“North & South was like chocolate to her; her comfort food in literary form, a safe haven she could dip into whenever she needed a respite from her troubles or even just a distraction for a while.”
Carrie Preston is desperately trying to stand up to her pushy family and failing badly. When her favourite aunt dies she retreats into her favourite book, Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, only to find herself suddenly stuck in that story and seriously messing with her favourite romance of all time!
When Carrie's kooky aunt bequeaths her a pair of amethyst earrings in her will and says that they will grant her her hearts desire, she has no idea that she will end up in the middle of the 19th century, slap bang in the middle of her favourite book. With nothing but the clothes on her back and her rucksack, she is taken in by the Hale family and soon finds herself living in the dirty, smoky industrial town of Milton.
The only bright spot on the horizon is that she gets to meet the romantic hero of the story, John Thornton but it's not long before he starts setting his sights on her rather than Margaret Hale! Far from living her dream, she is appalled to realise that she is about to destroy the greatest romance since Elizabeth Bennett met Mr Darcy!
Right, well that's the blurb out of the way.
What You Wish For (from here on out known as WYWF to save my poor joints from early onset arthritis) began life as a little bit of wish fulfilment that I thought would never see the light of day. You see I loved North and South so much that I wanted to know what it would be like to live in that world, with those characters.
This isn't a new phenomenon of course, every time I read or watch Pride and Prejudice, see Downton Abbey or any one of a hundred period drama's I love, I wonder what living in those times would be like.
This time was different though, this time the idea continued to plague me until I was forced to start thinking up scenarios and eventually I just bit the bullet and began writing it.
Still, my only intention in writing it was to enjoy myself, it was never intended to be a 'proper novel' as such. I began releasing it online and to my immense surprise, I'd obviously hit a nerve in other people because the story was literally inundated with hits and I began to think, 'maybe there is a proper book in this'.
I finished posting it and it's success continued, at one point ending up in the top 5 of the historical fiction category, and that's when I realised that this story needed to be told.
No, it won't change your life, but it is clearly something that strikes a chord with lovers of historical fiction. I even had readers who had never heard of North and South before tell me how much they enjoyed it.
And so 3 months of edits and rewrites later, this is the finished product.
Is Carrie a Mary-Sue? Possibly in the strictest sense that she is an author insert, a manifestation of my desire to see what life would be like back then, but she actually bears very little resemblance to me. I soon realised that were I to end up in the 1800s, I'd probably throw a hissy fit and end up in a mental asylum. I simply don't have what it takes to live in such a backwards time. I would constantly be fighting, arguing, losing my temper, acting out and getting locked up for being most unladylike (and while that would certainly be an interesting story, it was far from the romantic ending I wanted for WYWF).
Unlike me, Carrie is used to towing the line and so, although she chaffes against the restrictions placed upon her, she doesn't cross the line as I surely would. She needed to be used to doing her duty, sucking it up and getting on with things.
She also needed to be upper class (where as I am strictly upper middle class) and have a way of getting some money in those times. I don't want to give anything away, but suffice to say that I own nothing even close to the same value that Carrie does.
She does share a some of my childhood hobbies and those that aren't mine could be found among my school friends. Maybe it's not 'normal' to be proficient at the piano, horse riding and marital arts but in my class at school, it was common to have some mixture of those kinds of hobbies and others. In my class of just 16 girls we had 3 pass their grade 8 music exam! (not to mention many others who were musical but hadn't got that far). There were annual skiing holidays and lessons arranged by the school as well as other foreign holidays. Various pupils from the school were mentioned probably a three or four times per term in local papers (we knew because the school would always make a fuss about it) and there was even one girl in my class who was accepted into the Rambert ballet school! She was also one of the three who passed her grade 8 singing exam and she did ride horses until it made her thigh muscles to big and she had to choose between Ballet and riding.
Talk about a bunch of over achievers!
Yes, you've guessed it; I'm afraid my dyslexia meant that at age 7 I got shipped off to private school since I was failing so badly in state school. Most girls there had an assortment of extra curricular activities that would make your wallet bleed, or at the very least give your bank manager serious heart palpitations! It's a different world and what passes for normal there would be considered privileged by most people (and for the record, my school wasn't even one of the top ones, it wasn't even among the best in my town!)
Some might think that being so accomplished means that Carrie is a Mary Sue but despite her advantages I have tried to give her faults and deficits, just we all have. She is stubborn, defensive, shy and known to put her foot in it. She has a temper and she is prone at times to wallow rather than be proactive.
So basically, she's human, which is what I want all my heroines to be. She doesn't have Frankie's drinking problem or Mel's fortress around her heart, but while hopefully likeable and relatable, she is not perfect, far from it.
So, for those of you still awake after that, and possibly interested in sharing Carrie's adventure, here's where to buy WYWF.
Other Ebook Formats
(print version coming soon, there have been some problems with the artwork that have delayed it)