5 reasons why I loved setting my novel in the 1960’s
My next book is called Drumbeats and is the first novel in a trilogy about Jess. This one is set in the 1960s. I love the 60s and this is why:
- The music: it was the era of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Spencer Davis Group, the Kinks. It was the time of, not clubbing, or even the disco, but the Saturday night “hop”. The days of singing and dancing to “Roll over Beethoven”, “Honky Tonk Woman”, “Keep on Running”, and smooching to “Hey, hey baby, I wanna know-ow-ow if you’ll be my girl”. Big sounds, great rhythms, lyrics about teenage love.
- The fashions: it was the time of the monochrome mini dress, long slim legs (but not gaunt stick-thin!) the gamine haircut, the thick full fringed Mary Quant bob, the oversized sunglasses, the knee high heeled and white laced granny boots. Young, free and single.
- The innocence (relatively!): those were the days of smooching, and making out (“petting”) in the back row of the movies, not the hardly-ever-spoken-aloud word “sex” (whispered), a time when “going out” actually meant going out ( to the “flicks” or a walk), not going to bed, the days of “oh gosh!”, “stonking” and “blooming”, not the “f” word ten times in every sentence.
- The sense of discovery: the sense of adventure, of doing things that had never been done before (or very little at any rate): previously people didn’t travel to exotic places, go on gap years, visit mud huts, see the effects of tropical malaria, come face to face with machine guns, experience coup d’états. They didn’t barter in African markets or make love under the palm trees on the beach. So in the 60s these things were fresh and new, not jaded and “been there, done that”.
- The time of youth: kids really seemed to be allowed to be young and carefree, not yet worldy-wise, stressed and pressurised.
OK, enough of the nostalgia. It’s 1965 and my gentle, innocent (fairly), young heroine Jess is eighteen years old and fleeing her stifling family to become a volunteer teacher and nurse in the African bush, in Ghana. There she grows up, comes of age, and learns some of life’s not-so-sweet lessons. It’s a story of love, loss, adventure and tragedy set against the backdrop of war-torn West Africa.
A little secret – the period and setting is authentic, as I myself was in Ghana at that tumultuous time, so some bits may be true – who knows? I’m certainly not telling!
Julia Ibbotson lives in a renovated Victorian rectory in the English countryside with her husband (four children, now grown up, having fled the nest), along with lots of apple trees, a kitchen garden and far too many moles. She is an author and academic, and loves choral singing, walking, swimming, gardening and cooking (not necessarily at the same time). She started writing as soon as she could hold a pencil in her tiny fist and has not stopped since, much to the bemusement of her long-suffering husband who brings her endless cups of coffee and sometimes even makes the dinner when she is distracted and frowning at her laptop.
She wrote her first novel when she was 10 years old, sadly never published and long since consigned to the manuscript graveyard. She loves writing novels with a strong sense of time and place and that is the basis of her latest, Drumbeats, the first of a trilogy which follows Jess through the trials and tribulations of her life. It starts with Jess on her gap year in Ghana in the 1960s.
She has also written the story of the restoration of her rectory in The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen, which also interweaves recipes from her farmhouse kitchen and which has won a number of international awards.
Recently she found an old manuscript gathering dust in her drawer, one she had originally scribbled when she was still at school, many years ago. It was a children’s story about a boy who slips through a tear in the fabric of the universe to find himself in a fantasy medieval world. She is currently blowing off the dust and redrafting it for her publishers to let it loose on the world in the autumn. It’s called S.C.A.R.S.
She loves to hear from readers (it’s a pleasant distraction from her steaming keyboard), so do get in touch via the links.