Heroes? Different things to different people.
As my hand reached out to grab the box and sneak it into the shopping trolley the other day, I thought: What a daft name for chocolates! Don’t get me wrong, they’re delicious – but why is a chocolate considered at all heroic?
Heroism. It's a difficult thing to pin down.
What about the firemen who rescued me from a broken down lift on the thirtieth floor, early one morning? They were heroes to me. Boy, was I glad to see them! Especially as I’m slightly claustrophobic and the lift had begun to creak ominously. I could argue that Gabe Llewellyn, the main male character in While I Was Waiting (my next book), is a hero. To the casual eye, he’s simply one of those practical types who can get a boiler going or sort a roof tile. He’s also heroic in a less showy way which Rachel, the woman he loves, only discovers at the end of the book.
But I come back to asking myself: is that really what being a hero is all about? Is that what constitutes a heroic act?
I’ve been doing a lot of research into World War One as While I Was Waiting is partly set during the conflict. I’ve come across accounts of tremendous heroism but most soldiers were ordinary men, caught up in something beyond their control and doing their duty for ‘king and country.’
Like most families, I have a relative who died in the war. My great-grandfather was a volunteer. He decided to join up at the height of war fervour, in late 1914. However, it wasn’t an overly persuasive recruiting sergeant or the threat of a white feather which made him do so. At 35, David Batham was too old but he joined the 3rd Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment anyway. His brother had been taken prisoner of war in the defence of Antwerp, earlier in the autumn, so maybe that was the deciding factor.
I’m sure he fought valiantly. Can you imagine the horror and confusion he faced? He died a soldier’s death in 1915, near Ypres, where he was killed outright by a shell.
He was survived by a wife and young family, one of whom became my grandmother.
I could argue that, for me, the true hero was the wife he left. Alice had to struggle on, in reduced circumstances, with a large family to support.
I wish I’d met her. And her brother-in-law Charles, who survived the war and returned from his German POW camp.
The long fingers of the war reach down through the generations, a hundred years later. My father honoured a family promise and visited his grave at La Brique Military Cemetery and other family members have followed.
I’ve inherited my father’s fascination with World War One, along with some quite rare books of his. I used some of the family history as a starting point for While I Was Waiting - a duel narrative romance I have written, due out February 2015 with Harper Impulse. In my very small way, I hope I’ve helped pay tribute to the heroic men – and women - of that generation.
What a lovely cover!
Georgia used to live in London, where she worked in the theatre. Then she got the bizarre job of teaching road safety to the U.S. navy – in Marble Arch!
A few years ago, she did an ‘Escape to the Country’. Now she lives in a tiny Herefordshire village, where she scandalises the neighbours by not keeping ‘country hours’ and being unable to make a decent pot of plum jam. Home is a converted oast house, which she shares with her two beloved spaniels, husband (also beloved) and a ghost called Zoe.
She's been lucky enough to travel widely, though prefers to set her novels closer to home. Perhaps more research is needed, Georgia?
I’ve always wanted to base a book in the Caribbean!
Now you're talking! Georgia is addicted to Belgian chocolate, Jane Austen and, most of all, Strictly Come Dancing.
Keep dancing, everyone!
Thanks, Georgia, and if anybody would like more details on Georgia's work and anything about the lovely woman herself, you can find her here: http://www.georgiahill.co.uk