A Weaver’s Web is an epic novel that takes the reader on a journey through the history of one family’s battle with the industrial revolution. It’s a historical novel with a strong core message about how change affects the psyche of individuals and the impact this can have on family dynamics.
Charting the changes of fortune as a poor weaver rises to wealth when he finally accepts and embraces the inevitability of the rise of mechanisation, Chris has painted a vivid picture of what life was like in 19th century. He also manages to create complex and very visual characters which allow the reader to engage fully with their experiences. We share the frustrations, not only of the reality of life, but also of the observer watching the internal battles going on in Henry Wakefield.
I must admit there were times when I was so frustrated with his entrenched view that I wanted to set the book aside. But I’m glad I got over that because the story opens up to be a true family story, encompassing the emotional journey that each member takes through it’s pages.
This is a book that, like A Christmas Carol, should be read in the deep winter, curled up in the front of a roaring fire and with a bag of roasted chestnuts to hand.
The Chris Pearce Interview
What is one thing that no-one would usually know about you?
Hey, that’s a hard one to start with – hehe. What about the fact that I’ve been retrenched twice from the workforce? The first time was in 1994. I had been working at a major financial institution here in Australia. They went through a prolonged restructuring process and I seemed to survive it but then they kept making further changes. I was offered another position on about 80% of my salary and I opted for voluntary redundancy. I’d been there over six years and I’d had enough. I was mainly on the research side of things, and also marketing and planning. Things like research often seem to be regarded as expendable in restructures. Initially, the research department of four had become one – me. Then it grew again to two and then three.
The second time was in 2012. I had been with the Queensland public service for 18 years, since my redundancy in 1994. A new state government decided to abolish 14,000 positions and mine was one. Our office, part of Queensland Treasury, lost 28 people out of 117. We had the option of applying for other positions for a few months or take a voluntary redundancy package. The few jobs being advertised didn’t match my skills, experience or qualifications, so I opted out, as did most people. I had been editing publications, as well as research and other things. But I guess editing, like research, is often placed in the “nice to have but not essential” category.
I felt I was too old, too experienced and too qualified to find another reasonable job in the current market, so here I am writing books!
What did the best review you ever had say about you and your work?
I’ve had quite a few five-star reviews on my historical novel / family saga A Weaver’s Web, including from two reviewers who said it was not their usual read. I’ve had things like “heartbreaking story of love, loss, acceptance and growth”, “beautifully written and crafted into an immediate classic”, “pure delight from start to finish”, “a mesmerizing novel of the struggle between the individual and the Industrial Revolution”, and “this will be my favorite (best) read of the year!”. Also, my work has been compared to Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck and John Dos Passos.
But the comment that sticks in my mind the most was from a literary agent, one of over 100 who rejected it: “very enjoyable and it was almost like a Mancunian Grapes of Wrath, but with the poor family finding its wealth. The location of Manchester during the industrial revolution dictates the action excellently and I can see why readers could not put it down.” Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath is in several lists of top 10 novels of the 20th century. I used the agent’s comments in subsequent submissions but I don’t think agents are taking on much at all these days, especially from unknown novelists.
What did the worst review you ever had say about you and your work?
I haven’t received many poor reviews. I suppose the worst one was by someone who still gave my historical novel three stars but felt it lacked depth, had one-dimensional characters, and the plot bounced around. Fair enough. Fiction is very subjective and I don’t think it would matter who you are or what you wrote or how many awards a book might have won, there will always be readers who don’t like it. So no problem.
Other reviewers commented: “The characters are so well written that you find yourself feeling an emotional attachment to them that will keep you turning pages until the very end”, “you grow to love the characters (or hate them)”, “the authors command of his characters is amazing”, “I really enjoyed the character growth and became invested in several different characters journey”, “I really enjoyed how the characters evolved and changed”, and “the characters are well developed and I honestly felt as if I was in the early 19th century”. But a couple of other reviewers wanted more character development. Can’t please everyone! But with something like 150 characters in there, not including crowd/group scenes, perhaps there is something for most readers.
Are the names of your characters important to you?
To some extent they are. Writing novels set in 19th century UK, I think it’s good to have a string of typical British two, three and four syllable surnames such as Wakefield, Pickering, Montgomery, Hobsworth, Nancarrow, Featherstone, Thorndike, Grimshaw, Wearmouth and Perrywinkle (all from A Weaver’s Web) but other shorter names as well. Some of the names came straight away, others a bit later, and occasionally much later. I don’t go to the extent Dickens did and make the character name fit the person and to always do this before writing the character into the story. But it certainly worked very well for Dickens.
How did you choose a title for your book?
The title didn’t come until I had gone through several drafts of the book. The story was always about a poor handloom weaver in early 19th century UK. I had done a lot of research into that period of history and found that handloom weavers did it very tough due to the large new factories that could do things much cheaper. Henry Wakefield weaves his web in such a manner that no one gets in his way of making money, not even his wife Sarah who ends up in the asylum and eldest son Albert who becomes a convict. A reviewer said: “It is a web Henry has woven that in many ways reflects the spiral from individual work to industrialization.”
Are there any occupational hazards to being an author?
