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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Lis McDermott writes about what inspired her to write her new historical romance novel, Echoes Of Drowning, and her research into World War 1 to create it.

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Lis McDermott, He Is Not Worthy, The Table Read

Written by Lis McDermott

Family History

We had a large album of family photos, some in sepia, many in black and white, and then colour, going back to before I was born. Pictures of my parents, their parents and uncles and aunts. I now have that album, being the only one of my family left.

One of picture that always used to make me laugh was my great uncle Will. He was my grandfather brother, and in the photo, he is wearing a hat that reminds me of a Canadian Mounties hat. He looked like he would have been fun.

The Lusitania

However, over the years, my mum retold the sad story of how he and his wife, Amy were on HMS Lusitania when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat, just off the Irish coast, on the way to dock in Liverpool. The ship was attacked on 1st May 1915. The Lusitania had sailed from New York with 1,959 passengers and crew aboard. Uncle Will went down with the ship, and his body never recovered – one of 1,199 people lost. Only 289 bodies were recovered. Amy, one of the 761 survivors, lived alone on the Welsh coast overlooking the Irish sea where her husband had perished, until her death in 1956.

There have been a lot of conspiracy theories over the years as to why the Lusitania sank so quickly. These theories range from – the passenger ship was carrying war munitions, to Winston Churchill engineering the sinking to bring the United States into World War 1. None have ever been proved.

This story has been in my psyche for years. My mother was terrified of the sea, couldn’t swim and wouldn’t go on boats. I wonder if family talk about the tragedy scared her. I don’t like being under water, but I can swim, and I do enjoy being on boats, although I have never fancied a cruise, due to the size of the ship.

Inspired To Write

Because I love writing about relationships and love, the idea of what I considered to be Amy’s enduring love kept coming back to me as something to write about.

I’m no historian, so I didn’t want to write their story per se. Plus, there have been other serious books written about the Lusitania. Therefore, I decided to create my own story around the ship, which turned into a mystery – as to why the boat sank. I fictionalised the boat and the places, although I did keep the names of my great uncle and aunt.

Then of course, my problem was, how would my character in 2018 know about the actual truth of the sinking, because 103 years later, there would be no one who had lived through it.

Developing A Story

Overtime, walking around with the idea in my head, and talking to other creative friends, my story developed. One of the main parts of the story is the relationship between the grieving father and daughter. I lost my dad a week before my 19th birthday, so was able to tap into some of my emotions from that time when writing about what father and daughter are going through – although, in my case, it was a long time ago.

I kept trying to dismiss the idea, but in the end, I had to give in, and the only way I could think of making the story work, was to include a ghost.

Why was I reluctant to include ghosts? I don’t believe in them. I know that fiction is just that, and you can make up what you like, but I like to have my fiction based in some reality.  Therefore, I spoke to a friend of mine who is a medium, and asked her questions so that what I did write about my ghost would make sense to people who do believe.  I hope I’ve got it right!

Initially I’d wanted my antagonist to be a fascist, but then, because as I say, I’m no historian, and quite ignorant about some political things, I found that Fascism didn’t exist until after WW1. So, instead my antagonist became a patriot of his country and also, he is anti-sematic. I’m a planner, not a panster, so glad I sorted that before I started writing!

Another friend who is a complete mine of knowledge gave me invaluable information about many things related to WW1, which helped immensely.

I also found someone in the US who gave me a whole load of information about trains in the early 1990s. I had one chapter which is about Will and Amy’s trip from the UK to Chicago, where they emigrated for Will’s work. I’ve also now made a wonderful contact in the States.

‘Echoes of Drowning’

A story of eternal and enduring love

It is 2018, and Jess is delving into the mysterious and tragic events surrounding the sinking of the Aliciana in 1915. Her only link is Amy, who, although now deceased, survived only to mourn the loss of her husband, Will.

Following her mother’s death, Jess and her father, Danny, move to Llaneirw on the Welsh coast. Both grieving, Danny begins renovating their new house in a desperate attempt to make it home. But the onset of recurring nightmares leads Jess to realise they have a spirit in their house and a mystery to solve.

A short break to Anglesey with Lukas sees the mystery deepen when Jess is unnerved by his grandfather and distressed when she catches sight of a photograph of his great-grandfather. Jess soon discovers that uncovering the reasons for her reaction to the image will help in solving the mystery. But first, Jess must find a way of convincing those around her that her dreams are, in fact, the truth.

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