Angela Young Discusses the Titanic Struggle Behind The Dance of Love

The Dance of Love Angela YoungAngela Young is a graduate of Middlesex University’s MA in Creative Writing and is the author of two novels. In 1995, BBC Books published Angela’s 30,000-word ending to Edith Wharton’s last, unfinished novel, The Buccaneers, a story of love and marriage set among the British aristocracy and the American moneyed classes in late nineteenth-century England.

Speaking of Love is Angela’s first novel. It follows the relationship of a mother and daughter and what happens when people find it difficult to say the things that matter the most. It’s also a novel about hope and the restoration of trust and has been described as ‘beautifully written’ by Joanna Lumley, and ‘suffused with a love of storytelling and a warmth that makes it a pleasure to read’ by the Daily Mail.

Angela’s second novel, The Dance of Love, is a coming-of-age tale set in the same era as Downton Abbey. It spans two decades (1899-1919) of vast historical change and, through the joys and disappointments of its heroine, the beautiful, wealthy but independently minded Natalie Edwardes, it reveals the many faces of love.

Combining fact and fiction in THE DANCE of LOVE

When my agent, Heather Holden-Brown, suggested I write a novel about an ancestor of mine who survived the sinking of the Titanic, I enthusiastically agreed. I researched the era and, of course, the Titanic,but the writing proved difficult.

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that a character who was a wife and a mother, a daughter and a friend and a survivor of the Titanic, would provide the beating heart of a tragic, page-turning story. But, in my hands, she didn’t.

I tried different narrators. I tried beginning in the middle and at the end. I tried a modern frame story. I tried parallel stories. I began work in 2008 but by 2012 – the 100th anniversary of the tragic sinking – I still hadn’t written a story with a proper beating heart. By that time I’d worked with two editors, and with Heather, and they’d done their best to help me find the heart of the story. I’m sure other writers would’ve succeeded: the editors asked searching questions and made excellent suggestions. But I hadn’t succeeded so I sent the manuscript to The Literacy Consultancy and, in August 2012, Melissa Marshall wrote this:

At [the novel’s] heart is a complicated love story. But then it steers hugely off course with the Titanic episode. This is a massive story in itself and rather dilutes the impact, importance and credence of the main storyline, which is the story of unrequited love … . I would urge you to consider removing [the Titanic episode] from this story.

You’d think I’d cry when I read that, but I didn’t. I laughed with relief and recognition. I’d been trying to combine fact and fiction without realising – this is my first historical novel – that the two must be seamlessly interwoven and there must be synergy between them. I’d been trying to find a reason for my protagonist to board Titanic (my ancestor’s reason was quite mundane) rather than asking how the tragedy might affect the course of her life.

So … I made the Titanic story serve the complicated loved story (instead of dominating it) and when I realised my protagonist would make a brave and heart-rending decision as a direct result of the sinking (not as a result of being on board herself) I knew I’d found the heart of the story.

I’m delighted Buried River Press are publishing THE DANCE of LOVE on 31st July.

– Angela Young

[This piece first appeared, in a longer version, on Shiny New Books BookBuzz]

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