Last Friday I had the pleasure of sitting down with author Jean Debney to talk about her new novel ‘Far Away Hills’, a work of historical fiction based on the memoirs of her mother about her life and that of her grandmother and grandfather. The story revolves around Debney’s grandmother travelling with small children from Glasgow to rural Canada to be with her husband, where she finds him near death with a heart condition, and follows the trails and tribulations the family encounters. Debney reveals that her mother told the story to her when she was a child, and that despite her mother’s very young age when the events of the novel occurred, an exceptional memory ensured that much of what was relayed to her Debney found evidence for when researching for the book.
As a historical author, her other works include ‘Breaking the Chains’ which revolves around women’s fight for the minimum wage in a small town in the Black Country, Debney made sure to check facts and dates as thoroughly, even going so far as to visit the isolated area in Canada where her mother had lived as a child. Located in the vast Canadian wilderness was the house her mother had described in detail, the gravestone of her uncle killed in a horse accident, and Debney even managed to locate a descendent of a member of the a Native American tribe who gave her mother moleskin gloves.
In the interview Debney stresses the importance of the oral tradition, the stories which older generations pass down to their children and grandchildren, and asks that if her readers take anything from her books it is to sit down and record the stories told to them by their elders, as a way of keeping the oral tradition, and family history, alive. She has a website called www.whatareyourstories.co.uk where which she encourages people to record the stories handed down to them.
With a fascinating and inspiring story that could only be true, Far Away Hills would definitely be a recommended read.
Far Away Hills is available on amazon and in all good bookstores.