Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Titanic was called the Ship of Dreams…

The Titanic has fascinated me for years. I’m not alone. Even before James Cameron’s film “Titanic,” what happened on her maiden voyage has captured the imagination of anyone who has ever wondered what it was like to stroll her decks.

From first class…to second…to steerage.

I decided to find out and “Katie O’Reilly” was born. A saucy Irish maid who dreamed of going to America to escape a prison sentence for something she didn’t do. It’s only when she meets the notorious Captain Lord Jack Blackthorn on board the Titanic that she realizes it’s more than a new life she’s after.

She wants him, too.

"Katie O’Reilly” is a romance, but I’ve strived to make it as historically accurate as possible, even down to the times of the launching of the lifeboats after the ship hits the iceberg. I learned so much about the ship, but also about the passengers. Who they were, why they were traveling on the ship, what they experienced that fateful night.

My purpose is not to repeat facts and stories…there are many wonderful books available that do that very well and we’ll discuss them…but to take you along on my journey writing “Katie O’Reilly” as we lead up to the 100th anniversary in April 2012.

The Titanic passenger list that never was…

No one really knows exactly how many passengers sailed on the maiden voyage of the Titanic on April 10, 1912. Modern historians have settled on the number 2,228 passengers, though no complete passenger list exists.

What is known are the passenger names recorded on thirty-four handwritten pages from 1912 currently stored at the National Archives in London.

A rare second class passenger list was sold at auction a few years for $33,900 (Christie’s auctioned off a first class passenger list in a booklet in 1998), but no one really know for sure who was on that ship.

Fascinating fodder for a novelist…so many what ifs come to mind.

What if your heroine was traveling under an alias?

Not unusual for passengers at that time to travel under an assumed name. Like Lady Duff-Gordon and her husband traveling as the “Morgans” to allegedly avoid the press; or a Frenchman who kidnapped his two children and listed himself as a Mr. “Hoffman.” We can’t forget the gambler, George Brereton, who traveled first class under the alias “George Brayton.”

We know the Titanic wasn’t filled to capacity (the ship could hold 3,547 passengers and crew). And since no official passenger list will ever be completely accurate, it was exciting for me to create a heroine named Katie O’Reilly because she could have been on the Titanic.

And no one would have ever known.

Until now.

Next time: creating a backstory for Katie O’Reilly.


Michelle Polaris said...

I am excited to hear about the construction of this story. The Titanic is fascinating stuff. Share, share, Jina!

Wynter Daniels said...

Sounds like you've done loads of research. I think research always opens new creative doors for writers. Looking forward to hearing more about Katie.

Jina Bacarr said...

Thank you, Michelle. Writing a romance novel about the Titanic is challenging to say the least. Four-fifths of the story takes place on the ship from April 10th to the night of April 14th when the ship struck the iceberg.

You've got to have your heroine and hero meet in a powerful way--and fall in love between Thursday and Saturday (love scene) add conflict on a crossing that was quite wonderful up to that Sunday night!

My story also follows the characters during the aftermath of the tragedy in NY--a subject not often dealt with.

Jina Bacarr said...


I can't believe how much I've done, Wynter! I've tried to memorize the layout of the ship (from the Boat deck to G deck--below that the characters in my story don't see); I've also studied the decor, menus, entertainment facilties (Turkish baths, e.g.) and the real personalities on board.

I'll be talking about the immense scope of writing this story in weeks to week--I talk about my Irish roots and how I used that to create Katie.

Dalton Diaz said...

Wow, I'm already beyond fascinated, and can't wait to read the story.

But nothing about icebergs until I get back from my Alaskan cruise, please!

Jina Bacarr said...

Don't worry, Dalton, it will be awhile before we get to icebergs!

As a sidenote: Titanic's maiden was scheduled to take place on March 20th but was delayed. So we'll never know if she would have hit the berg if she'd sailed as planned.