I guess an important one is the risk of getting the idea that you have written one of the great books, that literary agents will fall over themselves to represent you, and that you will quickly find a publisher and make a heap of money. It just doesn’t work this way, even if you have written a really great novel, unless perhaps if you’re already a well known writer. So keep your day job.
Another potential occupational hazard comes from sitting too long. I am guilty of this one. I did it in the workplace too. Instead of getting up once in a while, I tend to sit and work away for hours, perhaps up to about four hours at a time. I suppose another one would be the risk of becoming depressed through lack of human contact. Writing is a solitary occupation and might not suit an extrovert who likes to work in a busy office and interact a lot.
Have you ever wished that you could be or do anything else instead of writing, and if so what?
Not really. Just about all the things I’ve done or wanted to do have involved writing of some sort. In grade 1, I preferred sitting at my desk writing words and numbers than sitting on the floor with the other kids listening to the teacher tell a story. From the age of about 11 to 14, I started but didn’t finish about four novels and I said to Mum I wanted to be an author. But she said I needed a proper job and I got into accountancy, the same as Dad. I lasted four years. I’ve been lucky in that most of my jobs involved a lot of research, writing and editing. I sometimes think that if I had my time again, I’d like to be a journalist, or maybe an academic, or perhaps a full-time writer of books from a younger age.
What is the single biggest challenge you faced when writing your book?
I think it was just getting it written and finished. I was working full-time when I researched and wrote A Weaver’s Web, so life was pretty busy. Actually, I had already done some of the research for the novel. I had written a non-fiction book on an Australian convict: Through the Eyes of Thomas Pamphlett: Convict and Castaway. Pamphlett grew up in Manchester, UK, so I had already done quite a bit of research into early industrial Manchester, with its dreadful working and living conditions. The novel writing process took a long time as did the editing process. But I wanted to make the story as good and as realistic as possible. The research, writing and editing took about seven years part-time, although there were periods of weeks and months where I hardly touched it.
Do you have any hints or tips for aspiring writers?
As I said before, don’t give up your day job. I think you have to love writing rather than seeing it as a way to become rich and famous, if you’re into these things. Make sure you polish your novel to make it your best possible effort. I think I would still try sending it to a few literary agents. They aren’t taking much these days, but you can never really tell just what might click with an agent.
More than likely no agent or commercial publisher will want it, in which case I would consider publishing it as an ebook. It’s a huge market though, with hundreds of thousands of new ebooks each year. You’re one tree in a forest and you won’t see the light of day without significant efforts on your part. Just publishing an ebook to Amazon and other book seller sites doesn’t result in sales. You have to promote your book and yourself by using social media, seeking reviews and interviews, doing giveaways, having a blog, joining online book clubs such as Goodreads, posting a synopsis and excerpts wherever possible, and so on. I don’t think there are any magic solutions. It’s basically a case of getting you and your book better known.
Where do you find your inspiration?
My inspiration for writing the convict book happened soon after my wife and I moved to the state of Queensland. I was browsing some history books on Queensland and most of them had from a paragraph to a page on the story of Thomas Pamphlett and his two fellow castaways who were shipwrecked in the Moreton Bay area off Brisbane the year before Brisbane was founded. After seven months they were found by explorer John Oxley and they showed him the Brisbane River which was obscured by islands. Oxley put in a favourable report to the governor and a new penal colony was set up the following year. Pamphlett committed another crime and served seven years at the new colony. No full-length book had been written about Pamphlett, so away I went spending many hours in dusty old libraries digging out old records.
Inspiration for A Weaver’s Web came out of a combination of the non-fiction book and a postgraduate creative writing course. As I said, Pamphlett grew up in Manchester. Also, I did some planning, character sketches and so on as part of the writing course. I came top from 30 students and thought hey I can do this and went ahead and researched and wrote the novel.
Inspiration for other book ideas has come from things I’m interested in. Daylight saving time is a hot issue here in Queensland, Australia and I’m writing a book on its history around the world. There are some amazing stories. Also, I’ve always been interested in what life might be like in a few generations’ time, so I’m writing a novel set about 80 years into the future.
Tea, Coffee, Water, Juice, Wine or Beer … which do you prefer when writing?
These days, it’s water. Helps to have a clear head. Well, it works for me anyway. I drink juice, usually a glass of orange juice as part of breakfast and a couple of glasses of cranberry juice a week. I used to drink beer sometimes and an occasional glass of wine, but I gave up to try and stop smoking. I had been a smoker for about nine years in my 20s. I succeeded in giving up cigarettes but never went back to beer or anything, not that I ever drank that much. I’m off coffee too. We drink a coffee substitute called Caro after lunch and dinner.
Where can I find out more about Chris amd his book?
You can find The Weaver’s Web in Kindle format here:
You can also meet him:
Why ‘The Thursday Throng’?
These posts are called The Thursday Throng in honour of the throng that waits eagerly outside the book store when a new author is doing a book signing event or appearance. On this website it takes the form of a ‘Meet the Author‘ online event with some information about our author’s latest book and an interview. If you would like to take part in the Thursday Throng then why not visit Thursday Throng Author Interview Guidelines to find out more.
If you would like to see all the Authors who have been featured on The Thursday Throng you can click here: womanontheedgeofreality.com/2012/06/17/the-thursday-throng/.