27.9.16

Book Club Questions – Forgotten Women

Here is a selection of questions for your book club to choose from.

 1 – Should the British government have given more help to the International Brigade to support the Spanish against the fascist dictatorship?

2 – Class was an issue in those days and affected the relationship between Charlotte and Libby. Do you think it has changed in today’s world?

3 – Charlotte’s reason for going to help the Spanish people was partly because of her own experience of being bullied by her stepfather. Did she have any other motivations, and was she wise to take such a risk with her life?

4 – Libby was rather a complex and difficult character who made many mistakes in her life. Was her behaviour justified? And did you like or dislike her?

5 – Did any of the characters change, for better or worse, by the end of the book?

6 – Was it right for children to be given away to other families for political reasons? This was a policy that lasted for some time in Spain even after the war ended. How would you feel about losing your child that way?

7 – The way women were treated at that time was not good. They had a poor education and were not permitted to take a job without the permission of their father or husband. There were similar issues in the UK up to the end of WWII. Are women now treated as equals or are there still issues needing attention?

8 – Charlotte’s relationship with her stepfather was never good. Sophie’s relationship with Jo, her alleged stepmother, wasn’t easy either but did improve. Why do you think that was?

9 – Does the time-shift from past to present add more mystery to the story?

10 - Were these women right to remain silent and aim to be forgotten women?



Published by Lake Union Imprint 6 September, 2016 

Amazon UK            Amazon US



Other blogs about this book:
Inspiration for Forgotten Women 
The Treatment of Women in the Civil War
Lost Children in the Spanish Civil War


 

20.9.16

Lost Children in the Spanish Civil War

Lady Felicity, Charlotte’s mother, decides to support her daughter by helping refugee children during the Spanish Civil War. It wasn’t an easy time for them. Many were sent away to foreign lands, including Scotland where she lived. Once the war was over they were expected to return to Spain, whether or not their parents agreed. Some didn’t wish that to happen because their lives were still not entirely safe. But these children were used as means of political propaganda.

Children were taken from those who had been assassinated, jailed, or where members of families had vanished without a trace. Women were in danger of being arrested simply for supporting their husbands. To have a child in prison was a woman’s worst nightmare. If the infant was fortunate enough to survive the birth it would often be taken from her, and their emaciated mothers could do nothing to save them. The law stated that children could remain in jail with their mothers until they turned three. But many were taken away before that, either because of ill health or were considered to be of the wrong religion, not being Catholics.

In addition, babies were often taken away from their mothers at birth, not only if they were unmarried or jailed, but if they were of a different political persuasion to the fascists. This rule was considered to be of benefit to the couples of the Francoist regime who wished to adopt a child, or sometimes in order to indoctrinate them to agree with the new politics of the state. Even after the war it became a state policy that continued for some years.

Other characters in the story also help with this issue, but won’t go into any more detail, as I’ve no wish to make spoilers.

Here’s an extract from the Prologue:

Ventas prison, 1938 
My dearest love, 
Let me assure you that I am well. The silence in the prison cells as thousands of women prisoners wait for the call they dread is deeply distressing. Every night is the same. The guards come in the hour before dawn to select the next victims to be shot by firing squad. The only crime of many of these poor women is to have supported their husband by not revealing his whereabouts, or simply to raise funds for the Republican cause. Even failing to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church with sufficient diligence can result in execution, particularly if the family is of the wrong political persuasion. 

Sometimes I feel that anticipating one’s death is almost worse than the actual event itself, rather like waiting to be sacrificed to ancient pagan gods. The agony becomes so intense that desperation grows inside me to get it over with quickly. Each night, when the call finally comes, the eyes of the women being taken go instantly blank, as if they’ve already departed this world and are looking beyond the grim walls of the prison to a life of peace in the hereafter. 

They walk to meet their fate with pride and courage, dressed in their best, heads shaved. I confess to breathing a sigh of relief each time I am passed by, even if my heart bleeds for those less fortunate than myself. An emotionally charged silence generally follows, as those of us who have been spared listen for the sound of the shots that mark the end of yet more innocent lives. 

Some prisoners have had their sentence commuted to anything from ten to thirty years. I can’t recall how much of my five-year sentence I have served here in Ventas prison, or La Pepa as some call it. I’ve lost track. But then time no longer seems relevant. I do hope you are still safe, my darling. I live in hope for the day when this dreadful war is over and we’ll be together again. 

