A Million to One takes place on board the Titanic, as the four protagonists of the book band together in an attempt to steal a rare jewel-encrusted copy of the Rubaiyat that’s on it. When I sat down to write this book, I knew that so many people would already be familiar with its history. James Cameron’s Titanic being as famous as it is meant that almost everyone has at least a little access to this history.
But I also knew that I was uniquely positioned in writing this story. I’ve lived in Ireland since I was ten years old. I had travelled to Cobh (or as it was known in 1912, Queenstown) and seen the place where the Titanic made its last stop before beginning its journey to New York. I had travelled to Belfast to the Titanic Museum and seen how the history of Belfast and Ireland was very much a part of the history of the Titanic.
Still, I worried about how to balance history with a book that is an adventurous heist. At first, I got caught up in the historic elements. I took research trips to Belfast and Cork in the hope that I’d find all the details that I thought were necessary to writing my book. But once there, I realised that the details, while important, wouldn’t make up the crux of the book. Instead, both in Belfast and Cork, I was caught up in the lives of the people who helped build the Titanic, and those who boarded it. While the ship’s history was interesting, and the disastrous sinking meant that it had carved out a space in the minds of many people across the world, the stories of many of the people on the ship hadn’t lived on in the same way.
Slowly, as the lives of the people in 1912, of Belfast and Cork, of those who boarded the Titanic during its maiden voyage with no idea of where they would end up before the journey was over, came alive in front of me, the story of my book took shape in my head. The history, the characters, and even the real-life heroes who make an appearance in my book all came together.
In many ways I felt lucky, even though the writing process wasn’t easy. Not all history is accessible to everyone but living in Ireland meant the history of the Titanic and the people of Ireland whose lives were intertwined with the ship, was all around me as I wrote A Million to One.