Shaping Our Future by Commemorating the Past
This past week America and Canada both commemorated historical milestones. A hundred years ago on April 6, America joined Canada and the other Allied nations in the fight against Germany in WW1. Three days later, Canadian soldiers attacked the German stronghold Vimy Ridge in a battle that has come to symbolize the event that marked Canada's birth as a nation.
These two events still resonate as significant today. American troops lended powerful support to the Allies at a crucial point in the war. The Canadians' success at Vimy Ridge proved they were a force to be reckoned with as they succeeded where the British and French had repeatedly failed. The Canadians made their mark on history—not as a subordinate unit in the British army, but on their own.
In recognition of these historic events of WW1, today I welcome American romance author Ginger Monette, who has recently published Darcy's Hope, a WW1 saga inspired by Downton Abbey and Pride & Prejudice. Her Belgian field hospital setting required meticulous research into patient care, nurses, and of course the inevitable romances spawned by war. But what she discovered went beyond facts and dates. Today Ginger joins us to share how the men and women of 1917 can profoundly affect us a hundred years later.
A: First, Ginger, tell us what inspired you to write a romance set during WW1?
G: Downton Abbey! I had already written a companion novel based on some of Jane Austen's characters, and as I was watching Downton Abbey, I began to imagine, what if Austen's iconic Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet were catapulted forwarded into the era of Matthew Crawley and Lady Mary? I was struck by how little British culture had changed in 100 years. I could see Darcy dining with Lord Grantham with little change in decorum. Besides, the turbulence of the Western Front seemed a fitting and colorful setting for a romance between Darcy and Lizzy, two characters known for their “explosive” relationship.
A: Writing historical fiction inevitably requires research. How did you approach researching a topic as broad as The Great War?
G: With the only sources I could trust as historically accurate—diaries. However, diaries make research difficult as their vantage point assumes an acquaintance with the social mores, current news, general ways of doing things, gender roles, etc. of the era. Since I am not from that era, all those little details had to be gleaned from hints here and there. It took hours and hours of reading before a clear picture of daily life on the Western Front began to emerge. I read six hours a day for nine months and compiled over 200 pages of typed notes.
A: That’s a lot of reading! Didn’t you tire of such tedious research?
G: No. Actually I became obsessed. Those folks back then were a lot smarter than I’d given them credit for. In addition, I found the history fascinating and the people inspiring!
A: How were they inspiring?
G: Machine guns, poison gas, airplanes, and tanks made their debut in WWI inflicting destruction and horrific wounds on an unprecedented scale. Men lived in squalid trenches and saw their comrades dismembered and slaughtered on a daily basis, yet they remained cheerful and self-sacrificing.
And everyone did something to aid in the war effort. Hundreds of women volunteered as nurse’s aides, others wrote letters, sent care packages, and knitted socks. Men too old to serve as soldiers became stretcher-bearers and ambulance drivers. They fashioned splints from scrap metal, turned church halls into hospitals, and emptied bedpans.
As I read about these and hundreds of other random acts of kindness, and then came upon account after account of men who deferred to their comrades when they were gravely injured, I was challenged. Challenged to step up and be a better person. Challenged to take a moment to make a difference for someone else no matter how insignificant it seems. To yield to others even in my time of need. And to remain cheerful amidst trying circumstances. Taken together, all the small acts of kindness and self-denial I read about made an enormous difference in the end. I want to lend my hand to humanity to make a difference as well. The choices I make going forward will forever be influenced by what I learned from these people from the past.
A: The lessons of history certainly go beyond boring facts and dates!
G: They certainly do! As my father always said, “Those who do not heed the lessons of history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.” And the mistakes are not always blunders in political finesse or military tactics. People are people no matter what era, and there is much we can learn from those who have gone before us. They speak through the pages of history and their diaries if we will only listen.
A: I hear you're willing to give my readers access to a special WW1 photo album you've compiled to accompany Darcy's Hope. Can you tell us about it?
G: Most Americans know almost nothing about WW1. I was no exception. But after researching, it dawned on me that my own understanding of the Great War had been greatly enhanced by photographs, and I wanted to offer the same opportunity to my readers. So, I selected a hundred photographs that represented the technologies, culture, and people/places depicted in my story, then dressed them up like an old fashioned album and offer access to readers who subscribe to my newsletter. But as a special gift, I'll grant your readers free access to this online album—but only through April 19. They can pick up the link here
by using the password Alicia Dean.
Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog!
Listen to an excerpt of Darcy's Hope: Beauty from Ashes here
. You can also watch the video trailer for the book at https://youtu.be/px2fUiZdpGI?t=3s
Ginger Monette currently writes riveting romances inspired by Downton Abbey and Jane Austen. Her
use of compelling plot, vivid historical detail, and deep point of view has earned her stellar reviews for her Darcy's Hope saga and a grand prize for flash fiction. Living in Charlotte, NC, Ginger enjoys Pilates, period dramas, public speaking, and reading—a full-length novel every Sunday afternoon.
-If you love Period Drama or Jane Austen, join Ginger on Facebook at Ginger Monette Author