We’re thrilled to welcome Emma Fraser to ‘Love is the Best Medicine’ today. Writing as Anne Fraser, Emma has delighted us with her Medical Romances, and now writes historical fiction. Over to you, Emma…
As an author one of the questions I’m asked most often is where do I get my ideas from?
Some of you will know that I used to write Medical Romances for Harlequin Mills and Boon. As an ex-nurse ideas for those books were never a problem. But I have always been fascinated with the past – perhaps being Scottish has something to do with it. In Scotland, evidence of by gone lives is never more than a few feet away.
For my first historical When the Dawn Breaks, I started off researching the first women doctors. Almost immediately the name Elsie Inglis came up. When I trained as a nurse in Edinburgh there used to be an Elsie Inglis Hospital but I never knew why it was called that. It turns out that amongst other things Elsie Inglis was the driving force behind the establishment of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals – an all women unit that went out to Serbia, France and Greece during WW1. (The British Government refused their help so Dr Inglis went straight to the Serbian and French governments and offered to help them instead. They accepted with alacrity and within months, the Scottish Women’s Hospital was serving close to the front lines in these countries.)
When I discovered the story I knew I had to write about it and the kind of women who would have the courage and determination to not only become doctors and nurses at a time when it was still very difficult for women to qualify but who would have the courage and determination to volunteer to work close to the front line.
For my second historical, We Shall Remember, my daughter told me about two Polish doctors who had found away of mimicking a false positive for Typhus and they used this discovery to save thousands of Polish lives during WW2. The real event turned out to have only a small part in my story but it led to the creation of my Polish heroine, Irene.
So real events are one place I find inspiration but so too are places. In When the Dawn Breaks I knew I wanted it set partly on Skye. I worked there for a while when I was a teenager and still think it one of the most magical places in the world. Co-incidentally my first ever published piece – an article for the school magazine when I was seven – was a story about Dunvegan castle and it’s dungeon. One of the scenes in When the Dawn Breaks is set around this dungeon.
In both books I was also inspired by the thought – what would I do if I had been forced to trek over frozen Montenegrin mountains in the dead of winter (When the Dawn Breaks) or been asked to go back to a country to spy knowing I could be facing death at any moment? (We Shall Remember.) I doubt I would have been as brave as either of my heroines!
My third book, The Shipbuilder’s Daughter was partly inspired by mother who was a Green Lady (a midwife and health visitor) and who worked in one of the poorest areas in Glasgow during the fifties. This is a photo of the syringe she would have used on home visits.
The Shipbuilder’s Daughter is set in the late twenties and thirties but many of the problems of over crowding and poverty were as bad in the fifties as in the twenties and thirties. Glasgow was famous for its ship building industry – but while the owners of the shipyards lived in luxury, their workers often lived just above the breadline. My grandfather worked in the shipyards after serving in world war one but the incessant smog that afflicted Glasgow at that time, spurred him to return to the place of his birth – North Uist – a place I spent many happy childhood holidays. And North Uist is where my heroine goes to work as a doctor when she is forced to flee Glasgow.
I feel so lucky to live in a country steeped in history with some of the most stunning landscape in the world and all three books are at least partly based in Scotland.
But ultimately my stories are about people and their relationships. A place or an event might start me thinking about the book, but it is the characters and their story that really matter.
Are there any places in Scotland that you have visited and been inspired by or that you’d like to visit and why?
Thanks to my medical author friends for inviting me on to this blog!