Yesterday was the Facebook launch party for my debut historical novel, Broken Faces - a
massive thank you to all those that joined in. It was four hours of fun - for me - sharing my inspiration behind my four main protagonists:
- Freddie Chevalier (beautiful man who becomes the broken face),
- Meredith (Meri) Sutton (his best friend's fiancee with whom he's secretly in love),
- Charles Baldwyn (his best friend and heir to a Shropshire estate and many problems), and;
- Lexi Baldwyn (Charles's younger sister, who desperately wishes she was more like Meri and that Freddie would see her as the woman she has become).
I was able to share some of the discoveries I made while researching about the masks made in the studio in Paris by Anna Coleman Ladd and Francis Derwent Wood for the severely disfigured men for whom doctors were unable to satisfactorily restore their looks. This left most of them with no option - or so they believed - other than to either hide themselves away or cover the more damaged parts under copper masks.
One of these brave men I was drawn to use as inspiration for Freddie was William Kearsey (see pic above), a beautiful Australian soldier who, at the age of 25, was severely disfigured in Belgium on 3 October 1917. He had 29 operations to repair the severe damage and ended up looking very different, but also went on to build a life for himself eventually marrying in his fifties. If you'd like to find out more about him and his life story, here's a link to the Inverell Times.
I discovered many harrowing stories during my research and because my paternal great-grandfather, was a Lancer in the cavalry and because I've always loved horses, I placed my male protagonists in the cavalry. I've been lucky enough to own five horses while growing up and so enjoyed the special bond that horse and rider experience. I can only imagine the intensity of that relationship when you're confronted with death and destruction and consequences when the worst happens. Hopefully I've conveyed those emotions in Broken Faces.
My maternal great-grandfather was a stretcher-bearer, an intensly dangerous job where men risked their lives constantly to rescue those soldiers lying badly wounded at the Front. What they experienced must have been both harrowing and devastating. My great-grandfather was shot in his ankle but survived the war, so was one of the luckier ones. I've tried to convey the dedication of these men through Meredith (Meri) Sutton's work as a nurse in Amiens.
Broken Faces is out now in e-book only, but will be out in paperback in the summer.