31 July, 2014

A Weaver's Web by Chris Pearce!

Please join me and welcoming Chris Pearce to Celticlady's Reviews!

A little bit about the book A Weavers Web


Handloom weaver Henry Wakefield, his wife Sarah and their five children live in abject poverty in the Manchester area of the UK in the early 19th century at the time of the Industrial Revolution. Henry hates the new factories and won’t let his family work in them. He clashes with Sarah, a factory agent, a local priest and reformers, and son Albert runs away. The family are evicted and move to Manchester but are even worse off, living in a cellar in a terrace and have another little mouth to feed. 

Henry’s love of money overrides his hatred of factories and he starts one of his own, but it is beset with problems. The Wakefields eventually become quite wealthy, but Henry holds the purse strings and this has a devastating effect on the family. Albert is caught stealing and is transported to New South Wales. Her baby’s death, Albert’s unknown fate and society parties become too much for Sarah, who hears voices and is taken to the lunatic asylum. Son Benjamin faces eviction from the family home for having a baby with an orphan girl too soon after their marriage.

Family members, including Sarah who has got out of the asylum and Albert who has returned to England unbeknown to Henry, have had enough and seek revenge.


About Chris

Chris Pearce was born in Surrey, UK in 1952, and grew up in Melbourne, Australia. He has qualifications in economics, management/marketing and writing/editing. He worked as a public servant (federal and state) for 25 years and in the real world for 12.5 years.

His inspiration for writing A Weaver’s Web was a postgraduate creative writing course he topped from 30 students in the mid 1990s. After unsuccessfully targeting many literary agents, including one who compared his manuscript to John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, he decided to publish it as an ebook.

He also has a non-fiction book (print only), Through the Eyes of Thomas Pamphlett: Convict and Castaway, which he plans to publish as an ebook later in 2014. He is writing a book on the history of daylight saving time around the world and has some notes towards a novel set 80 years into the future.

His other hobbies include family history and tenpin bowling.

Chris and his wife live in Brisbane, Australia.

Chris has graciously answered a few questions for me!

 Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?

A Weaver’s Web is a historical novel that could also be described as a family saga. It is set in the Manchester area of the UK in the early 19th century, the time of the Industrial Revolution. Henry Wakefield is a handloom weaver and his occupation is disappearing due to the new factories. He and his wife Sarah and their five children live in abject poverty in Middleton, a village not far from Manchester. Henry wants to make more money but hates the factories.

Soon they are evicted from their cottage to make way for a new factory. They move to the city where they are even worse off. Finally, Henry’s desire to make money overcomes his hatred of factories and he starts up a cotton mill. He and his family become quite well-off but this leads to a whole new set of problems for the family. Finally, family members have had enough and seek their revenge.

The idea for the novel came out of the first chapter of a non-fiction book I wrote on an Australian convict, Through the Eyes of Thomas Pamphlett: Convict and Castaway. Pamphlett became a brickmaker in early 19th century Manchester before he was convicted of stealing and transported to New South Wales. I became very interested in the appalling living and working conditions at that time in Manchester and decided to write a novel about a family that went through this dreadful time.

I wanted to come up with a realistic look at life in the Industrial Revolution period, the hardships, the misery and the huge amount of change going on to people’s lives as thousands moved from their villages in the countryside to the larger towns and cities as society moved from agriculture based to manufacturing based. I used real places (such as Middleton and Manchester), real events (such as the reform meeting at Middleton in December 1816 and the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester in August 1819) and some real people (such as Samuel Bamford and Henry “Orator” Hunt).

 How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children's books, etc.)?

I’ve always had an interest in history and how things happened a long time ago. I think we can learn a lot from history and am disappointed when I see it watered down in the school curriculum. I find the Industrial Revolution a particularly interesting time, as that kind of combines history with my background in economics.

Manchester, UK was the place where the Industrial Revolution started. Manufacture of linen cloth and wool in Lancashire cottages goes back to the 13th century. Cotton and other fabrics were made there from the 16th century and by the 17th century, cotton was the most important industry in the area. A series of inventions in the 18th century led to the emergence of factories as the large machinery couldn’t fit in cottages. The cottage industry couldn’t compete with the more efficient factories and people’s lives were turned upside down as they had to seek work where the new factories sprang up.

The other influence for me was Charles Dickens. At a time when novelists were writing about aristocrats and the well-off, Dickens was writing about the lives of ordinary people and how they eked out a living whatever way they could. He more than anyone else brought their plight to the notice of the public and the authorities.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

I had already done quite a bit of my research for A Weaver’s Web when I researched the life of Australian convict Thomas Pamphlett for my non-fiction book on this person. In pre-internet days, I spent many hundreds of hours in dusty old libraries in Sydney and Brisbane. Part of that research involved ploughing through records, old books and journal articles on Manchester where Pamphlett became a brickmaker, including working and living conditions, health, education, crime and so on.

For the novel, I did extra research on things like social change and upheaval, the challenge to the establishment, early labor and reform movements including the Peterloo Massacre, as well as the cotton industry, the factory system, how the poor lived and the well-off, asylum and jail life, gambling, prostitution, childbirth, illness, death, marriage, opportunities, society parties, bribery, orphans, disability, punishment, crime, and society and attitudes in general, all in the context of the early 19th century.

What's a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?

