Genealogy Gems Book Club: Q & A with Genealogist Nathan Dylan Goodwin, Author of The Sterling Affair

After a long day of genealogical research, what could be more satisfying than curling up with a good book about genealogical research?! Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s new book The Sterling Affair promises a satisfying return journey into the life of forensic genealogist Morton Farrier. 

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Click here to purchase your copy of The Sterling Affair

Genealogy Gems The Sterling Affair by Nathan Dylan Goodwin. Click image to order your copy.

The Sterling Affair by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Goodwin sets the scene of his new book as follows:

“When an unannounced stranger comes calling at Morton Farrier’s front door, he finds himself faced with the most intriguing and confounding case of his career to-date as a forensic genealogist. He agrees to accept the contract to identify a man who had been secretly living under the name of his new client’s long-deceased brother.

Morton must use his range of resources and research skills to help him deconstruct this mysterious man’s life, ultimately leading him back into the murky world of 1950s international affairs of state.”

A Conversation with Author Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Don’t worry, we won’t be spoiling the exciting read you have ahead of you. Today I will be chatting with Nathan about his life as an author, his writing process, and how the main character, Morton Farrier, almost didn’t make it past the first book!

Lisa Louise Cooke: The Sterling Affair is your eighth novel in the Morton Farrier genealogical crime mystery series. When you first began writing the series did you imagine an eighth book?  And today can you imagine even more?

Nathan: I literally had no concept that there would be so many books in the series! At first, it was written as a one-off, then I started to have ideas for two or three more.

I think when I wrote book three, The Orange Lilies, I knew that the series had plenty more scope, especially as DNA-testing was just beginning for genealogists, opening up a whole new world of potential storylines! As to the future of the series, I’m currently plotting books nine and ten. I don’t see an end to the series just yet!

The Sterling Affair - a genealogical crime mystery

Click the book image to order your copy.

Lisa Louise Cooke: I heard you speak at THE Genealogy Show conference in Birmingham England in 2019. In that presentation you told the audience that you almost killed off Morton at the end of the first book. I imagine you’re glad now that he survived. What exactly happened back then? 

Nathan: Killing Morton would have been the most stupid thing I could have done!

I started writing Hiding the Past (the first book in the series) as part of my studies for a Master’s Degree in creative writing and I think I’d been reading a novel at the time, which went along the lines of ‘if you’re reading this then I’m dead’. I thought this angle might work for the first draft of my story but thankfully, as the book progressed, I was able to see several plotlines, which could continue into further stories.

I knew from the outset that I wanted the main character, Morton Farrier, to have been adopted and be totally unaware of his biological family, so there was plenty of scope there to continue that subplot in future books.

Lisa Louise Cooke: How has the advent of DNA testing changed the course of your writing?

Nathan: DNA-testing has completely changed the course of my writing—in a good way, I like to think! There are now so many more possibilities for Morton to solve his cases in different ways.

Morton took an Ancestry DNA test back in 2014 when it had not yet even become possible in the UK. He did what I had to do, which was to order one in the US and have a friend ship it over, then post it back to the US for testing and analysis!

From that point onwards, DNA has played an ever-increasing role in helping Morton to solve his cases. In the most recent book, The Sterling Affair, Morton uses a variety of real tools and websites which are familiar to genealogists.

Lisa Louise Cooke: When you start a book like The Sterling Affair, do you already have it well mapped out, or are there surprises even for you along the way as to the path it will take?

Nathan: I usually spend at least three months conducting research for the books. This involves reading, visiting record offices, libraries, churches, etc. Basically, anything which Morton does in the book, I do first.

 

Novel Research - photo courtesy of Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Photo courtesy of Nathan Dylan Goodwin

At the point when I actually start writing I probably have about 60% of the storyline mapped out. It’s a big cliché to say so, but for me the characters really do come to life and do things which I hadn’t anticipated. For the first few books I found it a little unnerving to be starting to write something that I didn’t know pretty well 100% what was going to happen, but now I trust myself and I know I’ll get to the end if I let the characters lead the way!

Lisa Louise Cooke: Where do you get your inspiration for the story lines in your books? 

Nathan: My ideas come from a variety of sources, but never by actively searching for the next story; I just seem to stumble on a nugget of an idea, which I think could make for an interesting genealogical crime mystery and make a note of it! It can be a news story involving history or genealogy in some way, something I’ve picked up from a family history publication, or a Facebook group where people share their own genealogical mysteries.

