That’s the Sea Gate at Eilean Donan Castle, in the Highlands of Scotland, above. It’s two things at once. In the present day, it’s beautiful. But it’s said that people used to be thrown out of it, in acts of punishment or coercion. So, it’s terrible too. Sad, even.
And it’s the same with writing stories. Yes, they can be sad, and dark, and terrible. But they’re not only that. Or they don’t have to be. As with many things, in writing or life, it’s all about how it’s done.
Another view from Eilean Donan Castle
Writing Sad Stories
It was a recent review of FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE that got me thinking about this. Here’s the pertinent part of what the reviewer said:
I was somewhat hesitant to read this novel as I thought it would be too sad, but was glad to have chosen to read it as Sinclair did not disappoint with the telling of an exceptionally satisfying tale.
I felt the exact same hesitancy about writing the book. It was while researching local history for THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR that I stumbled across the information that 600 children and young people had been kidnapped from Aberdeen during the 1740s. They’d then been transported to the American colonies where they were sold into indentured servitude. It was terrible. It was sad. And, almost totally, overlooked. It wasn’t history that got talked about much. In fact, most people knew nothing about it. So, it was precisely the sort of story, sad or otherwise, that I liked to tell.
Making Historical Characters Relatable
I wanted to bring those people from the past to life, to make them human and relatable. But, wouldn’t it be too depressing to open the door to those particular historical events?
The answer is: no. I don’t think so, anyway. I found the book great fun to write. In fact, I think it’s the least dark of my novels. The main character, Elizabeth, is so determined, and so easily enraged. She kicks sadness to the side. Mostly. She does have some despairing moments. I wrote about one of those times in response to a question on the Wee Writing Lassie Blog (see the whole interview here):
A young girl was found dead in First Mate Alexander Young’s bunk during the voyage from Aberdeen to America. History has not recorded her name so I called her Maggie, and her death has a deep impact on Elizabeth in several ways. It causes her terrible grief, informs her opinions of what ‘fine gentlemen’ can actually be, and provides a specific awareness of how much danger she and other women and girls are in at times.
The publisher had this to say about Elizabeth, or Beth as she becomes, in their press release:
Fiery and forthright, Elizabeth isn’t someone to be argued with. She knows her own mind, and isn’t afraid to speak it. Through her experiences, the reader sees her grow from a girl, into a woman with a powerful voice… a woman of her time, but very much of ours too.
You can learn more about Eilean Donan Castle on the offical website here.
And more about FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE on the book info page here or on the links below:
FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the kidnapped children and young people of Aberdeen. The story follows the adventures of Elizabeth Manteith from the castle and her determined efforts to get back home. There’s love. There’s derring-dos on the high seas… And there’s chocolate!
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