|Balloon Fiesta Flights Over Bristol
Much as I love fiction, my career started with non-fiction and to be honest, there are times when I've missed it. So when I was offered the chance to write the Bristol edition of Pen and Sword Books' Women's Lives, 1850-1950, I jumped at it. I was born in what used to be little more than a village half-way between Bristol and Bath, so this was an opportunity to go back to my roots in more ways than one.
The first thing I did toward my new project was to open a spreadsheet and start a timeline. The top row is national events. For example, I've included the censuses from March 1851 onwards, to the publication of George Orwell's 1984 in 1949. The second row of my database shows milestones in the history of Bristol between 1850-1950. The third row is notable details in the lives of Bristolian women.
Then I had a brainstorming session, listing the seven major areas of interest: education, home life, health, entertainment, working outside the home, entertainment, and finally politics and protest. The Women's Lives, 1850-1950 series will be published in 2018, to coincide with the centenary of the first women being given the vote in England.
Once I had this organised, I slotted all the information I mined from the Bristol Archives under one heading or another, cross-referenceing as I went. It's saving me a lot of time. As I was working, I met some female family historians who were kind enough to give me some anecdotes for my book. It all added up to an invaluable start to my project.
Now I have to collate all this information, and work it up into a text worthy of all these remarkable local women. Given that the years 1850-1950 was a century filled with innovation, bravery and self-sacrifice, shot through with the down-to-earth humour of Bristolians, that shouldn't be too hard.
My only problem will be what to leave out. I've got enough material for half a dozen books—not just one!