Launch: Andrew Tweeddale’s Of All Faiths & None
INTERVIEW BY LESLIE S. LOWE
Andrew Tweeddale started his working life as a chef and then studied law. He practised as a solicitor, dealing with many international construction law cases and writing books on arbitration law and construction. Earlier this year, he gave up practising law to focus on writing full time. His award-winning debut novel Of All Faiths & None is the story of two families in the run up to the First World War. The novel centres around Castle Drogo, the last castle to be built in England. Andrew is currently halfway through writing a second novel, which takes some of the characters from Of All Faiths & None and tells their story from 1917 to the mid-1950s focusing on the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya. Leslie Lowe talked with Andrew about his writing process.
How would you describe this book and its themes in a couple of sentences?
The novel is about the relationships of the children from two families and how their lives are destroyed by the Great War. It is a romance that is brutally ended because war knows no compassion.
What inspired and attracted you to writing historical fiction?
It is a genre that gives a novel a sense of place and truth. I was required to be exact when dealing with historical events, such as when the Battle of the Somme commenced and how many people were killed. However, it also a genre that allows the author freedom to develop a fictional story within these historical constraints.
Will this book be part of a series? If not, what are you working on now, and is it related to this in any way?
Yes, the intention is to have a trilogy. My next novel will continue the story of Basil Drewe, the youngest of the Drewe children in my novel, from 1917 to the mid-1950s. It’s about 50% complete. The third novel will focus on Christian Drewe.
Does any part of your own life experiences connect with any character or events in the story? What difficulty did you have in writing this one?
About five years ago, I had a heart attack and afterwards went back and rewrote Sir Julius’s heart attack scene. I rather hope I nailed that bit of writing.
Is there a key historical event you found in researching that inspired you to write this story to portray a key message prevalent now?
There were numerous historical events that I came across that took the story in different directions, however, there was one event that became a central theme in the novel. The Order of the White Feather was a group that was set up a few months after the commencement of the war when the initial rush to enlist ended. While I was aware that white feathers were handed out, I was not aware that it was a coordinated group or that the suffragette movement was involved in it. It was their work for the war effort that finally got the vote for women, and this included shaming young men to enlist. There was no suggestion that women should fight and the role of women in the armed services is still something that people have different views about today.
What kind of research did you do for this story?
As the Great War took place 100 years ago, it was impossible to do any interviews. I was, however, fortunate that the Imperial War Museum interviewed survivors of the Great War in their Forgotten Voices series, which I read avidly. I also went to the battlefields in France and Flanders almost every year for a decade. I stood on the battlefields and in some of the trenches that still exist. Delville Wood was one of the most haunting places I visited where the dead were left in the wood and simply covered.
How do you think the reader will connect with your main characters? Is there one that you feel connected to and why?
The motivations of the main characters are diverse. Adrian Drewe is led by a sense of duty and enlists on the first day of the war. He is constantly wanting to make his family proud. Christian Drewe doubts that the war is necessary, and cannot see why he should fight in a war he does not believe in. He finds himself standing up against a sea of opposing views and is considered a coward. Personally, I feel most connected to Christian whose anti-war views reflect my own. However, the two strongest characters are Celia Lutyens and Rose Hall. The book charts the development of Celia from a fifteen-year-old girl with an infatuation for Adrian Drewe to a young woman who is independent and headstrong. Rose Hall is also an independent woman who leaves her husband to go to the front and look after the injured.
Every author has their own publishing journey. Tell me about yours.
I came up with the idea for the novel after visiting Castle Drogo in Devon in 2004. It took me about five years from then to complete a first draft of the novel. In 2011 I started the editing process and looked for a publishing agent to take on the novel. While I received a lot of positive feedback, the subject matter of the book was not something that the major publishing houses were looking at. When I decided to retire as a lawyer in 2021, I employed two brilliant editors and we worked together on refining the novel for publication. I was also fortunate enough to know an excellent photographer who photographed the young girl’s hand holding the feather and I then worked with a book designer to produce the stunning cover.
What advice would you give to other aspiring historical writers?
Read the great writers and learn from them. Also, do not give up. Writing is something you learn, and you only become good at something when you practise.
What is the last great book you read? Why?
Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain. I am pleased that I only read this after I had finished writing Of All Faiths & None. Vera Brittain’s memoir is wonderful and tragic in equal measure, and I would always have been comparing my book to it if I had read it earlier.
Andrew’s website gives a fascinating glimpse of the real people and places behind his fiction.