BackStory: Four Questions with Jac Harmon

A Shell-hole Group (Art.IWM ART 601) image: a battle scarred landscape, with a track passing between blasted trees and debris. An artillery piece is on the ridge to the left and the damaged entrance to a dug-out is to the right. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

BackStory: Four Questions with Jac Harmon
Author of 1916

What inspired you to write ‘1916’?

The piece was inspired by some research I did for a presentation. I’d volunteered to be an archaeological guide on a dig and part of the process was to give a short talk on an historical artefact. I chose the bronze memorial plaque commemorating the death of my great-uncle, George Thomas Silvester, in World War I. Not long after I gave the talk I was at a writing workshop and we were challenged to write a one sentence story. With the details of George’s untimely death still in my head I wrote ‘1916’.

Who are your favourite historical fiction writers and why?

Michael Faber and Hilary Mantel for their meticulous research and handling of character. C J Sansom and Susannah Gregory for page-turning historical crime. Plus many others.

What is your favourite part of the writing process? Your least favourite?

My favourite part of the process is taking that first spark of an idea and turning it into something coherent. As this often includes lots of research I find it doubly enjoyable. The worst part is the editing, and the decisions that have to be made. I try to remind myself that what you take out is as important as what you keep to the end product, and that nothing is ever wasted, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

What do you think is the most challenging and/or rewarding aspect of writing historical flash?

The most challenging, and time consuming, aspect of flash for me is finding exactly the right word to convey my meaning. How to make each one work hard to maintain the tight focus, and yet also appear part of an effortless flow. The reward for all this comes, I feel, when you hear you have achieved a sense of ‘transportation’ for the reader.

Jac Harmon was born in London, and moved to the Hertfordshire countryside when she was four. Her favourite way to relax is with a good gothic novel and a cup of tea. She lives in Cambridge with her husband, and her cat, Willow.

Image: ‘A Shell-hole Group’ by Adrian Hill, paper, watercolour and ink, copyright: © IWM Art.IWM ART 601.