This month we welcome award winning historical fiction author, Vicky Adin to our website. Vicky is a genealogist in love with history and words. After decades of research Vicky has combined her skills to write poignant novels that weave family and history together in a way that makes the past come alive. Fascinated by the 19th Century women who undertook hazardous journeys to find a better life, Vicky draws her characters from real life stories - characters such as Brigid The Girl from County Clare and Gwenna The Welsh Confectioner, or Megan who discovers much about herself when she traces her family tree back to Constance and Isabel in The Cornish Knot. Her latest novel The Costumier's Gift, is the long-awaited dual-timeline sequel to the family sagas of Brigid The Girl from County Clare and Gwenna The Welsh Confectioner.
Vicky Adin holds a MA(Hons) in English and Education. When not writing you will find her reading – she is an avid reader of historical novels, family sagas and contemporary women’s stories; travelling – especially caravanning, and cruising with her husband and biggest fan; and spending time with her family.
Welcome to Autumn Chickens, the new magazine style website devoted to thinking people in mid-life and beyond. Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you came to be living in New Zealand?
I’m Welsh born, Cornish raised, and came to New Zealand with my parents as an impressionable pre-teen. I immediately fell in love with the country. I loved the colours, the blue skies, sunshine and warmth and was soon spending all my time on the beaches. I shortened my very English formal name to fit the more casual lifestyle and haven’t looked back since. Despite my roots, New Zealand is home to me.
When did your writing really take off? What made you decide to pubIish your first book?
This is a rather long story. I inadvertently became the family historian after my husband first took me to his grandmother’s home, which she shared with a daughter and two sons at that time. They soon confused me by talking about their other siblings (eleven in all), the numerous extended families, the nicknames, and their grandfather, Daniel. The stories varied from mirth making, sad, almost unbelievable to ‘that’s incredible’. The only way I could make sense of it was to write it all down and create trees and branches and put twigs on them. Fast forward twenty years and, on a trip to England, my husband and I visited many of the places they talked about and traced more of Daniel’s tree.
A few years later, while completing my university degree, I started to write Daniel’s story for one of my assignments in creative writing. Full of tragedy and heartache as well as love, I wrote about his arrival in New Zealand as a twenty-one-year-old soldier in 1863, through to his death in 1926 as a pacifist with sons who were WWI conscientious objectors. After much encouragement, in 2011, I released his story as a dual timeline portrayal of his life. It has since been retitled as ‘The Disenchanted Soldier’.
How do you feel about writing? Has it made a difference to your life?
I love the writing process. I love putting words together to create images, stir emotions and put history into perspective. My love of genealogy and my love of writing are a perfect combination. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Some days I am itching to get writing, or else I’m researching or drifting off into a world of my own trying to put my thoughts in order. I couldn’t imagine not writing.
How many books have you published? Do you have any favourites?
I’ve published six books so far and am working on book seven as I answer your questions. Each one holds a special place in my heart for different reasons. I’ve explained about Book 1, The Disenchanted Soldier above. Book 2 and Book 3 came out within months of each other. It was a race to see which character would win. I was writing ‘The Cornish Knot’, the story of Megan, a 50-something widow who traces her great-grandmother’s footsteps through a long-lost journal, entering into the world of art linking Cornwall, Florence and New Zealand a hundred year earlier. The story was based on a snippet in an old newspaper about a unknown painting by a famous artist being discovered on the back of a painting of a cottage in Cornwall. The Cornish link intrigued me and took me back to my childhood haunts. I loved writing it and it’s one of my most popular books.
At the same time, Charlotte, from ‘The Art of Secrets’, kept nagging me to write her story. She was most persistent in her demands and some days I had to write about her just to keep her happy enough that I could return to what I considered the more ‘important’ story.
Megan won the race in the end, but I have a soft spot for Charlotte who is a feisty character. Written in the first person, 70-something Charlotte and her supporting character 30-something Emma take an instant dislike to each other. Forced together through circumstances, they battle it out as they struggle to come to terms with the secrets each of them hold. Writing from the point of view of two age groups proved challenging at times, as they held such differing views on the same topic, but it was fun to write.
Book 4, ‘Brigid The Girl from County Clare’ was inspired by another genealogical search into the past. My husband’s maternal great-grandmother left her beloved Ireland at the age of 18 to travel to Australia and, later, New Zealand in search of a better life. The first part – the journey to Australia – is 90% fact. In Parts II and III, I have fictionalised her life by giving her the skill of lace-making, an Irish tradition. Next came ‘Gwenna The Welsh Confectioner’ whose story closely resembles that of my own great-grandmother who was a Welsh confectioner. Both stories are set in Auckland (NZ) and are historically accurate with only the characters, and how they fitted in to the events of the time, fictionalised. Again, I loved the genealogical research, picturing how these real people lived and loved, worked and died: their lives filled with both blissfully happy moments and tragedy. I feel these people want me to write their stories so they are not forgotten.
Book 6, The Costumiers’ Gift is a dual time-line story that ties the stories of Brigid and Gwenna together and brings the family tree into the present.
Do you think it is important to write books which feature older protagonists?
Most certainly, and sooner or later even my youngster characters age. As an older person now, I feel I can transcribe emotions better and understand more about life and why people do and say the things they do. Oh, to put a wise head on young shoulders – but we never can. Nevertheless, it’s important to portray how older people think and react, which is often quite different to what younger people expect.
Tell us about your most recent book.
My latest release or the one I am writing?
The Costumier’s Gift is my latest release. As I mentioned above, it brings to the stories of Brigid and Gwenna through the decades to the present. Jane, the historical anchor to the dual time-line story, is Brigid’s young foster daughter from Brigid The Girl from County Clare, while Gwenna is Jane’s best friend. Katie, the modern day protagonist, must fulfil her grandmother’s wishes and uncover the secrets Jane left behind before she can claim her inheritance. There’s lots of twists and turns, and it’s been well received and has recently been awarded an IndieBRAG Medallion.
The book I’m writing, which will be released later this year, is a follow-on from The Cornish Knot delving deeper in the art world in New Zealand. Currently titled Portrait of a Man, Part I is inspired by the true story of an Italian pioneer to Dunedin in the 1860s who established an art studio and which has been revived by his artist great-great-nephew. Part II involves the mysterious Luciano, Isabel’s lover from The Cornish Knot, and Part III brings the story into the present with all the secrets exposed.