This is my last post in my virtual journey to the various locations in Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home and it’s a place I never expected to go to when I planned the novel. Although I made an outline before I began to write, for me it’s always the research, as well as intuition and listening to my characters, which leads the flow of my writing. I often end up in locations which are a complete surprise to me and India was one of these.
I had a vague idea that Siberia played a part in the Great War, but I had absolutely no idea that we sent troops to India, in fact my character arrived in Karachi, which was part of India rather than Pakistan back in 1916, when this part of my novel took place.
I was asked during one of my talks at Bitterne Library whether I’d visited India (& Pakistan) as part of my research, and I have to hold up my hand and admit that I didn’t and so how did I write the relevant chapters?
I don’t want to tell you the story, but I my aim was to weave historical detail around a plausible tale. Letters reaching home from so far away were sporadic and so this added to the anxiety of family left behind in Woolston. First I read as much as I could on the internet but, always liking to verify these web pages, I was sent copies of accounts of the times sent to me by The Hampshire Regiment Museum in Winchester. I have subsequently visited the museum and, almost as if to prove a point that the world is not so far apart, there were Gurkhas and their wives visiting at the same time, who took part in WW2. These accounts coloured my writing, not only with detail but descriptions and atmosphere. How did the troops feel to be so far away? What did they do? What did the area look like?
Here is a link to the Imperial War Museum where you can see the badge of the 9th (Cyclist) Battalion, The Hampshire Regiment.
Other questions pertinent to my story were,
How did Harriet’s son Tom, the quiet unadventurous one, cope with life in India?
Did he return?
What part did he play in the Great War?
What news of his experiences was he able to send home in his letters?
Through my story I tried to show the contrast in conditions to life here in England, or even to those poor souls out in the muddy fields of France, but most of what you read in the ‘India’ chapters are my imagination, seamlessly interspersed with factual details of the day. I can thank staff at the museum for reading the chapters to check for authenticity.
And so I end my virtual tour today. I have enjoyed sharing my journey with you, of locations that have become so vivid in my imagination that, when I visit them, (maybe I will go to Karachi one day too) I can imagine my characters living and working as if it were all true. Well, they certainly are true in my heart!