Writing Lucky’s Way
"It was important for me to let people know what it was like during the year 1918."
By Gina Hooten Popp
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site
As an author, I don’t plan a story, but rather let the story come to and through me. So when Lucky’s Way—my historical fiction novel about a young World War One fighter pilot from Houston, Texas started to take shape in my imagination, I totally immersed myself in research about The Great War. From non-fiction books and documentaries containing historical facts and timelines to soldier’s diary entries and letters sent back home, I learned about the nuances of this fascinating era. But before I go into more detail about my research for Lucky’s Way let me back up and tell you a little bit about the book itself.
Lucky’s Way is the second book in my three-book historical fiction Texas series titled Winds of Change. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to read the entire series as each book stands alone. In fact, many readers have told me they read the series in reverse and enjoyed it just as much.) In The Storm After, the first book of the series, four survivors of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane come together to form a family of sorts as they recover from inconceivable loss. Seventeen years later in 1918, the historical fiction saga picks up in Lucky’s Way, following the same cast of characters (and a few new ones) all the way from war-torn France to the Gulf Coast of Texas.
In the opening chapter of Lucky’s Way, it is the month of September and The Great War is starting to show signs of a possible end. Lieutenant Lucky McLaren, a battle-weary U.S. fighter pilot, is headed home to Houston, Texas on an extended reprieve. But destiny has other plans for him when Antonia, an Italian beauty, suffragette and ex-Allied spy, seeks refuge in the same train car he is traveling on—changing not only his homeward bound direction, but also the course of both of their lives. Soon the young Lieutenant finds himself back overseas, fighting for his country and his life. Filled with history and passion, Lucky’s Way is an inspirational tale of healing and redemption—a stirring testament to the power of belief and self-discovery, to hopes lost and found again.
Yes, Lucky’s Way is a World War One love story. But as one of my readers told me, it is not a goopy love story, but rather one along the lines of Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. “Don’t worry,” the reader went on to say, “In addition to the romance there’s a lot of interesting information about the war and the time period.”
Which brings us back to what it was like to research a book set in World War One. So much has been printed about the war, but I wanted to give a glimpse of what it was like for the individual. So I started my research by reading diary entries. Before too long, the people who wrote them started to bring the time period alive for me. I was interested in what their everyday concerns were about, as well as what other events (beside the war) were happening globally.