Thursday 17 January 2019

Write side: with novelist Nicola Pierce


Novelist Nicola Pierce. Photo: Joe Butler
Novelist Nicola Pierce. Photo: Joe Butler
Kim Bielenberg

Kim Bielenberg

Novelist Nicola Pierce on her book about the Titanic, the animals on board, and the musicians who continued playing.

How did you become interested in the Titanic?

In 2011, I wrote a children's novel, Spirit of the Titanic, after I heard about a boy who died while working as a junior riveter building the ship. The novel sold 30,000 copies. O'Brien Press asked me to write a non-fiction book about the ship for adults (Titanic: True Stories of her Passengers, Crew and Legacy).

Why are people obsessed with the ship?

They are gripped by it. I suppose it was the end of one world and the beginning of another. And there were rich and famous people on board.

Did the band really continue playing as the ship sank?

Yes, they went on right until the end, even playing while the lifeboats were lowered.

And did anybody rearrange the deckchairs?

No, but a baker threw 50 chairs into the water so that passengers could grab hold of them.

And what about the animals on board?

There were 12 dogs in first-class. Three of them survived - they were chihuahuas or pekingese. There had been a cat on board, but it left at Southampton. Perhaps cats are psychic. There were also four roosters and a yellow canary.

Was a lot of treasure found afterwards?

There were diamonds on the ship. There have been dives for them, but nothing was found. The biggest single claim against the White Star Line by a passenger was for a lost French painting, La Circassienne au Bain, by Merry-Joseph Blondel.

Which books would you take to a desert island?

I read a lot of non-fiction. Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis was one of my favourites. Insomniac City by Bill Hayes. My favourite recent female author is Elizabeth Strauss.

If you weren't a writer, what would you be?

An actor. It is similar in some ways to being a writer.

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