I’m joined today by Barbara Lamplugh who has written a fascinating guest post all about the inspiration for her novel The Red Gene.
I’m sometimes asked where I find my inspiration. It can come from the seed of an anecdote I hear, a character I meet or a news item, which may be only a small snippet but one that fires my imagination and leads me into the realm of the ‘what ifs’. It is those ‘what ifs’ that enable me to take the story further, from fact into fiction.
My inspiration is boosted enormously by the sun and nature. I’m lucky enough to live in a place where the sun shines most days and the hills and valleys of southern Spain are close at hand, in fact right outside my window.
In writing my first novel, Secrets of the Pomegranate, inspiration for the story came from combining various ideas that had been forming in my mind for some time: the wide ripples and unforeseen consequences of a major disaster, whether manmade or natural (in this case the 2004 train bombing in Madrid), the buried prejudices that can emerge in the wake of political events (think 9/11 and now in the UK, Brexit) and the totally different perceptions of a city or country experienced by insiders compared to visitors.
For The Red Gene, the idea developed over several years, inspired initially when I came across a book by Ronald Fraser called simply The Pueblo – basically a collection of oral histories of the inhabitants of an Andalucian village, recorded between the 1950s and about 1970. These interviews with Spaniards of all classes, ages and political outlooks painted a fascinating picture of feudal Spain during Franco’s dictatorship and chimed with my lifelong interest in social justice. I was shocked by the poverty, the repression, the atrocities and cruelties of the dictatorship.
Not long after reading that, I was given a book containing the first-hand accounts of women from the UK and other English-speaking countries who had participated in Spain’s Civil War. Some were nurses, others administrators or journalists. Their writings, in the form of letters, articles or diary extracts made a deep impression on me and led to much wider reading about the Civil War.
It was several years later that the scandal of the stolen babies began to emerge. I was horrified. As a mother, I am always moved when I hear of babies lost (in whatever way) or stolen. Having suffered a miscarriage myself, I identify with these women in a very personal way, in fact many years ago I wrote a novel about a stolen baby.
Writing The Red Gene enabled me to link the story of an English nurse who volunteered for Spain in the Civil War with the theme of the stolen babies, to create a fictional tale that would, I hoped, touch the reader more deeply than a factual account and bring home the very real horrors of fascist regimes at a time when fascism is once again on the rise in many different countries.
Thanks to Kelly at LoveBooksGroupTours for inviting me to take part in the tour. The Red Gene is published by Urbane Books and available now in paperback and ebook formats. You can order a copy online here: The Red Gene
From the back of the book
When Rose, a young English nurse with humanitarian ideals, decides to volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, she is little prepared for the experiences that await her.
Working on one front after another, witness to all the horrors of war, she falls in love with a Republican fighter, Miguel. In 1939 as defeat becomes inevitable, Rose is faced with a decision that will change her life and leave her with lasting scars.
Interspersed with Rose’s story is that of Consuelo, a girl growing up in a staunchly Catholic family on the other side of the ideological divide. Never quite belonging, treated unkindly, she discovers at a young age that she was adopted but her attempts to learn more about her origins are largely thwarted.
It falls to the third generation, to Consuelo’s daughter Marisol, born in the year of Franco’s death and growing up in a rapidly changing Spain, to investigate the dark secrets of her family and find the answers that have until now eluded her mother.
About the author
Barbara Lamplugh was born and grew up in London. An experienced traveller, she described her journeys in ‘Kathmandu by Truck’ and ‘Trans-Siberia by Rail’ published by Roger Lascelles. In 1999, spurred by the challenge of living in a different culture, she headed for Granada in Spain, where she still lives, inspired by views of hills and the Alhambra from her sunny terrace. A regular features writer for the magazine ‘Living Spain’, she has also written for ‘The Guardian’, ‘The Times’ and published her first novel Secrets of the Pomegranate in 2015.
Follow the rest of the tour