‘The Red Baron’s Englishman’ is now out of my hands, sent to Pen and Sword Books for professional tweakage and publication. Suddenly I’m sleeping better and if I’m honest, I had an exhausted urge to wash my hands of it completely and if I never read another book about the Royal Flying Corps, it didn't feel like a loss.
Well that’s how I felt this morning. But I’m now out of the post-submission doldrums and I’m again desperate to stop strangers in the street and tell them this extraordinary/ordinary story.
Many days when I was writing I’d realise I was about to be late to pick up my daughter from school, as I’d got so absorbed. I’d then rush off, plugging myself into the ipod and listen to Public Service Broadcasting’s ‘Spitfire’ – it’s about the next war, obviously, but the sense of building excitement and danger it creates (as well as that unmistakeable Merlin engine roar that precedes it) matched my mood, especially as I got to the later stages of the book and the unstoppable momentum of the events of leading up to the dogfight with Richthofen. I was always the only one in the playground who’d just left a situation of impending historical drama and tragedy and never had anyone to talk to about it.
Attempting to accurately translate that narrative thrill I was experiencing was a real challenge, but if there was one thing I did want to achieve in the book, it was that I wanted to bring this century-old story to life so that people would care about what that unassuming teenager did in the summer of 1916. I’ve worked hard to be as historically accurate and objective as possible, and use as many sources to lighten what at times can be a grim and gruesome story, but ultimately, it’s the physical act of page-turning I’m trying to achieve.
I’m looking forward to working with the editors at Pen and Sword to streamline and focus the book – it’s another twelve months until it’ll be published in June 2019, by which time I will have lived with the story for the best part of six years. Can’t wait to share it!
Not so much a journey of discovery, more of a commute of compulsion
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