Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

March 14, 2012

Titanic - and me


Three years ago, I started this blog. I'd just been made redundant, so what better reason to finally do something about that dream I'd always had of being an author. A lot has happened since then, lots of ups, lots of downs, but yesterday my first novel, The Girl Who Came Home - A Titanic Novel, was published on Kindle. Here's how it happened.

I don’t have a grandfather who played in the band. I don’t have a grandmother who was hoping to start a better life in America. I don’t come from any of the ‘Titanic’ towns. In fact, there is very little to connect me to Titanic at all – other than a long held passion, interest and fascination with the story of ‘the ship of dreams’ which sank in such tragic circumstances one hundred years ago.


Long before James Cameron’s epic hit the cinema screens in 2000, I’d talked about writing a book about Titanic and over the following years I jotted down notes, kept articles I saw and planned to write something, someday. But whenever it came to putting pen to paper (or fingers to typewriter) Titanic was far too daunting a prospect to tackle. Where to start? How would I ever do justice to the event? Would I ever be able to capture a sense of life aboard this amazing ship?

Then, one day in 2011, after pursuing my writing seriously for two years, I decided I was ready to tackle my long held ambition. So, I started doing research, particularly into the Irish connection with Titanic and stumbled across a website dedicated to the memory of The Addergoole Fourteen who sailed on Titanic. I found the story of this group who left County Mayo in Ireland incredibly moving and inspiring. It was then that I realised 2012 was the centenary year of the sinking of Titanic.

I researched and researched, right down to the smallest details of the cabins my characters slept in, the meals they ate aboard the ship and the songs they sang during their evenings. I spoke to members of The Addergoole Society who were extremely helpful. I watched the movie again. I listened to audio recordings of the survivors and watched incredible images on YouTube of the Titanic setting out from Belfast and other footage of passenger’s relatives and friends massing outside the White Star Line offices on Broadway in New York when news of the disaster arrived. I studied Father Browne’s incredible photographs and read books about the disaster. I was entirely immersed in Titanic’s story and rarely talked about anything else (much to the delight of my family and friends, I’m sure!).

I wrote my novel The Girl Who Came Home in just over three months – or rather, it wrote itself (or so it seems). I knew that the timings were tight if it was to have any chance of publication as most publishers had already filled their lists for 2012 long before the idea for my novel had ever popped into my head. But my agent encouraged me to write it (I think she realised it just had to come out of me one way or another) and the manuscript was submitted to an Irish publisher in summer 2011. While they really liked the book and my writing and were very complimentary, they didn’t commit to publishing. I knew this was pretty much my only chance, as other publishers had their ‘Titanic’ books already planned. Totally deflated, I crawled away to lick my wounds.

Encouraged by feedback from family who had read the book and loved it (‘honestly,’ they said. ‘We’re not just saying this because it’s you.’), I set about self-publishing the novel on Kindle. This in itself wasn’t the easiest of tasks, being a bit of a technical luddite. But buoyed by the self-publishing success I’d seen of fellow authors (Catherine Ryan Howard and Mel Sherratt inparticular), I bit the bullet. I contacted a Belfast-based artist to request permission to use one of his Titanic paintings for the front cover of the book and, after over a decade of talking about it, and three years of taking my writing dreams seriously, my Titanic novel came to fruition.
As we head towards the 100 year anniversary on 15th April, I feel proud and privileged to be sitting alongside traditionally published authors on Amazon and am happy to have fulfilled a long-held ambition. Writing about Titanic was daunting, hectic, exhilarating and incredibly, incredibly moving. I frequently found myself so immersed in the dramas unfolding before me on the page that hours would pass by without me noticing. I discovered some incredible stories of survival, good fortune, unimaginable tragedy and heart-breaking loss. Such is the story of Titanic with all its contradictions of class division, luxury and suffering, survival and death.

Titanic’s legacy will live on long beyond this centenary year. And I suspect our, and our children's, fascination with her story will only grow stronger over time.

The Girl Who Came Home is available now on the Amazon Kindle Store. Click here to download from Amazon.com and click here to download from Amazon.co.uk



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15 comments:

  1. How exciting!

    Being married to a Titanic fanatic I usually try to avoid all the books that are about it but after reading your Amazon page I have to say I'm quite interested in reading further, might even let the hubbie know I'm reading something about the Titanic, just hope the shock doesn't kill him.

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  2. Congratulations on the book release Hazel. And happy blog birthday! Three years blogging is quite an achievement! Can't wait to read the book.

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  3. I can't wait to read it Hazel, congratulations on such a wonderful achievement. Hope I can get it on Céires tablet now, don't have a kindle.!! xx

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  4. I could not read your post fast enough, I had to know you were published as I must read that story! Job well done indeed.

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  5. wow, I am quite a titanic fanatic myself plus an aspirinf writer so well done! I personally dont have a kindle or plan to get one, but I see the advantages as an author of publishing for it, its a shame as a reader I cant hold your book to read! Still, this wont stop me in going to amazon now and reading about it! xx

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  6. As someone who's attempted to write a book I stand in awe! Massive congratulations on a fabulous accomplishment. And what great timing! Can't wait to read it (but sadly will need to get a kindle first..)

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  7. Well done HCM! I'm very impressed. Normally you write with humour, I'm guessing this is more serious given the theme? Best of luck with the book it sounds like you've done lots of research. I must have a read. Kate - you don't need a Kindle you can download Kindle software : )

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  8. That's incredible! Good on you! That is an impressive achievement - loads of people say they're going to write a book then never do. Also I love that you wrote about something you've been fascinated with for a long time

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  9. Can't wait to read it. I know it will be totally different to 'Hot Cross Mum' E-book but I know I will enjoy it just as much!

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  10. I especially admire your effort because you're not a professional writer and have a bunch of responsibility to the side. Congratulations!

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  11. Late to the party (as usual) but I simply had to stop by and add my congratulations... the novel is sitting on my Kindle as I write, and will be promoted to the top of the 'to read' list forthwith!

    Well done, Hazel. First of many?

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  12. Well done for persevering! The story of people on the Titanic is a fascinating one and I hope you have a great uptake of readers :)

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  13. Congratulations! One more thing to celebrate... We just wanted to let you know your blog has been nominated as Parentdish Best MAD Blog Writer and you could be in with a shot of winning a fantastic family festival voucher and new children's bikes. If you'd like to get involved, you can find out more and download a badge to let your readers know about the awards from our website www.the-mads.com

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  14. Very many congratulations - it's a brilliant experience self publishing isn't it? And what a great story of perseverence; I've been in exactly the same situation, i.e. publishers say yes, it's well written but... and I remember learning about indie writers in March 2011 when the penny dropped that I could self publish. I barely knew what a Kindle was. To date I've had over 110,000 downloads. The journey of learning has been brilliant, the people I've met have been brilliant -you get one life and you have to give it your all! I'm sure you'll keep writing and publishing! I've just downloaded your book and I'm really looking forward to reading it. :)

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  15. It is the latest and the biggest tourist attraction for visitors of Belfast and Northern Ireland. vist onTitanic Events in Belfast

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