Saturday, 5 January 2013

Geertje Hoogeveen's Family Tree
Ancestral Trees

Family trees can bore the pants off many people, but I admit to finding them fascinating. Delving into the past can have many repercussions, and some startling discoveries. It was quite an eye-opener when I began to squirrel into my family history. Yet, I loved the experience so much it made me want to not only write about my own family black sheep, but also invent some totally new ones- completely unrelated to my own family of course.

In my debut contemporary history/mystery – Monogamy Twist - Luke Salieri is surprised to find he’s the sole beneficiary of a slightly dilapidated manor house in Yorkshire. He’d never heard of Amelia Greywood who bequeathed him her house and gardens, so why was he the only person to inherit? In creating that mystery for Rhia Ashton - a historian and family tree expert - to solve for Luke, I really enjoyed designing the family tree that led to him inheriting.

For my second ancestral mystery - Topaz Eyes - I relished the challenge of making a more complicated one. I had to have some reasoning for bringing a long-lost family together, though. It took only a short time to combine a plot that had a coming-together of distant family members who had never met before, and venues I wanted to feature in my writing.

Those distant third cousins would be involved in a quest to find priceless jewels that had been scattered amongst the family decades ago. I needed a good reason for the third cousins not to know each other, and indeed, not even to have heard of each other. Setting my mystery in Europe seemed perfect. Family members would have left the country of their birth- some to move a relatively short distance away, but others would emigrate to the US. That fitted the generation around the late 1930s when many fled the approaching horrors of Nazi Germany. Tracking back the years, my original ‘person’ would give birth to a family during the 1880s - a fantastic start point for my family tree structure.

At this stage I sharpened my pencils and got an A3 piece of paper to sketch out on.

The venues were next. The advice to new writers is generally that deadpan phrase ‘write what you know’.  I’d already included the European cities of Barcelona, Paris, and Tallinn in my fun contemporary romance novel – Take Me Now. I next wanted to include Amsterdam, Vienna and Heidelberg in my writing. Heidelberg would be my start point and Amsterdam…would be almost the place to end.

I’m not giving away the whole plot, but I did have to make many changes to the structure of the family tree as the novel developed. It took quite a bit of mathematics to get the dates correct for each generation but at last it worked! This is not the polished copy that's in the book, but my last version to be checked over very carefully.

The founder member of my - Topaz Eyes - family tree is an Amsterdam woman, called Geertje Hoogeveen. Since the members of the tree are European I had to do a bit of research to get the best names for my protagonists. To make it easier for the reader there is a convenient little copy of Geertje Hoogeveen’s tree included in the book. How to pronounce the names isn’t too bad since I chose fairly easy ones.

I hope you enjoy reading about my ancestral tree creation, but most of all enjoy a great mystery.

1 comment:

  1. It's so interesting to read about your 'family tree' novels, Nancy, because my current WIP involves an inheritance (in Ireland) for two people who have no idea why they have received this, or what links them to the Irish woman who has bequeathed a house to them. I've had to create a complex family tree for them, like you did! My own family history research (plus a knowledge of online resources for family history) is coming in very useful!


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