I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Vicky Adin today. Vicky is captivated by the 19th Century pioneers who undertook hazardous journeys to find a better life in New Zealand. The women especially, needed strength of mind as well as body to survive, let alone flourish in a strange, new land. As a genealogist in love with history, these immigrants and their ancestors drive her stories.
Vicky lives in Auckland, New Zealand. She holds a Master degree with Honours in English and Education. Three words sum up her passion in life: family, history and language. She has combined her skills to write poignant novels that weave family and history together, inspired by real people, with real experiences in a way that makes the past come alive.
When not writing you will find her reading historical novels, family sagas and contemporary women’s stories, caravanning or cruising with her husband, or spending time with her children and grandchildren. She also likes walking and gardening.
How did you discover indieBRAG?
I first heard about IndieBRAG through author Linda Gillard as several of her books have won this award. I was impressed with her books, so I went searching to find the criteria hoping that my novels might qualify. I was delighted to find they did.
Please tell me about your book, The Girl from County Clare.
Although Brigid loves her home and family, she is torn. If she stays, she is another mouth to feed in a land plagued by starvation and poverty. If she leaves, she will never see any of them again. Heartbroken, Brigid boards the ship that will take her to a new life in Australia.
Brigid must learn to conquer her fears and overcome the stigma of being a servant, a female and Irish if she is to fulfill her dream. A new start in New Zealand offers hope – until the day the man who seeks her downfall finds her.
This story is loosely based on the true story of my husband’s maternal great-grandmother. I’m a genealogist and while researching her history I realised she had a fantastic story to tell. First, there was the long journey by one of the first steam/sail ships to Australia. On board, she meets new people and learns a lot about how they behave. She endures shipboard life, survives the storms and arrives in Brisbane stronger for the experience. Then she learns about life in Queensland and what people expected in a harsh new landscape, followed by a move to New Zealand where life is more egalitarian and forgiving.
I had to get inventive and give Brigid a useful occupation which provided both opportunity and hope. In real life, she was a domestic servant with little excitement in her every day routines, but the basic facts of her story and the actual events that happened during that time form the background to this novel.
What is one challenges of bigotry that Brigid faces?
Being poor, Irish and Catholic were all marks against girls in the 19th century. Proving yourself as good as the next and better than some took determination and spirit, all of which Brigid had in bucket loads.
In an endeaour to populate Queensland faster, The Domestic Servant scheme was introduced and many young poor Irish took the opportunity to escape starvation and search for a new life. It wasn’t always better.
Having a skill set Brigid apart, and Irish lace is famous for its intricacies and beauty.
What are her strengths?
Brigid’s skill as a lace-maker attracts the attention in the first place. Everyone wants a piece of lace that is made just for them, but her innate good nature is what draws people to her overall. Her ability to relate to people and her moral inner strength and determination means people lean on her. She never lets them down.
What inspired you to write a story during the 19th Century?
That period is significant in history because New Zealand is such a young country. Settlers didn’t start arriving until the 1840’s and by the 1850’s the European population still only stood at around 28000. After the Land Wars with the Maori in the 1860’s immigrants began to arrive in their thousands. The period between 1880 and the turn of the century was, in essence, the birth of a new nation. There are hundreds of fascinating stories of those times that are worth sharing.
What made you choose New Zealand where she sets up a home.
Because it’s true, but she didn’t live in Auckland. She lived in the Taranaki region – and because I live in New Zealand. This country is stunningly beautiful with an absorbing evolution. The people who came here came of their own free will in search of a better life. They worked hard, and developed a ‘can do’ attitude long before such a thing was heard of or became popular. They made do with what they had and developed something from nothing and by doing that often became world leaders in new ideas. I believe that history should be kept alive.
What is some of the research that went into writing this story?
I spend a lot of time reading old newspapers. They provide an incredible insight into what happened, what people thought about those events and how they coped when things didn’t go according to plan. They would be my number one source, although I do use the Archives, online resources and the library when I want to back up my knowledge. My family history research also tells me a lot about how people lived. Old photos show what the houses and people looked like and what they wore, and the country is filled with amateur historians willing to share their knowledge.
How long did it take to write this book and what was your process?
It takes me about a year to write a book, although many of the original ideas have been festering for a long while. Again, family history research brings up occupations most people know little about – an artist’s model, an author, Brigid is a lace-maker. My only male protagonist is a soldier who becomes a pacifist. In my current novel, Gwenna, she is a sugar boiler. I usually have to explain what a sugar boiler is. She makes sweets and creates a confectionery business.
I gather some facts that include a few unusual twists and turns and start to write. As I write, I research that what I’m describing is relevant and available at that time. I read the newspapers and include events that happened around that time which my characters could have been involved in – and if they weren’t involved, they would have known about it. I build a real life based on real events around the bones of real people. The love, they laugh, they cry, they grieve and they leave something of themselves behind at the end of every story.
Where can readers buy your book?
A message from indieBRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Vicky Adin who is the author of, The Girl from County Clare, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, The Girl from County Clare, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.