Vicky Adin is a New Zealand historical fiction author. She writes social history stories inspired by the true stories of immigrants who undertook hazardous journeys to find a better life. As a genealogist in love with history, these immigrants and their ancestors drive Vicky’s stories.
Vicky lives in Auckland, New Zealand. She holds a Master degree with Honours in English and Education. Three words sum up her passion in life: family, history and language. She has combined her skills to write poignant novels that weave family and history together, inspired by real people, with real experiences in a way that makes the past come alive.
When not writing you will find her reading historical novels, family sagas and contemporary women’s stories, caravanning or cruising with her husband and biggest fan, or spending time with her children and grandchildren. She also likes walking and gardening.
What is the inspiration for your current book?
My novels are inspired by true genealogy stories. The story of Gwenna is loosely based on my Welsh great-grandmother, who was a sugar boiler and confectionery maker. Her first husband went missing in mysterious circumstances, and she raised her only son to take over the business. I say loosely, because she never left Wales and Gwenna’s story is set entirely in New Zealand.
Is there a particular theme you are exploring in this book?
Overcoming the odds. My main characters are working class women, who live in patriarchal times, when the law and societal expectations worked against them. They are not the famous women of the time who fought the establishment. They are the stalwarts who kept doing what they must and making the best of what they had, and in the process became better than they were. Thanks to them New Zealand became an egalitarian society and New Zealand women were the first in the world to be granted the right to vote in 1893.
Which period of history particularly interests you? Why?
I love anything from the Georgian era through to the Edwardian era and especially the Victorian, and I’m particularly fascinated by the pioneering women of New Zealand. These women and their families left their homelands in search of a better life. They came to a new country that was rough and raw, and built a life worth living.
After the signing of The Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, a few long-term settlers started to arrive but by the 1850s the European settlers still only numbered 28,000. After the Land Wars with the Maori in the 1860s the population spread to the Provinces and by the 1870s people began arriving in their thousands. Still a British colony at this time, New Zealand offered land, work, and opportunity, which people grasped with both hands. They were prepared to work hard to have something they could call their own.
What resources do you use to research your book?
New Zealand history is easy to access through books, photographs, and websites. Papers Past is my favourite. It’s an online repository of the newspapers of the time and tells of life as it happened. Museums, NZ Archives, and libraries abound, and because immigrants told their stories, and were handed down, many people can still remember their grandparents and their stories. Facts need checking but the essence is all I need to begin with.
What is more important to you: historical authenticity or
Authenticity first. Getting the ‘feel’ of the time is so important. Although, when I need facts, accuracy is essential. I need to know what happened and when, but sometimes events can be manipulated a little to fit. I do a lot of research beforehand and then do extra research as I go along to make sure things like the drinks they consume were available, that a particular piece of equipment had come into use in every day life, or when electricity replaced gas and so on.
Which character in your current book is your favourite? Why?
It has to be the title character, Gwenna. She is totally driven to fulfil her father’s dreams, but doesn’t see how strong she is. She’s young and naive and worries she will fail, and in the process can’t see what is right before her eyes.
Are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’? How long does it generally take you to write a book?A ‘pantser’ without doubt. My husband describes my writing as joining the dots. I have a few facts and ideas with gaping holes in between which I fill in. I research the history of the time and build my character to live amongst the facts. They often surprise me. It takes me around a year from start to finish. I do a lot of research beforehand and then research as I go along.
Which authors have influenced you?
A long time ago, I enjoyed reading Jean Plaidy/Victoria Holt/Phillipa Carr novels. Those stories hooked me on historical fiction. I didn’t know it was the same author until years later. Barbara Erskine was another. I love the time-slip aspects of her novels.
I recently received a B.R.A.G medallion – a reader’s award – for my novel ‘The Girl from County Clare’, and one reader compared my writing to that of Catherine Cookson. I couldn’t have been more pleased. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cookson many years ago too, and have gone back to reading them again. More recently, I’ve been inspired by the works of Diana Gabaldon and Deborah Challinor.
What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Write what you love, and what you have a passion for. And edit until you bleed. Pay for a good editor – or a series of good editors, and a good cover designer.
Tell us about your next book or work in progress.
So far, I’ve written five stand alone novels based upon similar themes, but I’m told I need to write sequels about what happens next for most of them. The question is, which one?
I’m thinking of one that links the characters from ‘The Girl from County Clare’ with the characters from ‘Gwenna’. There’s a mashing process going on in my head right now, but I’ll never run out of heroines while there is history.
Amid the bustling vibrancy of Auckland’s Karangahape Road, Gwenna Price’s passion is making sweets. Her Pa had great plans for the family confectionery business when they emigrated from the valleys of Wales looking for a new life, but he died all too soon. Gwenna promised she would bring his dreams to life instead - and she would, if it wasn’t for her domineering stepbrother, Elias. With him in charge, it would be a matter of time before the business collapsed.
Falling in love with the cheeky and charming Johnno opens up other opportunities, but every step of the way Gwenna is thwarted. If not by Elias, then by Johnno’s father and the restraints of a society with strict Victorian values, but Gwenna is irrepressible. Nothing will stand in her way.
Throughout the twists and turns of love and tragedy, Gwenna is a young woman with uncommon courage, determination and ambition in an era when women were expected to stay at home. There are people who love her and those who are willing to help her achieve her goal but, blind to anything that distracts her from creating her legacy, Gwenna risks losing the one thing that matters to her the most.
“Inspired by a true story from the author’s homeland, Gwenna is a fascinating insight into life in Auckland at the turn of the 20th century.”
HNSA 2017 Conference
The HNSA 2017 Melbourne Conference is being held on 8-10 September 2017 at Swinburne University. Vicky Adin will be appearing in Immigrant Stories and Diaspora: How Pioneers Adapt and Survive in their New Land.
This celebration of the historical fiction genre will showcase over 60 speakers discussing inspiration, writing craft, research, publishing pathways and personal histories in our weekend programme. Among the many acclaimed historical novelists participating are Kerry Greenwood, Kate Forsyth, Deborah Challinor, Libby Hathorn, Lucy Treloar, Sophie Masson, Sulari Gentill, Robert Gott and Arnold Zable. The HNSA’s speakers’ list is available on the HNSA website.
In addition to the two stream weekend programme, there will be ten craft based super sessions and two research masterclasses.You won’t want to miss our interactive sessions on armour and historical costumes either! Purchase a ticket and you will be entered in the draw to win a $100 Dymocks Gift Card.
Manuscript assessments will be conducted by industry experts, Alison Arnold and Irina Dunn. Our free extended academic programme is open for general admission but bookings are essential.
Our First Pages Pitch Contest offers an opportunity for submissions to be read aloud to a panel of publishers. And we are delighted to announce the introduction of our inaugural HNSA Short Story Contest with a $500 prize!
Let’s make a noise about historical fiction!