Happy publication day!
|Photos courtesy of the author|
Donna tells us about her research for her latest novel.
Hello, and thanks for inviting me to appear on your fab site. I’m Donna Douglas, author of The Nightingale Girls, the first in a series (I hope!) of novels set in an East End hospital in the 1930s.
One of my favourite parts of writing a novel is the research. And there was certainly a lot to be done for The Nightingale Girls. It’s my first foray into historical fiction, so I had to research the period. I don’t know about you, but I hate it when an author gets a historical detail wrong. I once read a book set in the Middle Ages, where the lady of the manor was peeling potatoes for dinner when the hero burst in through the patio doors. I kid you not…
Anyway, luckily there’s plenty of material available on the 1930s. I read some brilliant social history books on the interwar years, but to get a real flavour of how people lived, I had to literally go back in time. I spent days in the Bethnal Green Local History archive, reading the local newspapers of that time. Just looking at the photographs and browsing through the articles or even the ads gives you an amazing picture of people’s attitudes of the time. For instance, I noticed there were dozens of accounts of road accidents in the local paper. I wondered why, until it dawned on me that motor cars would have been a fairly new sight on the streets of the East End at that time, and people weren’t expecting to meet them! It’s little details like that you don’t get from the history books.
I also had to do a lot of research into hospitals and nursing for The Nightingale Girls. I read all the nursing accounts I could lay my hands on, and spoke to lots of retired nurses about their experience. I spent one particularly fun afternoon having tea with about half a dozen ladies, who kindly brought photos and memorabilia to show me. There was tea and cake a lots of laughter as they shared their stories of life on the wards (many of which were too shocking to print, unfortunately!).
I also visited the Royal College of Nursing archive, which is a brilliant source of nurses’ personal stories going right back to when Florence Nightingale herself was alive. And now, thanks to the wonders of the internet, I also now have an extensive collection of old medical books of that period. My husband reckons I must be the only woman in the world whose bedside reading consists of old illustrations of bedpans!
That may be so, but I reckon I may also be the only woman in the world who knows what to do with a Paterson’s Irrigator…
Anyway, thanks for listening. I really hope you enjoy reading The Nightingale Girls. If you want to find out more, you can visit my website – www.donnadouglas.co.uk – or my blog – donadouglasauthor.wordpress.com. I’m also on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/donnadouglasauthor. Come and talk to me!
The lovely publishers, Arrow, have generously offered 5 copies of THE NIGHTINGALE GIRLS to UK readers.
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