My most recent book, White Ensign Flying -The Story of HMCS TRENTONIAN has taken me on a twelve year journey of research, exploration and personal growth.
When I started this project I was a single father with my three children living with me full time. This limited the amount of time I could spend on the book. The computer was set up in a corner of the kitchen. This allowed me to watch what my children were doing on the computer and at the same time I could watch the children while I was on the computer.
Needless to say, interruptions were frequent and progress was very slow. But at this time the work that needed to be done was organizing the research that I was still collecting, so I could easily walk away and return much later and pick up where I left off.
I was fortunate to have a wonderful girlfriend at the time, and I say “at the time”, because Rhonda and I are now married. Rhonda was able to look after my children when an opportunity for research took me away.
When we married, we joined our families and our homes, now with six children, my writing space became even smaller. Use of the computer was prioritized with school work taking priority. So once again my writing went to the back-burner. But I was still able to work on the research, continue with interviews of the veterans and travel to archives to collect historical data.
With time I picked up a laptop. Now I could write and work anywhere! Or so you would think. The only free space in our home was the kitchen table. This created a new writing process, clear kitchen table, set up computer, bring out research, organize, start to write. Great! On a roll! Words flowing off the finger tips! Awesome stuff!
“SUPPER!!!” -Put away research, put away computer, then repeat.
This may seem an awkward way to write and my first book, Warships of the Bay of Quinte was written entirely this way. I quickly learned the art of streamlining. My research was organized into portable totes so I could find any single item quickly, the information I was using at the time went into a portfolio so it could be instantly brought out and just as quickly returned.
Between the laptop and the portfolio I could write anywhere at anytime. This is what I did, now I could write at work. As a Paramedic, I could use the down time between emergency calls to write, organize research and produce a timeline for the story of TRENTONIAN.
The single most inspiring location I wrote in was when I started writing White Ensign Flying. Rhonda and I had booked a cruise with our friends. Leaving from Newark, NJ. in Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas. The voyage had almost six glorious sea days on the eastern seaboard of the North Atlantic. This is the same stretch of ocean that TRENTONIAN patrolled during World War II, fighting the Battle of the Atlantic, escorting convoys and hunting German U-Boats.
I was able to sit on the top deck of the ship in the enclosed lounge with my laptop and folio. I was in my glory! Here I was in a ship, overlooking the same part of the ocean that the navy veterans I had interviewed had worked and fought over 60 years before.
The great thing about the ocean, it doesn’t change. My view was exactly the same as the veterans in 1944, which realistically was the same when the Vikings first landed in Newfoundland many centuries ago. I had sailed this stretch of ocean before, in 1981 I was assigned to HMCS OTTAWA, a Canadian destroyer. We sailed from Halifax to the Caribbean on a three month deployment. I must admit, this time I was far more comfortable.
I brought all the research I thought I would need, enough to write two chapters and extra to start a third, just in case. What an inspiration, the waves and sea rolling by, a lively ship under my feet, the smell of salt air and warm breezes. The words rolled off my fingertips at an incredible pace. Before I knew it, I had to stop.
I had written three full chapters and did not have anymore research with me.
Of course there were interruptions, but not the same as home, someone would occasionally spot a dolphin or a whale, and of course I would miss it. The stewards would interrupt to bring me a rum-runner or some other delicious libation to keep the creative juices flowing. Several of the crew took an interest in what I was doing, anytime an author can talk about their writing is considered a joy and not an interruption.
When we returned home, this experience set the tone for the rest of the writing process for White Ensign Flying. Whenever I ran into a block, I could close my eyes and return to the ship, salt air and rolling sea.
By the time I finished writing White Ensign Flying, my writing space at home improved too. The children were older and had started to make lives for themselves and quickly bedrooms became free. The first became my office. Now I can organize my research, write and when supper is ready, leave the room and close the door