Sorry, my love, but I had to stop writing this letter and have returned to it a night or two later. I was interrupted by a heart-rending scream, then forced to watch in agonised silence as a woman frantically fought a guard who was dragging her child from her arms. He strode away with the screaming infant tucked under his arm as if it were no more than a rabbit. Silence descended upon everyone as the poor woman fell into a stupor, realising she had but hours to live. Perhaps she no longer cared, having lost the battle to save her child. The lack of facilities is such that many babies don’t survive birth. Nor do their mothers.


It is 1936 and Spain is on the brink of civil war. Across Europe, young men are enlisting in the International Brigade to free their Spanish brethren from the grip of Fascism, leaving sisters and lovers at home.

But not all women are content to be left behind. In Britain, Charlotte McBain and Libby Forbes, friends from opposite sides of the class divide, are determined to do what they can; in Spain, Rosita García Díaz, fiercely loyal to her family and country, cannot stand by and watch. Three brave women, inspired by patriotism, idealism, love and even revenge, dare to go into battle against tradition and oppression.

Tying them all together is Jo, Libby’s granddaughter. Five decades later she travels to Spain hoping to make sense of a troubling letter hidden among her grandmother’s possessions. What she learns will change all of their lives forever.

Deceit, heartbreak, and a longstanding fear of reprisals must all be overcome if the deeds of the forgotten women are to be properly honoured. 

Amazon UK

Amazon US




Other blogs about this book:
Inspiration for Forgotten Women 
The Treatment of Women in the Civil War
Lost Children in the Spanish Civil War

Readers Book Club Questions 




13.9.16

Treatment of Women in the Spanish Civil War

Before the Spanish Civil War, girls had a very poor education. Boys were permitted to stay on at school much longer, while for girls it was merely a means for learning domestic duties. It irritated Rosita and no doubt women in the real world that they were legally obliged to leave school at twelve, despite their love of education and desire for a career. Nor were women permitted to take a job outside the house without the permission of their father or husband.

But the war initially brought a change in status for women, as they wished to do their bit to help in support of their husbands. Many received their best education during the war years, assisted by Mujeres Libres, which did a great deal for the emancipation of women. This organisation didn’t do battle with men, but neither did it believe that women should be ruled by them. They claimed all women should be considered equal and have the same education and opportunities as men.

Women working in the war was not approved of by the Fascists, even if it was only doing the laundry for soldiers. Nor were they allowed to wear overalls or carry guns. Both left and right wing parties tended to dismiss women’s efforts as inappropriate, treating them more as sexual objects. They were expected to practise self-sacrifice and self-denial for their family, husband and the church. Some women tended to assume that the problems were more about class and economics, rather than gender. Others would deny they were feminists, nervous of endangering their efforts for equality and the fact they had no wish to be ruled by controlling men.

The problem was that if the authorities could not find the man they were seeking, they would arrest his wife or children simply for that reason. They hoped that threatening a man with that possibility could result in his surrender. Tragically, family differences could on occasions reveal where a fugitive was hiding. Women were often imprisoned for helping family and friends to escape. They could even be denounced by a neighbour, alleged friend, or family member.

After the war, they were returned to the kitchen, rather as was the case in the UK following both world wars. Women yet again felt cloistered, offered a very limited education and every effort was made to prevent them from attending university. They were even denied the right of divorce, contraception, abortion, or to open their own bank account. And no job was allowed once they were married. Laws were set up to ensure that women acted only as good wives and mothers. Fortunately, this anti-women attitude did eventually change, although it took some time. And the characters in this book are generally strong women, who very much do their bit to help, no matter what the risks involved.

Published by Lake Union

It is 1936 and Spain is on the brink of civil war. Across Europe, young men are enlisting in the International Brigade to free their Spanish brethren from the grip of Fascism, leaving sisters and lovers at home.

But not all women are content to be left behind. In Britain, Charlotte McBain and Libby Forbes, friends from opposite sides of the class divide, are determined to do what they can; in Spain, Rosita García Díaz, fiercely loyal to her family and country, cannot stand by and watch. Three brave women, inspired by patriotism, idealism, love and even revenge, dare to go into battle against tradition and oppression.

Tying them all together is Jo, Libby’s granddaughter. Five decades later she travels to Spain hoping to make sense of a troubling letter hidden among her grandmother’s possessions. What she learns will change all of their lives forever.

Deceit, heartbreak, and a longstanding fear of reprisals must all be overcome if the deeds of the forgotten women are to be properly honoured.

