A Family Affair: Love in a Time of War by Adrienne Chinn

BY TRISH MACENULTY

Adrienne Chinn’s novel, love in times of war (Harper360, 2022), is the first in a series that revolves around three sisters. The story begins in 1913 London, but travels back in time to Capri and forwards in time to Egypt with stops in Germany and the Mediterranean. Throughout we follow the Fry sisters as they come of age and find their place in the world. Meanwhile, her mother tries to shield them from the harsh realities of a war-torn era, as well as the secrets of her own past.

Chinn’s inspiration for the series comes from the closest sources.

“The Fry family in love in times of warand the next three books in the Fry Sisters series, is very much inspired by my grandmother, Edith Fry Chinn, and my two great-aunts, Jessie and Ettie Chinn,” Chinn said.

Chinn’s grandfather, Frederick Fry, was a professional photographer in London in the early 20th century.the century and, fortunately, Chinn has many of the family portraits he took at the time. She used the photos as inspiration for his characters and created backstories for each of them.

Edith Adelaide Fry Chinn, the author’s grandmother

“I include everything from their dates of birth to their physical appearance, their family and friends relationships, where they study, what they like to read, etc,” he said. “Then I created a detailed breakdown of the chapters, gave each character a different font color, and literally wove the stories into a tapestry, making sure all the stories had time to develop.”

At the end of the book, one of the sisters moves to Canada, as does Chinn’s family. Although Chinn grew up in Canada, she later returned to England.

“Being Canadian in a foreign country brings a different perspective: I am here but I am not from here. I identify as Canadian, but I like the energy of being a stranger here in Britain. That’s probably why I like to travel so much!” she said. “The theme of being an outsider in a situation that is outside of one’s comfort zone is something I continually explore in my novels.”

love in times of war covers a lot of ground. The characters not only travel to a variety of places, but also have a wide variety of interests and experiences.

“I read a lot of books and research specific things online as I write,” he said. “For example, when I was writing about Gerald and Celie in the photography studio, I read everything I could find on turn-of-the-century photography, including the photographic process, images from cameras of the time, and photography studios of the time. time etc When I had Etta visit the opening of the Omega Workshops in London, I researched everything I could find about it, including who she was likely to have attended and photographs from inside the workshops.”

Author Adrienne Chinn

That may sound daunting, but Chinn says he did the research in “small pieces,” zeroing in on what he needed to know as he wrote about it. To collect all that data, Chinn said she creates a detailed “notes” file where she copies research links into relevant categories, including photos that spark her imagination and help her incorporate details into the world she’s creating. .

“The interesting thing about the research is that the more you search, the more you find. He was always on the lookout for little details in personal accounts: the smell of something, the way the Mediterranean water was a calm, clear blue-green as the hospital ship sailed to the Gallipoli battlefield: all this adds to the plausibility. to the history. ,” she said.

chinn wrote love in times of war during the 2020 Covid lockdown, so while he was unable to revisit the places he writes about in the book, he relied on photographs he had taken and online research.

“I looked up photos of these places from the 1910s and the 1890s, when Christina was a young woman,” she said. “I read about the University of Heidelberg and the Philosophensweg, and the favorite plum cake that they like to eat there. Food is important! I’m always researching what people eat.”

YouTube proved to be a great resource. She found videos of people walking around Capri that helped her learn the paths her characters walked and the details of Piazzetta.

“I also have a good memory for colors, smells and the feel of places, which I try to bring to my books,” he said.

Chinn’s characters grow and change throughout the book, which means that some of the main characters may have narrow-minded opinions or viewpoints at first.

Jessie Chinn, the author’s great-aunt

“I like to make my characters as real as possible, and that means flaws and everything. Often narrow-mindedness and prejudice are based on fear of strangers and the unknown,” she said. “I want the reader to see my characters grow (or choose not to) and hopefully push the reader to reflect on their own biases. We are all human, and opening up to the ‘otherness’ of others often leads us to understand how much we have in common. I don’t think there are strangers, just people who don’t know each other yet.”

In addition to basing his characters on family members, Chinn incorporates real life figures into his fiction.

“Bringing real people into the story in these cameos helps build the world I’m creating by giving the reader points of reference about that period,” he said. “If you mention the suffragettes, you imagine the women parading through the streets in their Edwardian clothes; if you mention Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, you imagine the bohemian London writers of the early 20th centurythe century. Plus, it’s fun! I like my characters to interact with historical figures. Hopefully it shows the humanity of these historical figures, which is what I’m fighting for.”

Chinn is not just a writer; she is also an interior designer, and that passion finds its way into her fiction. She shared how interior decoration can help writing come to life.

“I like to research the interiors of houses in the periods I write about and include relevant details in the scene descriptions,” he said. “I’m big on world building! I want the reader to feel that he is experiencing a real scene, knowing what kind of sofa a character is sitting on, or that the curtains have blue roses on them and are someone’s heirloom. I believe that the environments in which people live are a reflection of themselves.”

Ettie Chinn, the author’s great-aunt

He noted that he tries to include key decorative details in his interior descriptions. For example, where are the windows, what kind of light hangs from the ceiling, is there a lace tablecloth on a dining table or a fruit bowl, and what kind of fruit.

“Often the same room appears multiple times in a book, often over several years, and I like to update the furniture accordingly, or check that people are moving around the room correctly,” he said.

“The class system was very much in place in Britain in the early 20th century.the century, and how people furnished their homes was a reflection of their class. … Ultimately, it’s all about painting a picture so that the reader can fully immerse themselves in the story.”

The second book in the series, sister from paris, follows the sisters and their mother Christina through the twenties. It will be published in February 2023. And Chinn says that she is currently in the middle of writing the third book in the series, set between 1932 and 1939.

“The final book will follow the sisters and their three daughters through the war years of 1939-1945,” he said.

About the contributor: Trish MacEnulty is the author of the historical mystery series, Delafield & Malloy Investigations. Visit her website for more information.

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