My great-great grandmother, Jane Thorburn, worked in the woollen mills of Scotland as a weaver. Here’s what I know about her: she was the oldest child of a coal miner and his wife. By the age of eight she was no longer living with the family, presumably to go to work (though I don’t know for sure). She fell in love with Robert Stein. Together they had a child, my great-grandfather Hugh, who came to America.
And I know when and how she died, though that would be too much of a spoiler alert.
Due to circumstances, she disappeared from the family tree until I stumbled across her in 2014 after doing some genealogy.
Now, I do not consider myself a great genealogist, or even a good one. I tip my hat to those who are. Their persistence and attention to detail is something to be admired!
I am too wired to be a fiction writer. For example, I discovered that a Stein family in that part of Scotland were involved in bad whisky making (and yes, that’s how whisky is spelled in Scotland). My imagination ran wild with all the possibilities.
Then, *ahem*, a distant relative gently suggested that there were no known links to this particular Stein family. I say, never let the truth get in the way of a good story, but that’s not good genealogy behavior.
I’ve been obsessed with Jane ever since. Factory Girl, or whatever I end up calling the darn thing (turns out there are multiple novels of that name), is going through the editing process. As I tried to tease out what Jane’s life might have been like, a group of fairies showed up and I had to deal with them, too. It’s meant reading old Scottish folk tales.
I’m grateful to have found an editor who lives in Scotland and who has even walked the Alva Glen where the old mill once stood, and where Jane, in my story, escaped to be in nature. With her loving care, the story is shaping up nicely, and she is undaunted by the sheer weirdness of this work. It’s outside of anything I’ve ever tried to do before. I am excited and freaked out at the same time.
Look for excerpts soon!