Amazon UK 

Amazon US


Other blogs about this book:
Inspiration for Forgotten Women
Lost Children in the Spanish Civil War
Readers Book Club Questions

6.9.16

Inspiration for Forgotten Women

We first had a village holiday home in Spain but in the late nineties bought an olive grove in a village in the mountains and built a house upon it. Here we enjoy a relaxed and reasonably stress-free lifestyle. We have space to breathe and enjoy the wonderful climate and a lovely outdoor life: walking, swimming, and working on the land. I generally spend an hour or two every afternoon gardening as a short break from writing. We do now spend our summers in the UK but happily spend each winter in Spain.

The subject of the Civil War is still not an issue the Spanish wish to talk about much. The horror stories we’ve heard from our village is that the priest was killed by being dropped down a well. Not a happy thought, but it was not an area that approved of Fascists and never entirely taken over by Franco. I’ve also heard stories about lost children, a dismissive attitude towards women and having lived there so long, I couldn’t resist doing some research on it.

Cartagena

The Spanish are delightfully friendly people, making ex-pats feel very much a part of the community and we love visiting different places in Spain. Ideas came to me when we visited the Salvador Dalí museum in Figueres, the Prado in Madrid, and the museum in Cartagena. La Colina de Arboledas is fictional, but all other places mentioned are real.

I’ve also read many books and articles on the Civil War. My favourites being: A Concise History of the Spanish Civil War, and Doves of War, both by Paul Preston. He is very much an expert on the subject. Other books included: Memories of Resistance – Women’s Voices from the Spanish Civil War by Shirley Mangini; Malaga Burning by Gamel Woolsey; Homage to Caledonia by Daniel Gray; Tales of the Kirkcudbright Artists by Haig Gordon.

Thanks also to Maria Dolores Castro, a Spanish friend who checked the Spanish language for me, and to my brother-in-law, Michael, who checked the historical facts. I am most grateful for their help and support, and of course to my husband David, who as well as keeping me well fed and cared for, helps with proofing and other admin tasks. My wonderful agent, Amanda Preston, and the excellent Amazon team.

I would also like to thank all my readers who follow me on my newsletter, Facebook:  and Twitter: @fredalightfoot

If you wish to sign up for my newsletter please visit my website: http://www.fredalightfoot.co.uk



It is 1936 and Spain is on the brink of civil war. Across Europe, young men are enlisting in the International Brigade to free their Spanish brethren from the grip of Fascism, leaving sisters and lovers at home. 

But not all women are content to be left behind. In Britain, Charlotte McBain and Libby Forbes, friends from opposite sides of the class divide, are determined to do what they can; in Spain, Rosita García Díaz, fiercely loyal to her family and country, cannot stand by and watch. Three brave women, inspired by patriotism, idealism, love and even revenge, dare to go into battle against tradition and oppression. 

Tying them all together is Jo, Libby’s granddaughter. Five decades later she travels to Spain hoping to make sense of a troubling letter hidden among her grandmother’s possessions. What she learns will change all of their lives forever. 

Deceit, heartbreak, and a longstanding fear of reprisals must all be overcome if the deeds of the forgotten women are to be properly honoured.


Look out for more blogs:
Treatment of women in the Spanish Civil War
Lost Children in the Spanish Civil War

Readers Book Club Questions
Volunteers of the Spanish Civil War


20.8.16

Main Characters of Forgotten Women

Charlotte McBain, daughter of a Scottish laird, spent a lonely, neglected childhood growing up in a fine castle in Kirkcudbrightshire and has no wish to be forced into marriage by her bully of a stepfather. She is passionate about art, stubborn, courageous and determined to find freedom and do something useful with her life. It is 1936 and Spain is on the brink of civil war. Across Europe, young men are enlisting in the International Brigade to free their Spanish brethren from the grip of Fascism, leaving sisters and lovers at home. But not all women are content to be left behind. Charlotte, who likes to be called Charlie, also has a desire to help people less fortunate than herself, not only the tenants on her father’s estate but also the people of Spain caught up in the Civil War. She and her dear friend, Libby Forbes, have a somewhat complex relationship, being from opposite sides of the class divide, but wish to do what they can to help.

Libby Forbes is a somewhat unsociable and self-opinionated girl who very much likes to be the centre of attention. She rarely reveals her true feelings about anything, particularly the fact she is passionate about Ray Dunmore, and fond of Laurence too. But her worry is they may both be more fascinated by her friend Charlotte, who is a beautiful and rich woman. She strives to remain friends with her, despite the jealousy she feels. When Libby’s brother goes missing in Spain in 1936, she is desperate to find him, no matter what the risk.

Rosita García Díaz, a young Spanish girl, is fiercely loyal to her family and country and having suffered badly from the war, she cannot stand by and do nothing. When Charlotte and Libby arrive, they become good friends. Three brave women, inspired by patriotism, idealism, love and even revenge, who dare to do battle against tradition and oppression.

