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Weaving Family History Into Fiction

by Gail Gaymer Martin

A number of years ago, I connected with a family member from England who had spent years locating members of the Gaymer family as part of her genealogy research. The connection provided me with history going back to the 1600s with the family tree as well as true stories about the Gaymer family history. I learned in the 1700s Long John Gaymer (this nickname came from his height) married a young woman named Mary Chapman. Mary’s father had a small pub cyder business providing cyder for his family and neighbors who wanted to purchase jugs. For his wedding gift to Long John and Mary, he provided them with the secret recipe for his cyder. As years past the Gaymer Pub Cyder business grew and became so well-known, it was honored as the Royal Warrant Cyder for Queen Mary and the present day Queen Elizabeth which means it was the only pub cyder served in the palace. The Gaymer Pub Cyder business remains to this day though it no longer belongs to the Gaymer family. It was sold to another company.

When I heard this story, I became inspired to use this idea to write a novella, set in England and focused on the cyder business for Barbour Publishing. Since this in itself is not an exciting story, I decided to create a story, not set in 1700s but in Victorian times, about an employee of a wealthy man who handled the manor’s landscaping and their apple orchard. The story’s conflict happens when the man’s daughter becomes intrigued by the landscaper and a forbidden romance ensues. The novel became The Apple Of His Eye and incorporates Victorian England, mores and manners of the day, The Great Exhibition and Crystal Palace. I was thrilled when I learned that this novella written in the early 2000s would come to life again in a new collection called The British Brides released this March.

The lesson for writers is memoirs and family history are not always novel worthy and both are a hard if not impossible sell unless the author is already famous, but you can take an incident from the family history and use it as a stimulus to create a novel or novella by adding fictional characters and creating conflicts using your imagination. The Apple Of His Eye is not the only story I’ve written that used something from real life. My novel Dreaming of Castles, romance woven with humor, is also based on my experiences in Heidelberg, Germany, and another novel, Tangled Threads, yet to be published, is based on a family situation. So when an experience or a piece of family history captures your imagination, use it to create a story that will enthrall readers.

British Brides CollectionMulti-award-winning novelist, Gail Gaymer Martin is the author of contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction with 54 contracted novels and nearly four million books in print and the author of Writer Digest’s Writing the Christian Romance. Her novels have received several national awards, including: the ACFW Carol Award and RT Reviewer’s Choice Award. CBS local news listed Gail as one of the four best writers in the Detroit area. She is a cofounder of American Christian Fiction Writers and serves on their Executive Board. Gail is a member of Advanced Speakers and Writers (AWSA) as well as Christian Authors Network (CAN) and is a keynote speaker at churches, civic and business organizations. Gail is a conferences workshop presenter. Her website at www.gailgaymermartin.com offers a comprehensive blog on Writing Fiction for all genres. Gail lives in Michigan with her husband.

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2 Responses to Weaving Family History Into Fiction

  1. Love your post, Gail, and the Gaymer family history! My first novel is based on the lives of my English 9th great-grandparents and was much fun to write. I’m looking forward to the British Brides collection!

  2. That’s also what I did with Love Stays True. I wove the facts about my great-grandparent’s love story following the Civil War and came up with a novel. Lots of fun to use facts with fiction. I giving a talk on this topic tomorrow night, so your post comes in handy. :) Thanks.