I am pleased to welcome a special guest to Great War 100 Reads. Michael J. Goodspeed, author of “Three to a Loaf“, has generously agreed to answer some of my questions about his book and his inspirations.
Why did you write “Three to a Loaf”?
Michael J. Goodspeed: I don’t have the answer as to why some people choose to dedicate their time to painting, music, writing or other artistic endeavours. I think it’s an enjoyable activity that naturally surfaces for some people. I guess I’m one of them. As for this particular novel, I’ve always been interested in history. In my undergrad I majored in English literature, studying the modern novel. The First World War has always fascinated me and when I learned of large numbers of Americans volunteering for service in the Kaiser’s army in 1914, it seemed to me like a wonderful means of sympathetically illustrating the issues facing the Great War’s two sets of belligerents. That was the spur for me to write my first novel.
How did you achieve the historical authenticity for both sides of the conflict?
MJG: I read everything I could get my hands on about the war. The soldiers of the Great War were a very literate generation and they amply documented their lives. I developed Rory’s personal experience in the army largely from reading and collating the material I found in veterans’ letters in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Museum and Archives.
Did you know how the story would evolve as you started to write, or did it change as you wrote?
MJG: Being an ex army officer, I suppose it’s imprinted into my DNA to be a compulsive planner. I researched and developed the main plot line and almost all the detail prior to writing my first draft.
How did you come up with the title?
MJG: Doing my research I read about the expression “three to a loaf” in a number of documents. It’s drawn from the black humour Canadian soldiers used as a method of coping with the incredible strain of fighting in the trenches. Loaves of bread were issued as part of the ration scale. Each loaf was to be split amongst four soldiers. When they were hungry, the troops would sardonically make light of their circumstances by telling one another, “not to worry, tomorrow we’ll have three to a loaf.”
Which fictional character do you wish you were?
MJG: I’ve admired lots of characters in fiction, although I’ve never harboured a desire to imitate or trade places with one. I’m a firm believer that as a 21st century Canadian, I’ve absolutely won life’s lottery, and so I’m delighted to be living life as Michael Goodspeed.
What question do you wish people would ask about your work, that they don’t ask?
MJG: Is it possible for me to order thousands of copies of your books?
Where will your next book take us? Will we see Rory Ferrall as a Cold War spy?
MJG: In writing “Three to a Loaf” and “Our Only Shield” I’ve mapped out Rory Ferrall’s life. He was a very capable and resourceful man and didn’t retire completely from security and police work until 1959, so what I will say without revealing too much is that he had a fascinating career, one that spanned some momentous periods of recent history. So, there’s a lifetime available for historical speculation.
That’s a cagey answer! I guess we have to await the next book to learn where Rory turns up next.
Thank you so much, Michael, for taking the time to share your thoughts. I have enjoyed our email chat.