Scotland 1986: Libby’s granddaughter Jo, is accused of displaying a forged picture in an exhibition. And finding a letter tucked into the back of it, realises she knows little about her grandmother’s life. Why has she kept silent? Feeling the need to find answers and recover from her own personal traumas, she goes to Spain to find the effect the Civil War had upon these three women’s lives, and why they are forgotten women. What she learns will change all of their lives forever.

Click here to download a sample: http://www.fredalightfoot.co.uk/



Published 6 September by Lake Union Imprint


Amazon UK            Amazon US


5.8.16

The Yin and Yang of Character.

In Chinese philosophy the concept of yin - yang means dark and light, used to describe how opposite or contradictory forces are connected. This concept lies at the heart of traditional Chinese medicine, and even martial arts. Dark and light, female and male, low and high, cold and hot, water and fire, earth and air— all are thought of as manifestations of yin and yang. This is because they believe light cannot exist without darkness, and we all know men have their feminine side and women a masculine one.

In the 2nd century Confucious apparently attached a moral dimension of good and evil, although the modern sense of Yin-Yang stems from Buddhist adaptations of Taoist philosophy which generally discounts good/bad distinctions, preferring the concept of balance. They insist that yin and yang are not so much in opposition as complementary opposites, a part of a dynamic whole. But we in the west love to say there’s a little bit of evil in every good, or a little bit of dark in every light, and vice versa. And it is an excellent way of viewing character. How do we start to develop a character using this idea?

FIRST: Think of the chief character trait and choose a keypoint characteristic. 

Make a list of all the positive aspects of it. And then the negative. You can make these into a vice-virtue wheel, or just do a list.

E.g: Independent

Positive aspects:
Self-sufficient
Determined
Well-organised
Free thinking
Individual
Non-partisan
Self-contained
Often quite courageous

Negative aspects:
Obstinate
Stubborn
Won’t always accept help or listen to advice
Proud, even arrogant at times
May find it hard to accept failure

NEXT: Now ask questions: 

What does the character want?
What is his/her aim or goal?
Why does he/she want it?
What is the source of his/her motivation?
Why does he/she behave as she does?

There must be obstacles to prevent him/her achieving their goal.

Conflict is the stuff of fiction. External conflict will come from other characters, fate, events and incidents that you the author throws at her. But her keypoint characteristic will determine how she deals with them. The negative side of the keypoint characteristic is the flaw, the inner conflict that is preventing him/her from achieving their goal. But the positive aspect of this trait should hopefully help to overcome them.

22.7.16

Class- an ingredient of Sagas

We may be living in a classless society now, but Class was once vitally important and is a favourite ingredient of the saga. Your heroine is often aspiring to break out of her class and better herself. Seek out stories of the social underclasses, the rural backwaters, the ordinary farmers and folk of the hills and the dales. That, to me, is what history is all about. How ordinary people cope with the difficulties of life.

Does your character know her place? Is she content with it? What can she do to change it? Find out what problems people faced in the area at that time. Some people are victims of their class. Others thrive on it, rise above it, or slip further down the ladder, either because of marriage or fate. Some develop a chip on their shoulders or become inverted snobs. How does it affect your character?

Every aspect of any particular class is ripe for fictional exploration. But don’t get it wrong. E.g: Most poor families needed their young to go out to work as soon as possible, no matter how bright they were. That was true even in my youth in some families. Buying them a school uniform could be beyond them.

Decide if yours is to be a working class saga, lower or upper middle class, upper class or a combination of all. Know and understand each class thoroughly before you write about it, either through personal experience or careful research such as interviews and autobiographies.

Class is influenced both by character and region. Remember that everyone feels themselves above someone else, no matter how hard up they are. Whether above or below stairs in an Edwardian household. There’s no such thing as an amorphous mass. Every section of society has its own hierarchy.

It’s not just the upper classes being snobby about the middle classes. Take into account that there are divisions within the working classes too. A skilled man, shopkeeper, carpenter, engineer etc. could be considered quite well off by a factory labourer or apprentice. Street cleaners and refuse men were considered the lowest, no matter how justified their reason for being there.

Moral standards and prejudices among the working classes are every bit as condemning as among the middle or upper, on certain matters. Pregnant girls in Ancoats frequently killed themselves, rather than confess to their parents. Do not assume that the very poor are all feckless, or that they have no morals, are dirty and have coal in their baths. Study the reality, not nonsensical assumptions.