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All the Courage We Have Found by Carly Schabowski

Writing.ie | Magazine | Historical Fiction | Interviews
All the Courage we have Found

By Carly Schabowski

My writing process (if it can be called that!)

It’s a Monday, and today marks the day that I have five weeks until the deadline of my next novel. You’re probably wondering how many words I’ve written at this point, and quite frankly I am too ashamed to tell you. But I will. I’ll be brave. It’s 900.

Now, you may be wondering, what is she playing at? Who on earth does she think she is? And I too am wondering the same.

It sounds incredible, doesn’t it, that I have only written 900 words? Madness, utter madness. And yet, for me, this is completely normal. It’s my process. A process which, I’ll admit, still makes me uneasy, but it is mine, nonetheless.

I’ve had four months to get this novel going, but writing for me is never the first thing I do – especially as a historical fiction author. The first and most important thing is research.

I think I probably spend a good two months or more on research. It can be a lot more – two years was my record. But for this latest novel I have been lucky in that a lot of research has already been done during the four years of my PhD, where I went to Poland and every museum known to man to give me as much historical background as possible. So I am lucky this time that I have the backbone of research done, but there is always more to be done – always.

Most of the time, the research phase is fun. You find little nuggets of information, little secrets and details that have been hidden in dusty volumes of text, but then become sparkly gems for you to use. And for a historical fiction author, it is exciting as it gets! But then, especially in the later stages of research, it all gets a wee bit annoying and finnicky. Think about it. You have the basic historical background and you think you know everything, and then you try and plot your novel out and realise that one of you characters has to get a few trains, another has to fly a German aircraft and parachute out of it, and I don’t know about you, but train timetables are not in my remit, nor are knowing much about flying a plane, how you get out of it to parachute, and what type of plane would be feasibly used during 1939.

So, you see, the research part is a big chunk of time. A fun time, but also a fussy and sometimes tiresome period of the process.

After the research, and often at the same time, comes the plotting out of the novel. From start to finish. Bullet points for each chapter. Links to research that I need to consider. Character’s names and ages, their backstories, their friends – all of this goes into my plotting out so that I have a good blueprint of where I need to go in each chapter so that I don’t waste time wondering what to do next.

What’s the next step I hear you ask?

You may think the answer to this is infuriating. A lot of other authors that I am friends with think I am mad when I say this. They think I should be writing daily. But no. Still no writing yet for me. The next step is simply, thinking.

Yes, thinking. I think constantly about the novel. I imagine it from start to finish like a movie. I imagine what my characters are wearing, I imagine how they talk, I imagine what would make them laugh. Basically, I imagine the characters acting in my scenes and I see how they react so that they feel real to me and I am able to clearly hear their voices. I’m basically, at this stage, living alone in a house, but with a load of friends in my head, each clamouring for their voice to be heard and their story to be told.

I do note down things during my thinking stage. I might change a plot point a little because I’ve realised that a character wouldn’t actually respond that way now I know them in my mind. So, I am writing. Sort of.

Then, of course, the next step is writing. But I don’t fall into it easily. It doesn’t flow straight away. I write a little, then I delete it. Then I think. Then I think some more. Then I take the dogs for a walk and talk out loud as I traverse the Oxfordshire countryside, as I try to work out that magical first line that will finally get me going. I get a lot of strange looks from passer-by’s but I think I get away with talking to myself as I just nod and smile at the dogs, and they (hopefully) think I am talking to them. Not that talking to a dog is much better than talking to oneself or the characters in her head.

Then. Finally. When I am starting to panic. When the anxiety of the deadline is looming, the first line comes to me. And this for me is it. Now, I am no longer a thinker. I am like a sprinter at the starting blocks and someone has just fired the gun. I’m off! And I don’t stop.

I write a minimum of 5000 words a day as soon as that line comes to me. I become so absorbed in the story that I have to stay with it. Everything else goes out the window during this time. Washing my hair? It can wait. Going to the gym? It’ll still be there in a month. Wearing ‘normal’ clothes – i.e. not my pyjamas? Nah!

I’ve tried to pace it out. I’ve tried writing a few words each day over a longer period of time, but it just doesn’t work for me. This is my way. My process. If you can really call it that.

(c) Carly Schabowski

About All the Courage We Have Found:

All the Courage we have Found

France, 1942: An unforgettable, heart-wrenching and utterly unputdownable World War Two novel about one woman’s bravery in the face of darkness, and her heartbreaking decision to risk everything to do the right thing…

As Kasia creeps out of the farmhouse in the dead of night to transmit an urgent message, her heart pounds in her chest. Gripping her radio tightly in her hand, she feels a terrible sense of dread. She knows that this message could be the one that finally leads the Nazis to her…

Crouching in the shadows, with trembling fingers she turns the dial on her radio and hears the familiar crackle of static. Shaking, she quickly taps out her message and, holding her breath, she waits in the darkness.

Suddenly, she sees a quick flash of light out at sea. Her message has been received by the Allied boats; now they know it’s not safe to come ashore tonight.

As she looks back towards the little farmhouse, her heart catches in her throat. Inside, the two people she loves most in this world are sleeping soundly. Because while Kasia knows her messages might save thousands of soldiers, she also knows that her radio signal could bring the Germans terrifyingly close, perhaps even straight to Hugo and Elodie…

A totally heartbreaking and gripping wartime novel of courage and of the endurance of the human spirit. Perfect for fans of The Tattooist of AuschwitzWhen We Were Yours and The Alice Network.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Carly is the USA Today bestseller of historical fiction novels The Ringmaster’s Daughter, The Watchmaker of Dachau, The Rainbow and The Note.

She lives in a tiny cottage in Oxfordshire, with barely enough room to swing a cat. Yet, she has managed to dwell in such a hobbit-type abode for some years with her two dogs, who keep her company as she reads, writes, eats chips, and drinks the occasional gin.

Her interest in WWII history spans from a familial connection, and inspired her to complete a PhD regarding the author’s responsibility to historical fiction. Whilst an achievement, she gained 20 lbs, and became a hermit.

  • A writers' retreat space, in an old world cottage, overlooking Lough Derg in North Tipperary -
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