Today, TeachingBooks.net welcomes author Julie Lawson as she stops by on her blog tour to discuss her new book Ghosts of the Titanic (Holiday House, 2012).
April 15, 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic! The circumstances are well known. But what happened after the ship went down? I didn’t know—until I discovered that Canadian cable ships were chartered to go out to the disaster site, recover victims’ bodies and take them to Halifax, Nova Scotia, for identification and/or burial. I thought this was so interesting that I set to work on researching and writing Ghosts of the Titanic.
My research for this book was quite extensive as you’ll see in the image below. I researched the cable ship Mackay-Bennett, read first-hand accounts, studied the improvised system set up to identify bodies, pored over the meticulous details regarding the personal effects and appearance of the 330 bodies recovered, and spent days on the pages of encyclopedia-titanica and similar websites. I studied the ship’s plans deck by deck, noting cabins, passages and stairways.
Shiploads of research!
A real challenge—but if my characters were going to be on board, they had to find a historically accurate way of getting off! I even visited the site in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the Titanic was constructed and launched.
Deck plan of Titanic. How would I get my characters out of here in time?
As I was compiling the research and organizing my notes, I was also thinking about characters and roughing out a story. How would such a gruesome, heart-wrenching task affect the crew? This question gave rise to my character Angus Seaton, the youngest sailor on board. It also led to some intriguing what if … possibilities. What if, during Angus’ recovery of a body, something goes wrong? What if the consequences are so far reaching they affect someone in the present? Enter modern-day Kevin Messenger, whose chance discovery embroils him in a century-old mystery, pits him against a very demanding ghost and lands him on the Titanic.
A replica of a Boarding Card, from the artifact exhibition.
For me, the idea for a story never comes from one source alone. It comes in bits and pieces—an experience from here, a remembered detail from there, an unusual fact, a character that invades my mind and won’t go away. The story comes about during the process of researching and writing when, unexpectedly, the mind somehow links these unconnected bits together. The tradition of sailors carving “wreck wood,” for instance, was something I’d once scribbled in a notebook and forgotten. I hadn’t planned to use it in the book, but there it was. And when I was in the Fairview Lawn Cemetery of Halifax to research a different book, I happened to visit the Titanic section. Several years later, the impressions I noted that morning formed the basis of the last chapter in Ghosts of the Titanic.
Hear Julie Lawson pronounce and speak about her name. Listen now.
To see the Book Guide, click here.
Win a free copy of Ghosts of the Titanic! Enter to win one of five copies by “liking” Holiday House on Facebook and posting a comment with the most FASCINATING fact you know or have learned involving the Titanic.