In this, the closing year of the centenary of the 1914-1918 war, there’s a wealth of information online about the First World War, or the Great War as people called it back then, as well as scores of new books and novels, TV documentaries and thousands of hours of radio broadcasts, all looking back at this terrible period in history, and trying to make sense of a conflagration that seems at first sight to have little rhyme or reason.
Over the course of this year, I’ll add here the URLs of sites I’ve found most useful, and the books that have helped me most to understand (as far as I can) what happened and why. I’ll also suggest projects to explore this “war to end all wars”, and point you to sources of particular information – such as the British virologists who worked out what caused the terrible flu pandemics of 1918 and 1919, known as Spanish influenza, which killed more people than the war itself.
In my blogs, I’ll also be writing about the battles of Verdun and the Somme, both fought in 1916, the year my own WW1 novel is set, and the artillery the French army used to batter the German defensive trenches, and the infantrymen who were tasked with capturing French territory; and why horses were so important to these battles that they were taken away from the women and girls who still had to work the land, forcing them to pull ploughs and harrows by their own main strength. I’ll look at the ways people mourned their dead after the war; how it is still commemorated today; and the death of my own great uncle, Thomas Clarke, of the 19th King’s Liverpool Regiment.
It was by chance that I began writing about this appalling conflict: Andersen Press ran a WW1 short story competition for students of the Masters degree in creative writing for young people I was attending at Bath Spa University. The prize was publication in War Girls (2014), and I was lucky enough to win. The Goose Road is the novelisation of that story. Thus I have – off and on – been researching the Great War for about the same amount of time that the fighting lasted on the main battle fronts in Europe – although war continued in Russia for years afterwards, and its effects reverberate still.
If your interest is less in World War One and more in the craft of writing, then do have a good look around my blog posts. These are easiest to navigate via the Welcome page side bar headed ‘Practical Writing Tips’. Here you’ll find tricks of the writing trade, self-editing tools, and posts about my own journey to publication.
For a little light relief, you’ll also find at least one gallery of pictures of my darling dog – with more to follow, no doubt!
Teachers, as a trained children’s fiction editor, a mentor for adult writers and a journalist as well as a novelist for teens, I’m happy to talk to classes from Y6 to sixth form, and to devise bespoke creative writing workshops. If you’d like to know more, please get in touch via the form on this site’s contacts page, or follow & then DM me on Twitter.