Unwritten Letters to Spring Street
by Jacquelyn Frith
Today is my stop on the Unwritten Letters of Spring Street blog tour and I am here today with an interview with Jacquelyn Frith for you all.
Title: Unwritten Letters to Spring Street Author: Jacquelyn Frith Publisher: Clink Street Publishing Published: 30th July 2020 Format: Paperback Add It:Waterstones. Goodreads. Summary: December 1941. Jack Frith left his family and his life to go to war like so many others, uncertain whether he would come home. Whilst in a convoy bound for the Middle East the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, triggering Allied entry into the Pacific War. Hastily regrouped and ordered to the Far East, the now ill-equipped convoy peeled off for Java and elsewhere. Slipping the moorings, Jack could not have known that years of captivity and brutality, starvation and forced labour, and yet worse, awaited him.
This is no cry for revenge but justice, laying bare actions and exposing inaction, demanding long overdue apologies and uncovering past atrocities. It is also a moment of reflection on the forgotten armies of the Far East, in remembering each subsequent generation owes a great unpaid debt of gratitude to those who gave so much for our present freedom. The price of that freedom was by no means free.
What is your favourite thing about writing books? It’s probably also my least favourite thing, which is that I sit down to write after the school run at perhaps 8.30am with a hot cup of tea, I get absorbed in the story, I cry a bit, I stare out of the window briefly but I never lose the story, I become embroiled in the argument I am writing, often discussing it out loud, and then I blink and its time for the school run again.
Who is your favourite character in your book and why? The obvious person to name is my great uncle, about whom the book is written, but, tucked into the pages are various other people from my family. I could equally say my grandfather, George, who passed away when I was ten years old, but I didn’t know him well. So, I find I am drawn to my grandmother, Elizabeth (the book is dedicated to both of them). She lived with us for a few years as her health declined when I was a teenager and she and I spent much time each day talking about anything and everything, but I never imagined her as a young woman until I drew the portrait of her in the book, working as a fever nurse in Glasgow and meeting my grandfather. I had to find a way for them to actually meet and go on a date, as I don’t in fact know how they met, but in researching my grandfather’s RAF record I found he was stationed with a Barrage Balloon Squadron in Glasgow while she was working at Bawhirley Road Hospital, Greenock as a Fever Nurse, so I had them practically bump into each other. I wrote her the way I remember her, with beautiful blue eyes and soft Scottish voice.
What is your favourite drink to consume while writing? I usually drink the same cup of tea from 8.30am, only now its cold.
Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing? Not that I want to publicly admit to.
How did you research your book? I used hundreds of pages of the original war crime trial investigation documents and statements, as well as primary archival records to write the sections on the investigation, this enabled me to ‘map out’ the detail of 29 November 1943 almost minute by minute, to write the first chronological, detailed description of the event as seen through the eyes of those who were there. I researched each moment in detail from the type of poppy worn in 1949, to the typewriters used by SCAP, so the font in chapter four is not some ‘courier style’ but it is exactly the Corona 4 typewriter used in 1949. I also spoke to veterans and travelled to the tiny island of Ambon in Indonesia in 2012, “Walking in my great uncle Jack’s footsteps, standing in the burning heat on the airstrip he had been forced to build with his brothers in arms, imagining the hellish nightmare laid upon these men, on what was, and is, a beautiful paradise island, is something that will stay with me, and in my heart, forever.”
Are you a plotter or a pantser? I had to google that, so I suppose I am neither, but apparently there’s such a thing as a plantser, meaning a little of both and that seems to fit the meandering ten year road I’ve just travelled!
If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why? I certainly would not choose any moment from my own book, its a tragic unending story and it is factual. Instead, I’d select an amalgam of somewhere happy, romantic, exciting and adventurous, somewhere between Kipling’s Just So Stories, and CS Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for adventure and innocence, Tristram Shandy and some Hiaasen for the humour, a bit of Eat Pray Love for spirituality, pasta and romance, Life of Pi and The English Patient for philosophy, adventure, some more spirituality and some more romance, thereby avoiding answering the question properly as some of these are not entirely fictional, but I’d get to live in a world of my own creation, which would be.
If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why? Aslan. I have a number of questions….
About the Author
Jacquelyn Frith is a postgraduate archaeologist and writer previously specialising in medieval metallurgy and scientific finds analysis, and although she has written many papers, articles and an MPhil thesis, this is her first actual book.
She begins PhD study on the International War Crimes Tribunals in the Far East 1945-1949, and the memorialisation of British Far East Prisoners of War from Java and Ambon: Suez Maru case study, in the autumn. She has also begun her second book, on the so-named ‘D-Day Dodgers’ of Salerno, which may also take ten years to complete.