Writing Titanic: A Date with Destiny for the Voyage’s Centennial Anniversary
by Marguerite Kaye, author of the upcoming FREE Harlequin Online Read, Titanic: A Date with Destiny and Rake with the Frozen Heart (Harlequin Historical, May 2012)
The sinking of RMS Titanic on her maiden voyage is one of those rare iconic events that resonates with everyone. It’s a tragic story that is also heroic, heart-warming and symbolic. The loss of that glamorous liner was a harbinger of change heralding the end of the Edwardian age. The story of the Titanic, her passengers and crew still fascinates us, appals us and enthrals us a hundred years later. It has a mystique all of its own, to which the film starring Kate and Leo added that vital ingredient, romance.
When I was asked by Harlequin to write a story to commemorate the Titanic’s centenary, I was thrilled. Then I thought about it, and I have to admit that I was pretty daunted. To come up with something that was true to the spirit of the event, was going to be a real challenge. And as if that wasn’t enough, I had to make sure my romance didn’t bear any resemblance to the one in THAT film which, shockingly, I’d never seen!
I immersed myself (if you’ll forgive the pun) in all things Titanic. I plundered my local library and trawled through hundreds of on-line sites in a mad frenzy of fact-finding. And as my research began to take shape, I realised that the ship itself wasn’t just a setting, but a character, and one that I had to portray as accurately as I could, first class through to third, right down to the food served in the restaurants.
It’s often said that the Titanic was a floating microcosm of society, ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’, carrying as disparate a collection of people as you can imagine from the old world to the new. I wanted to show that too, which made it obvious that my hero and heroine had to represent these different worlds. I already had my hero Max, a self-made American, fixed in my mind. It was thanks to my Facebook friends that I learned about the Titanic’s stewardesses, and immediately saw an ideal opportunity to make Jennifer, my heroine, one of them. I love social media. Big thanks are due to another Facebook friend, Alison, for finding Jennifer such beautiful clothes to wear.
I took a strategic decision not to watch the Kate and Leo film, but my sister, who’s seen it a zillion times, very kindly briefed me on the story so I could avoid obvious comparisons. I did watch the documentary-style movie, A Night to Remember, and completely spoilt it for my poor long-suffering other half by providing a non-stop commentary over the whole thing. By that time, I could probably bore for Scotland on the subject of the Titanic!
The next challenge hit me when I sat down to outline my plot. The story of the Titanic is above all else tragic. I was writing a romance, which above all else has to have a happy ending. Somehow I had to find a way to reconcile the two, to bring my hero and heroine together in a way that didn’t trivialise the dreadful combination of events and circumstances which lead to the loss of over fifteen hundred lives.
I hope that I’ve managed it. I’d like to think I’ve written a story that is both romantic and true to the spirit of the ship and her passengers. Whether or not I’ve succeeded – that’s up to you to decide.
One of the best things about an online read is that I can share your thoughts and reactions as the story unfolds, chapter by chapter. Please join me from April 23rd. I’m looking forward to it.
Born and educated in Scotland, Marguerite Kaye originally qualified as a lawyer but chose not to practice. Instead, she carved out a career in IT and studied history part-time, gaining a first-class honours and a master’s degree. A few decades after winning a children’s national poetry competition, she decided to pursue her lifelong ambition to write, and submitted her first historical romance to Mills & Boon. They accepted it, and she’s been writing ever since.