Special Guest post by Cynthia Jefferies, Author of The Outrageous Fortune of Abel Morgan
Lots of people have asked me where on earth I got the idea to write this rather extraordinary story. All I can say is that one day the character of Christopher Morgan popped into my head and just wouldn’t leave me alone. Sometimes it’s the plot that comes first, but this was definitely a person first.
I’ve always been fascinated by that complicated and chaotic time in British history when, after a long period of peace in the country, King Charles I and his subjects resorted to war to resolve their differences. The king only needed to call parliament when he wanted money and his need to come up with ever more creative taxes to get what he wanted went down very badly. It was a system that had outlived its usefulness.
The Outrageous Fortune of Abel Morgan begins after the chaos of war, when most of Christopher Morgan’s wealth is gone and he only has enough money to buy a tumbledown, disreputable inn. It is his attempt to stand up to a smuggler family that results in him losing Abel his son, and begins his long search to find him.
The novel is told in two voices, father and son, following their separate lives across seas and continents. It took several years to write as I struggled to tell both stories, intertwining them in such a way that the tension is kept high, and nothing is given away too soon. Charles II, Samuel Pepys and Hans Sloane all have cameo roles.
Ideas for a novel come from all over the place. A sack of dried chillies I noticed when in Delhi, India suggested one small scene. A visit to Istanbul, Turkey gave me the setting for the scene. Visiting a never commissioned wooden ship in Dundee Scotland gave me lots of ideas, as did a visit to a much smaller old boat on the Tamar in Cornwall.
In my career so far I have learned a few things from a couple of excellent editors. One reminded me that common phrases have little place in fiction. A good writer will find her own way of describing things. No need for babbling brooks, scorching suns or old crones. Find your own words. English is such a rich language.
I suppose more than anything I have come to love and respect editing. Yes, of course it’s important to research the subject until comfortable in it. Then to get a feel for how the plot will develop, however much or little you like to know before you start. I use post it notes on a door to move important scenes around until I’m fairly sure how the plot will work.
It can be hard to start. That first sentence is so important! And about half way through writing the novel lots of writers lose heart. I know I can! Suddenly it feels as if everything I’ve written is rubbish. That’s when it’s so important to keep going, however bad you think it is. Getting towards the end can suddenly feel euphoric as you race to the finish. Then I usually put the manuscript away for as long as I can manage, and do something entirely different for a few weeks at least.
About the Author