Author Spotlight no.146 – historical novelist Freda Lightfoot

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and forty-sixth, is of historical novelist and interviewee Freda Lightfoot.

FredaBorn in Lancashire, Freda Lightfoot has been a teacher, bookseller and in a mad moment, a smallholder on the freezing fells of the Lake District where she tried her hand at the ‘good life’, kept sheep and hens, various orphaned cats and dogs, built drystone walls, planted a small wood and even learned how to make jam. She has now given up her thermals to build a house in an olive grove in Spain, where she produces her own olive oil and sits in the sun. She has published 39 novels including many bestselling family sagas and historical novels.

And now from the author herself:

What inspires a story for me? I write historical fiction so I’m always looking for some major historical event to use as a hook. When visiting San Francisco on holiday, I did as all writers do, not only soaked up the atmosphere of the place, but set about learning as much as I could about its history.

The earthquake of 1906 struck San Francisco and surrounding towns over a distance of almost three hundred miles on the coast of California at 5:12 a.m. on Wednesday, April 18, 1906. The tremors were felt as far north as Oregon and as far south as Los Angeles. Due to the San Andreas fault, and the Hayward and San Jacinto faults, San Francisco had always been prone to earthquakes. The city suffered countless tremors each year as the plates constantly shifted against each other and stress built up, and still does. But nothing of this magnitude had been experienced for almost half a century before 1906. And strict codes on construction had been put into place. Sadly it wasn’t enough to save them. Even more devastating than the earthquake itself was the fire that followed which ruptured gas mains, destroyed approximately 25,000 buildings, and 3,000 lives were lost.

The PromiseI, of course, was most interested in how such a cataclysmic event could affect the inhabitants. What might you do, how might it change your life, when your world is collapsing all around you? It was with this question in mind that I began to devise some characters and plan The Promise.

As I enjoy dual-time stories myself, I set this one partly in San Francisco at the time of the quake, and partly in England some 50 years later. Chrissie Kemp is puzzled that her mother’s maiden name on her marriage certificate is not the one she expected to find. Can it have anything to do with the family feud, and the reason she has never met her grandmother? She travels to the Lake District to meet Georgia Briscoe for the first time, only to discover a shocking family secret. As the truth gradually unfolds, the passion, emotion and astounding love that blossomed in San Francisco years earlier is finally revealed, with devastating consequences.

Writing this kind of story is quite challenging as you need to keep the reader sufficiently interested in the characters and story-lines from both time periods without losing the thread of either. If the reader becomes confused she will put the book down and never pick it up again. But as the writer, I confess that I never know all the answers, not even the ending, until I’ve written the book. I know some highs and lows of the journey, but not every turn in the road. As I write I’m continually asking myself questions, digging deeper, thinking of new twists, till finally I come up with what I believe is a good one for the ending. Once I knew where I was going with The Promise, I then rewrote and revised entire chunks of the story, putting in fresh clues, taking out those which were no longer needed, all the while making certain that the ending was logical, and hopefully a surprise.


You can find more about Freda and her writing via her website The Promise is published by Allison & Busby. Paperback: £5.99 Ebook – £4.79:


The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with multi-genre novelist Jan Tilley – the five hundred and eighty-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

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