery in North County Dublin, but it was so weathered, it was illegible. Thanks to Mr Egan’s work, which detailed the inscription in full, I was able to trace the family back to the mid-1700s.
My adventures in genealogy were a fantastic foundation for the research I do for my novels and short stories. The fact that I love research is a bonus. On the downside, I often become too engrossed in the research and forget to get on with the business of writing. But historical accuracy is important to me, though I try not to let it interfere with the story – it is the backdrop against which my characters evolve. Most importantly, it gets me inside their heads so they speak and act appropriately. In my novel, The Bowes Inheritance, much of the sub-plot came from research in newspapers, blog posts and articles I found online. When I discovered that the Fenians were engaged in their ‘dynamite campaign’ at the very time and close to the area I had set my novel (English Lake District), a whole world of possibilities opened up. What was initially a romance turned into a mystery adventure as well.
Ironically, the inspiration for the short story, In Three-Quarter Time, didn’t actually come from my research at all. An off-the-cuff remark by my uncle at a family party sparked it all. ‘Did you know,’ he said, ‘your grandfather was originally dating your great-aunt and when she died he hooked up with your granny.’ My writer’s nose began to twitch!
Unfortunately, we have no other details, but from my own research I knew a little about my grandparents’ lives. For instance, I knew my grandfather had gone to America for a few years during which time his girlfriend, my great-aunt, died of TB in 1919. He returned from America some months later and married my grandmother in 1922. The rest, as they say, is ‘history’! The story is 99% fiction but the inspiration is very much from my family history.
When it came to writing The Promise, the inspiration was also family history but perhaps a tale no one was too fond of repeating, as it concerned a jilting very close to a wedding. All human emotion was contained in the story so how could I resist telling it – it was manna from heaven for a writer. Naturally, I changed much of the detail, including how it all ended, but it is very much a tale of its time when marriage was more of a financial transaction than a happy ever after. I have grown very fond of the female protagonist so it may even become a prequel to a novel I wish to write about the Dublin Lockout in 1913.
On the 6th April this year, I published a collection of all my short stories entitled, Past Imperfect. It is available as an ebook (Kindle) or paperback. It includes In Three-Quarter Time and The Promise along with other short stories, a childhood memoir and a Victorian novelette.
With settings as diverse as WW1 Dublin, the sinking of the Luisitania and a haunted lighthouse, romance, mystery and the supernatural await you.
You can never escape the past …
Purchase Link ~ Past Imperfect
About Pam Lecky:
Pam Lecky is an Irish historical fiction author and a member of the Historical Novel Society. She has a particular fascination with all things 19th century/early 20th century, from food and clothes to architecture and social history. Awaiting the invention of time travel, she has to be content with writing about these periods instead.
Website ~ https://pamlecky.com/
Twitter ~ @pamlecky
Facebook ~ Pam Lecky – Author