Another book that suits our theme perfectly is Judith Eagle’s The Accidental Stowaway! Set aboard a ship, there is action, adventure and miles of ocean. Check out our guest blog from Judith Eagle about this book.
Sail Away on a Story by Judith Eagle
A good story is made up of three very important things: character, plot and setting.
The setting is what excites me most. It helps get me started when I’m thinking about writing a new book. It’s a brilliant way to create atmosphere, and can make a story unique and intriguing.
Of all my books, my favourite setting is on board the RMS Glorious in The Accidental Stowaway. The Glory was inspired by the magnificent ships that ploughed their way across the Atlantic over one hundred years ago. The ships were called ‘floating palaces’ because they were like palaces. They were many layered, like wedding cakes, with at least eight decks, stretching from the super luxurious upper decks, with cafes and restaurants and orchestras, down to the very bottom decks, where the stokers toiled day and night, feeding the fiery furnaces with coal to keep the engines going.
The ships were packed with people from all walks of life. Passengers included swanky lords and ladies swanning about in first class, and much humbler, poorer families in second and third. People travelled from England to the United States for all sorts of reasons. Some of them were going to seek their fortunes; others wanted to see their name in lights; many of them just wanted a fresh start.
Of course there was an army of staff on board to look after and entertain these passengers. They included musicians, stewards, bakers, butchers, storekeepers, waiters, porters, sailors and cooks. And every ship carried some unusual characters: perhaps a stowaway, a cat, or alonely child travelling all alone!
The more I thought about it, the more an adventure set at sea seemed like a really good idea.All those passageways just waiting to be explored; all those nooks and crannies in which to hide: the cabins, the stores, or the gloomy cargo hold right at the bottom of the boat, jam-packed with luggage of all shapes and sizes.
I began to study old paintings and photographs of real-life ocean liners. I paid special attention to the deck plans, which were like maps. This helped me to think about where the action in my story could take place. I watched an old film about the sinking of the Titaniccalled ‘A Night to Remember’ and I read lots of books set at sea.
I wondered what it would it be like to stand on that top deck, with the wind in my face, watching the roll of the waves, hearing the roar of the engines, and feeling the sea spray in the air…
Why was I on the ship? Where was I sailing to? What if I had run away, jumped on board, and then hid, all curled up in one of the lifeboats that lined the boat deck? Would I only come out at night to stretch my legs while everyone was asleep? Or would I wear one of my many disguises, and mingle with the crowds, hiding in plain sight?
I began to imagine the other passengers. Would everyone be who they said they were? Might some people be harbouring secrets? Might there be some villainous fellow on board with a deadly plan, determined to carry it out before the ship docked in five days’ time?
Five days! That really was the duration of the crossings at that time. The time frame gave my story a ‘ticking clock’ element. It added a thrilling sense of jeopardy and danger.
I started to write in earnest. I was ready to sail away. My research, and my imagination were working in tandem – because that’s the beauty of a good setting. It flings the door wide open, and points you in the direction of a wonderful adventure.
I love both reading and writing stories. I couldn’t do one without the other. This month you will discover some brilliant stories too; stories that will feed your imagination, stories that you can tell to your family and friends. Maybe you will decide to write your own story.
So bon voyage! Happy reading! I hope you have a brilliant time creating, reading and telling stories in National Share a Story Month.
The Accidental Stowaway is published by Faber and is available now.
Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Federation.