books, Dickens, Writing

Caught Up in Hard Times

This post isn’t about what’s happening in the world although the title would be apropos if I were. I am writing about Charles Dickens’ novel Hard Times.

I admit it has been an awfully long time since I read anything by Dickens. Probably the last was A Tale of Two Cities. Maybe it was David Copperfeld. But reading Hard Times is part of my research for a new writing project. I’m not going to give too much away, but this project is a YA novel — my first venture in this genre — set in the 1850s. Charles Dickens is in it and he is inspired to use one of my characters for his novel, Hard Times.

When I called my daughter Sarah, who is a Dickens scholar, for advice, she recommended Hard Times and one of its characters in particular. Besides, she told me, it is one of his shorter books. About 50 pages in, I am convinced she’s right.

Like many of Dickens’ novels, Hard Times appeared in serial form first in his Hard timesperiodical Household Words — from April to August 1854 — before it was published as one volume at the end of the year. So, the chapters are understandably short. I can imagine Dickens’ fans devouring a chapter and being impatient for the next.

My own novels have short chapters. I won’t pretend to be in the same realm as Dickens. But I tend to write for those who are used to getting information in bits and bytes. Besides, as a longtime journalist, I have difficulty writing long.

For my research, I’m reading about Dickens and what he used from his interesting life in his novels.

So what was happening when Dickens wrote Hard Times? France and Britain allied with Turkey against Russia during the Crimean War. Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote The Charge of the Light Brigade. And across the great pond, Henry David Thoreau, completed Walden.

Okay, I took a break. It’s back to Hard Times.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s a pumpkin that grew all on its own in my garden. Right now it has a welcoming spot on the bench beside our garage door.