Where Do Ideas For Novels Come From?
Today’s guest post comes from author Melina Druga.
Other than my family, history is the thing that I love more than writing. That love began in early childhood when my mother and I read the Little House on the Prairie series together. It continued into adulthood when I watched documentaries, read volumes of history books, and took history classes to discover new facts and stories.
It is this love of history that persuaded me to become an historical fiction author. Not all eras draw me in equally, though. The years 1890-1920 speak to my soul, and old film footage and photographs from that time are comforting and familiar. It is an era that is very much like our own in many ways, because we live with the consequences of the events and social mores of that era today.
The period 1890-1920 also corresponds with the lifetime of Hettie Steward, the main character in my recent novel, Angel of Mercy.
Hettie was born in 1892 in Barrie, Ontario. Readers meet her slightly more than two months before the start of World War 1, known as the Great War prior to 1939, and readers enter a world on the brink of change. Not only will the war change the lives of nearly everyone she knows, but Hettie’s personal life is also about to change. She is faced with the decision, maybe even regret, of giving up her nursing career for marriage. She can’t understand why women can’t have both – men can, after all – and she struggles with what she views as a sacrifice.
Canada entered the war in August 1914, which is why Hettie is Canadian. When I first began fleshing out the idea for what would eventually become Angel of Mercy, I knew I wanted to follow a character throughout the entire course of the war. I wanted her life to drastically change. This would be impossible with an American protagonist. The United States wasn’t in the war long enough, so I needed a character with a different nationality.
I briefly contemplated British or Australian, but settled on Canadian because I had been to Ontario several times, and Canada does not feel like a “foreign” country. I felt I could replicate the nation’s attitudes and options better than if I chose somewhere outside of North America.
The inspiration for Angel of Mercy itself came from an unlikely source: the song “Mama” from My Chemical Romance’s album Welcome to the Black Parade. The album’s liner notes resemble an old-fashioned newspaper, and the band’s uniforms for the album’s tour looked as if they could have been from the early 20th-century.
In addition, the song has a war theme, beginning and ending with the sounds of a bombardment. The lyrics inspired many of my characters. Hettie and her nursing career, for example, were inspired by the lines “If you can coddle the infection they can amputate at once” and “And when you go don’t return to me, my love.”
The lives of all the characters in the novel were indirectly inspired by the lines, “We’re damned after all. Through fortune and flame we fall.” This mimics in many ways the attitudes of what is known as the Lost Generation, the generation Hettie is a part of, the people who came of age during the Great War.
The title Angel of Mercy has an historical inspiration. Nursing sisters during the war were given the nickname “angels of mercy” because of their dedication and hard work. Canadian nurses also had the nickname “bluebirds” because their uniforms were a brilliant blue.
Hettie’s story was released June 28, 2019, but I love her and her struggles so much, that I’m not about to leave her anytime. Angel of Mercy is the first of a trilogy. The second novel in the series will follow Hettie’s family, all of whom we come to meet in the first novel, whereas the third novel examines post-traumatic stress and the difficulty returning to civilian life once the war ends.
Melina Druga is an author of historical fiction and nonfiction, and is a freelance writer and blogger. She also is an avid history enthusiast. Her era of expertise – and obsession – is the 1890-1920 timeframe. You can follow Melina on social media on Twitter (@MelinaDruga), Pinterest and Goodreads. Melina’s books are available exclusively on Amazon, and eBooks are free to Kindle Unlimited members and on KDP Select free days.