Behind the scenes of Will's War in Brighton
After completion of Escape from Neverland and Dance into the Wyrd I was left with a profound sense of loss. It is hard to let a story go when you enjoyed reading it but just as hard when it has been a satisfying write.
So I decided to stay in the Wyrde Woods. Why not? I had invested the place with history and might as well visit another era in the Wyrde Woods. I had been doing some archery research for my non-fiction work and a number of sources had yielded gangs of English kids planning to defend their common or other playgrounds against invasion back in 1940.
Taking a small liberty with the age of two popular secondary characters in the Wenn Twyner books - basically, pretending that a whole decade was missing – I could field these as two kids aged eleven-thirteen back in May 1940. Struggling with the opening of this new 1940s book I realised that it would have taken some time before the repercussions of living in wartime England fully struck them, isolated as they were in the Wyrde Woods. I proposed to solve this by planting Will Maskall in a far larger town somewhere, feel the full impact of the invasion fears and the Battle of Britain and then be evacuated to the Wyrde Woods.
I sat down to write down Will’s experiences in wartime Brighton, hoping to get a long chapter in as opening for the 1940s Wyrde Woods book. I ran into an immediate problem. I like the setting to be one of the characters and so describe aspects of it in detail. That was far easier in a make-believe world of my own, I could create at will. Far harder though to do in a seaside town I knew nothing about. If I kept it relatively anonymous that would break with my general approach to setting. I also thought I knew lots about the 1940s because I grew up reading Commando comics and watching war films. I soon discovered these are very meagre qualifications. The only way to push forward was by research.
Usually this means a lot of reading but caught in an optimistic mood I searched fb for relevant groups and ran into the Sussex-in-History and Brighton-Past pages, as well as a group called 1940s World. Asking for help I was delighted with the level of feedback. People told me their own recollections, or the stories they had heard from parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I was referred to websites such as the most excellent My Brighton and Hove living history website, the BBC’s People’s War as well as a score of smaller websites recording the wartime experiences of various local communities in East and West Sussex. Similar help was given with the historical context of the 1940s and special thanks is owed to Bren Hall who has essentially become a co-author of Will’s War and whose enthusiasm for the project helped me finish it.
I suddenly had a wealth of materials to work with. So much, in fact, that the first draft was ten times longer than the sole chapter I had intended, once upon a time. I was loath to cut into what had become part of living history and a tribute to 1940s Brightonians whom I came to admire a great deal as I found out more about them. Secession from the main 1940s Wyrde Woods book was then just a small step away and the title Will’s War: A Story of Wartime Brighton was born.
Being impatient I published it on Kindle as an E-book but I soon withdrew it again as more information kept coming in, as well as the realisation that it might be a good idea to actually visit Brighton before publishing a book about it. That visit is covered elsewhere in the hubs Déjà Vu in Brighton. Suffice to say, Brighton conquered me very effectively, I immediately fell in love with the place. Working that in, as well as a secondary POV took some time. As a last test I have started to publish chapters on the pages of a Hove and Brighton community publisher and I am very grateful that QS gives local writing projects this opportunity. I may not be a local author just yet, but Will’s War is very much a book about Brighton and was founded by a community effort.
So there you have it. Will’s War is not a Wyrde Woods book as the woods have to suffice with a short mention at the end; other than that final chapter all the scenes are set in Hove, Brighton and Rottingdean. The one connection is the main character, Will Maskall, for he will continue to play a role in the Wyrde Woods books.
Why not give the sample chapters a try?
(I would be very grateful for comments left behind here on the hubpages as well as on the QP site. I see that these places are visited but never know if the stuff is actually read.)