Well crafted and well researched, The Tide Between Us* doesn’t shy away from the harshness of indentured servitude while, also, highlighting the preferential treatment they received compared to chattel slavery. It is an absorbing story about family connections, in all their complicated glory.
Thank you to Olive Collins for taking the time to allow me pick her brain about all things writing and research.
How would you describe The Tide Between Us in five words?
Historical tale of inevitable acceptances
The story spans 1821 – 1991, switches from Jamaica to Ireland and is told from the perspective of Art and Yseult. How did you ensure that each character and time period has their own distinct voice and presence?
Art is the protagonist of part 1. He is old and wise by the time he tells his tale. He spent most of his life in Jamaica, the setting and atmosphere were very different to Yseult’s character. On the other hand, Yseult is also elderly however she’s irreverent and keeps the world at arm’s length, stalked by the secrets she keeps. Art can look back on his life with acceptance and fondness whereas Yseult can’t bear to look back for too long.
It’s clear that a lot of research went into this novel. Did you plan it in detail beforehand or dip in and out of research while you were writing?
I didn’t plot at all. A few years ago I read about Irish children who were deported to Jamaica, quite often I thought about the children. I imagined the boat they travelled in, the people who met them in their new exotic country, the culture shock, the weather. I had one year to write the novel and armed only with my imagination I began Art’s back story in Kerry and then the boat trip. With each chapter and progression of Art’s life I researched and then included what I’d read. Occasionally I left gaps and would later fill them in. The research for this novel was enormous; however I was sating my curiosity with each step of Art’s journey. Writing about slave emancipation was a wonderful treat; the slaves made such wonderful strides for independence and worked so hard. It was as if my characters were real living friends and I was rooting for them and rejoicing with each of their successes. I read memoirs, journals, academic papers and for 1 full year I was utterly immersed in the lives of my characters.
Writing is a solitary process. Do you have a routine so that you don’t get completely lost in the world(s) you are creating?
Because I was working under such a tight deadline, I had to get immersed in their lives. My routine was rigid. I have a full-time job which I finished at 5pm. I’d begin writing at 6pm until midnight. My bedtime reading was research. Everything that happened in my life was seen through the eyes of my characters.
I love hearing what other people are passionate about reading, even if they can’t narrow it down to a favourite. Which book do you wish you could thrust into the arms of strangers and demand they read immediately?
There are so many, one that springs to mind is Isabel Allande – The House of Spirts. With her Chilean setting, memorable characters and an intriguing period, it’s one of the few books that I’ll read again.
Olive Collins grew up in Thurles, Tipperary, and now lives in Kildare. For the last fifteen years, she has worked in advertising in print media and radio. She has always loved the diversity of books and people. She has travelled extensively and still enjoys exploring other cultures and countries. Her inspiration is the ordinary everyday people who feed her little snippets of their lives. It’s the unsaid and gaps in conversation that she finds most valuable.