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Share your writing success stories. If you subscribe to Writing Magazine and would like to feature here, email Tina Jackson, tjackson@warnersgroup.co.uk

Mining history for answers

Black River is about a South Wales Echo journalist in 1967 who tries to protect the villagers of Aberfan from the Fleet Street media following the Welsh tip disaster on 21 October 1966,’ writes subscriber Louise Walsh.

‘I didn’t plan to write a novel about Aberfan. I had no personal connection to the disaster and I’m not a journalist. I had been researching a story about Cardiff’s Irish community, whose homes were demolished in 1967. My main character was a journalist, because I wanted an outsider who was nevertheless interested in what was happening to Cardiff’s Irish. But it sadly it didn’t turn out to be a story that could be sustained over a novel.

‘Then I came across a reference that pulled me in a very different direction. I read that in 1967 the Welsh Office had a problem with the press at Aberfan. Leveson was all over the news at the time. I wondered: What problem with the press? Are they talking about a Leveson kind of problem? I sent off for the Welsh Office papers at the National Archives.

‘The Welsh Office papers detailed the specific problems the Welsh Office were having with the press but, more significantly for my novel, the action they were taking too. The Welsh Office had a number of ideas to curtail the amount of sensational stories appearing in the Fleet Street press. The most creative, and Quixotic, was the idea of a “Lay Off Aberfan Campaign” being run by a newspaper in Fleet Street – which became the central plot of Black River. And it felt as though my character from the Irish novel had been waiting for this book.

‘Of course, as with most historical novels, the majority of the research doesn’t go in the novel and instead gets set aside. To compensate for this, given that most of the material I uncovered is not widely known about, I created a website where I can showcase the research behind the novel.

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The UK's bestselling writing magazine • Beat writer's block: Busting the myth and dealing with the reality • Revealed: WM's books of the year • Star interview: Stef Penney – intimate emotions, epic landscapes • 20 packed pages of Writers' News: win £50,588 in writing prizes; opportunities to get published; insider know-how and much more...

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