Where do authors find the inspirations for their stories? This trilogy, or a least, book one because I didn’t start out to write a trilogy, was inspired by an article on the television program Flog It! They were visiting the Black Country Living Museum in what was in the early twentieth century the heart of industrial Britain.
What caught my attention in particular was the plight of women chainmakers, working long hours for a pittance in their chain workshops behind their homes. The time was the early nineteen hundreds and women chainmakers – dubbed the white slaves of England went on strike for more money, which was a pivotal moment in the fight for equal pay for women. At a time when a man might earn twenty shillings a week, (one pound in today’s currency) a woman, for the same hours or longer hours, might earn three shillings and sixpence, roughly seventeen and a half pence.
As a girl, I’d worked in a well-known bank, and it always irked me that we girls were paid about half what the men were paid for doing the same job, so this strike in 1910 struck a chord – fifty years later, though better off then the chainmakers of 1910, we were still fighting for equality.
Intrigued, I began researching, and I was thrown into a world of poverty and deprivation – the gulf between the rich chain masters and their workers was as immense as the gulf between workers and employers still is today in most industries, but these women going on strike laid the groundwork for more equality – for a woman’s worth, and The Chainmakers’ Daughter was born.
As I said, I had no intention of writing a trilogy, but a reader suggested a sequel would be nice, so I began researching the years that followed. The First World War loomed, which would have a profound effect on the lives of ordinary people, and would change forever the way women viewed themselves. Again, inequalities reared their heads, this time in the form of universal and women’s suffrage – the suffragists and the suffragettes. I hadn’t even known there was a difference, but once incensed by the way workers, and especially women were viewed by the establishment and the landowners, I was off, and so came about The Chainmaker’s Wife.
Again, my trusty reader wanted more. I had no idea where this would lead me, and I didn’t really want to embroil myself in the Second World War – Touching the Wire had more than sated my appetite for the horrors of conflict. However, I looked at the sort of events that those following years might encompass. Hunger marches, the depression that followed WW1, and the rise of Hitler.
I confess I’d always been puzzled by the sway Hitler held over Germany and how he’d come to power. How had he managed to push such terrible policies on the Nazi Party and get them into power? So I began researching again and was duly horrified – how clearly we can see his methods and influence on some modern world leaders. Self-obsessed, unhinged megalomaniacs comes to mind, but oh so dangerous. Don’t think this couldn’t happen again.
I also came across Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, and the desperate attempts to rescue Jewish children from Nazi Germany in 1938. This was a story worth the telling, and as I’d unconsciously given my female lead a Jewish surname in book one, which fitted beautifully with my proposed plot, tell it I did in The Chain Mistress.
This trilogy has been a real eye-opener into our recent past; the sort of things that aren’t taught in schools, but which are so important to our understanding of how we came to be where we are today. There are lessons to be learned that world leaders seem ignorant of – war causes recession, which causes poverty, which causes revolt… the cycle keeps repeating itself, and here we are again. There are times I feel like banging their heads together and yelling STOP!
It is the ordinary men and women, especially women, who have shown the courage and resilience to rise above the arrogance, stupidity, and greed of governments who hold sway in these novels. This is their story.