The typical working day for me used to be full-time work for the Queensland government and then part-time writing and other bits and pieces in the evening and at weekends. That all changed a couple of years ago when I was one of 14,000 to draw a short straw in a purge of the public service by a new state government. Now I mainly write books from home. I’m also into family history. I post comments to online newspaper articles on politics, business and government. I tenpin bowl once a week in league.

I’m not a noted early riser, but I do tend to work into the night quite often. I like to check and action emails first and do admin things. I’m doing quite a bit of promotion for my writing, and A Weaver’s Web in particular, at the moment such as seeking reviews and doing quite a few interviews. Actual writing comes later in the day. I have a room set up at home as a study and do all my writing and related work there. I don’t really set a daily writing goal as such. Every day is different. When I was writing the novel, I didn’t set myself a target of so many words per day or anything. It depended on where I was up to. Some days I would just edit a chapter or two.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

I guess starting off is the hard part. If I’m stuck, I find it’s good just to write something and I can edit it later or change it altogether. I like to have a plan, although it might not be detailed and I might change it several times, but an overall plan helps the writing process too. The hardest part of writing A Weaver’s Web was the editing process and just making the whole thing sit together. I edited some parts a dozen or more times before I was happy.

What’s the best thing about being an author?

Being my own boss is good and not having to report to someone in some hierarchy at a large organisation which I spent most of my working life doing. I didn’t mind the people so much, but the whole set up just seemed to be so inefficient much of the time. As an author, I don’t have to pursue pointless tasks. I can just get on with the job at hand. The other good thing is the hours. I don’t have to start or finish at some set time.

It’s good being an indie author too as I can write what I want to and not what some literary agent or publisher wants me to write. And I don’t have to have my work rewritten or heavily edited by some editor. I can sort out all this myself, although I did get a professional appraiser to go through an early draft of the novel.

What are you working on now?

I am sorting out my non-fiction book on the Australian convict, Through the Eyes of Thomas Pamphlett: Convict and Castaway, ready for conversion into an ebook later this year. It is currently a printed book only. Pamphlett is best known for being lost with two others for seven and a half months in the Brisbane area in 1823, the year before Brisbane was founded. Explorer John Oxley found them and they showed him the Brisbane River. He put in a report to the governor and the new colony at Brisbane was established the following year. Pamphlett committed another crime and served seven years at this colony, which may never have been founded had Oxley not rescued him. Australian eBook Publisher will do the actual conversion and distribution to the book sites, as they did for my novel.

I’m writing a book on the history of daylight saving time around the world. Daylight saving time is one of the most controversial issues of our time and there are some great stories to tell. I’m also writing a novel set about eighty years into the future.

What advice would you give aspiring writers? 

Write because you love it and don’t give up your day job. To make a heap of money, you generally have to click with some literary agent and publisher who will push it like hell. This was always a long shot but is happening  less and less as the publishing world moves from print to digital. Also, there are 80,000 new ebooks published a month so don’t expect miracles with sales.

I think I would still try about 20 literary agents most relevant to your work or maybe some traditional publishers if you’ve written a non-fiction book (although whether it’s best to go agent or publisher can vary between countries). You just never know what they might take on. You can be lucky, or unlucky. They seem to be taking on fewer and fewer new authors though. Some writers may prefer to go indie and publish an ebook rather than pursue agents or publishers, which can be rather frustrating.

But don’t just put your ebook onto Amazon and the others and expect things to happen. There are no magic solutions to getting sales. Basically, you’ve got to get yourself and your book or books reasonably well known by being active on social media, joining sites such as Goodreads, seeking book reviews, and so on. What works for one person might not work so well for another person. Often you’ll get sales and you don’t really know where they have come from.

Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?

I think Charles Dickens would be my favorite author. As I said above, he brought the plight of the average, downtrodden 19thcentury person to the attention of all and sundry. I like his stories, characterisation and descriptions, and just the realistic way he portrays life. I find reading about poor folk more interesting than reading about the aristocrats and well-off.

I do have two favorite books apart from Dickens’ books. These are Irwin Shaw’s Rich Man, Poor Man and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. These are the only novels I have read twice.

What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?

I’ll have to think about this one. I’m not sure. Perhaps it would be something like: If you had your time again, would you choose a different path? Well, perhaps I would. After school, I went into accounting and lasted four years. In hindsight, I might have preferred journalism. I’ve always liked writing. After doing journalism for a decade I so, I might have tried a transition to book writing over the following 5-10 years, but to keep doing a bit of journalism as well. I would have liked to have written a dozen or so books by now, instead of two and two more in progress.

But I’m quite okay with the way things went. I enjoyed university studies as these involved a lot of research and writing. I mainly did economics and management/marketing plus some writing courses. Most of my jobs involved a lot of research and writing too. I was in the public service for 25 years in two stints (both federal and state) and a large financial institution for six years. I think I preferred this work to accounting, and motel management which I did for two years.

If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?

I doubt I will ever write an autobiography. I don’t think there has been nearly enough to go in it that would be of much interest to a wider audience. Perhaps I would call it An Ordinary Life. I have done a lot of things that have interested me, such as book writing, family history, university studies (six and a half years full-time equivalent), some interesting jobs in the public service and elsewhere, seeing family and friends, and my weekly tenpin bowling league, but these would hardly warrant a book. I’d rather write about other people and things.

Thank you so much for stopping by Chris!!

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