Though I pounded out the initial draft in a few frenzied weeks, you might say I’ve been writing Overseas all my life. It combines the two worlds I know best: the British experience in the First World War, and modern-day Wall Street.
As the daughter of a British national, I spent my childhood absorbing English culture and literature, from Elizabethan plays to boarding-school slang. Even so, it wasn’t until I took a college seminar on turn-of-the-century Europe that the period 1900-1918 really began to capture my imagination. Halfway down the reading list, Vera Brittain’s Great War memoir Testament of Youth shocked me into awareness of a generation of brilliant young men who’d charged out of the trenches of the Western Front and into oblivion; I mourned Roland Leighton and the rest of Vera’s compatriots as if I’d known them myself. As the years passed, I twice made the trek to Leighton’s grave near Albert in northern France and engrossed myself in the lives of countless other lost soldier-poets, from Rupert Brooke to Wilfred Owen to Julian Grenfell, whose poem Into Battle was famously published in the Times on the same day as his death announcement.
When I began to fiddle around with writing as an adult, the Edwardian period (and the First World War in particular) made a natural starting point. None of my ideas really worked, however. Looking back, I suspect the trouble had something to do with the remorseless facts of history: my protagonists were all inevitably trapped into tragic clichés, while in my heart of hearts I wanted to free them. My story ideas lay there on the page, near-lifeless, gasping for hope.