Author Q&A | Songs of Love and War, Santa Montefiore

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Today, as part of Simon and Schuster Canada’s #TimelessTour blog tour of historical fiction, I’m interviewing Santa Montefiore, author of Songs of Love and War.

1. If you lived during the time period in your book, how do you think you would have fared and why?

 It’s very hard to know how one would behave in unfamiliar situations. One can imagine cowering in the trenches in fear in WW1, but perhaps one would suddenly acquire great courage and climb over the top with gusto, who knows? It would also depend on whether I was rich or poor. Living life in poverty would be very hard. People like the Doyles struggled to survive. Many left Ireland for better lives in America. Many died of starvation and disease. It was punishing. Obviously, if I was a Deverill, I’d have a better chance. Whichever the case, I think one can endure more than one imagines. You don’t know whether or not you are courageous until your courage is tested. I’d like to think I’m a coper, whatever my situation. I’m practical, accepting and patient and I have a strong philosophy that carries me through the tough times. But I think it’s hard imaging life without all the modern luxuries we all take for granted – especially our independence as women. On reflection, I wouldn’t like to be a woman in 1910, rich or poor!

2. If you lived in the future and were to write historical fiction about 2018, what do you think you would write about and why?

I think that would depend very much on what my life was like in the future, because the fun is writing about a time that is very different to our own. For example, writing about 1910 is interesting to me because of the way women dressed and behaved and what was expected of them. It’s a wonderfully romantic time before email and texts, when lovers had to sneak notes to each other – there were also many reasons why two people couldn’t be together: class, wealth, religion, to name a few. Now, in my culture at least, it’s acceptable to marry anyone. Also, Ireland in the nineteenth century was such a turbulent time with the War of Independence and the Civil War that followed. Now we have the Republic of Ireland – in 1910 that was unimaginable. It’s hard to imagine what will be interesting about 2018 to someone living in the year 3000. I don’t find the present day very inspiring right now as it is, but perhaps in the future it will appeal because it will be different!

3. The ghosts in your story are treated not with fear but with love, and it seems almost a privilege to be able to communicate with them. What inspired this portrayal of what’s typically a fairly scary trope?

Ghosts are simply spirits coming to visit the living or stuck in a limbo and unable to pass on into what we call Heaven. Most come and go at will because they like to be around the people they love who are still here. I’m not afraid of them, nor surprised by them because I have seen spirits all my life. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t see them, moving about my room at night and hearing their voices. The closest comparison I can make is to holograms. That’s what they look like. I know they’re not material, so I’m not afraid an intruder has come into the room, but they are, at the same time, very real. Of course, there’s the misconception that they come out at night, like owls! They don’t, they’re around all the time, it’s only that most people see them when their sleep is disturbed and they glimpse that finer vibration because their chattering conscious minds go quiet and their sixth sense is allowed to come to the fore. They then gasp, turn on the light and sigh with relief that the ghost has gone. But the ghost hasn’t gone. They’ve just shifted out of tune, like turning the dial on a radio, and can no longer see it. During the day, most of us are unaware that we even have the ability to be psychic as we are so focused on what we can perceive with our five senses. I have written about spirits in a lot of my novels – Secrets of the Lighthouse was the first book I wrote that really explored the subject of life after death. I believe in it without doubt – life goes on, only in a different way, so it’s natural for me to write about it. And I love writing about it. Obviously, in The Deverill Chronicles, I have embellished the truth. I’m not sure curses really work! But, I mixed truth with fiction to make a good story.

Celebrate historical fiction with the Timeless Tour, from April 16 – May 4!

For more information, visit www.timelesstour.ca.

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Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for the invitation to participate in this blog tour.

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