Increasingly, the books have more real-life characters, plotlines and locations. For example, The Spyglass File, which is set on the frontline of Kent during the Battle of Britain, was loosely based on my grandmother’s story, whereby she gave birth to an illegitimate child in 1943, whom she put up for adoption whilst my grandfather was a POW in Thailand.

Nathan Dylan Goodwin Genealogy Gems Podcast

Nathan’s Grandmother – Photo courtesy of Nathan Dylan Goodwin.

The Sterling Affair is based on nefarious goings-on during the 1950s and involves real undercover MI6 operations and real spies. The idea for this story came from the National Archives newsletter, which mentioned the release of some previously closed MI6 records. This got me thinking about someone trying to conceal their real identity and Morton having to use his skills to work out who he might be! 

Lisa Louise Cooke: For those new to your books, they will see that this is the eighth novel in the series and wonder if it’s too late to join in. Can the book be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone novel? 

Nathan: I always say that the books can be read as a stand-alone, but you would be missing out on Morton’s backstory. However, with The Sterling Affair there is not too much given away about his own past, so, of all of the stories, this is the most readable out of sequence!

Lisa Louise Cooke: When you’re not writing about Morton Farrier, what is your favorite way to spend free time? 

Nathan: I’m not sure what you mean by ‘free time’!? Obviously, I spend a lot of time on genealogy. I’ve been researching my own family for thirty years now and I feel very fortunate to be able to combine my two loves of writing and genealogy. Aside from that, I enjoy reading, running, skiing, theatre and spending time with my family, friends and dog.

Lisa Louise Cooke: You’re a man of many talents. Do you have other “wishlist” projects you yearn to do in addition to writing?

Nathan: I enjoy photography and would like to develop that at some point in the future and I really would like to take a watercolour painting class at some point. I just need some of that free time you mentioned!

Photography by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

A man of many talents – Photography by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Lisa Louise Cooke: I’ll be at RootsTech again this year. Will we see you there?

Nathan: I shall have a booth at RootsTech SLC this year signing books and also at THE Genealogy Show in Birmingham once again. So people can come and say hello and let me know what they think of my stories. I love chatting with my readers!

Hear More from Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Read and hear more from genealogical author Nathan Dylan Goodwin in the following exclusive Genealogy Gems content:

  1. Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 180 features an Interview with Nathan Dylan Goodwin author of The Lost Ancestor.
  2. Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 179 features a discussion of The Lost Ancestor by Nathan Dylan Goodwin.
  3. Interview with Nathan Dylan Goodwin: Genealogy Gems Book Club – In this article from 2015 Nathan discusses the second book in the Morton Farrier series, The Lost Ancestor. 
  4. Listen to the full-length Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with Nathan Dylan Goodwin, as he discusses The Lost Ancestor (The Forensic Genealogist) in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 125 (exclusive for Genealogy Gems Premium Members.)
  5. Listen to our interview with Nathan Dylan Goodwin about his The Wicked Trade and The Suffragette’s Secret in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 159 (exclusive for Genealogy Gems Premium Members.

Catch up on the Morton Farrier

Learn more about the entire book series featuring Morton Farrier here in this Genealogy Gems Book Club article. 

SCGS Genealogy Jamboree Conference 2018

Genealogy Gems at Jamboree 2018!
Genealogy Gems at jamboree

Thank you for joining us in person at SCGS Jamboree 2018

Where: SCGS Genealogy Jamboree 2018 Burbank, CA
Booth: Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems
When: May 31 through June 2, 2018

scgs genealogy Jamboree 2018

BOOTH SESSIONS 

Attend our free “power” sessions in our booth. We are located right behind our wonderful sponsor. Thank you to MyHeritage for their generous prize donations!

Thursday 1:00 PM Solutions for DNA matches without a tree with Lisa Louise Cooke –
PRIZE: MyHeritage DNA Kit

Friday 9:30 AM Understanding Your YDNA Results with Diahan Southard
PRIZE: 20 minute one-on-one consultation

Friday 12:45 PM Influenza: America’s Worst Pandemicwith Michael Strauss
PRIZE:1 year MyHeritage Complete Plan Subscription

Friday 1:15  PM How to Create a Free Historic Map Collection in Google Earth with Lisa Louise Cooke
PRIZE: Google Earth for Genealogy Video Series

Saturday 1:00 PM 5 Awesome Apps that Help You Share Your Family History in Captivating Ways with Lisa Louise Cooke
PRIZE: Lisa’s Mobile Genealogy book 

I attended several of your sessions, at least one from each of you and often  more.  They were terrific, at least as good and often better than conference  sessions.  And the e-book of session notes, with the myriad of internet  links, is frosting on the cake.  Thank you.” – Bonnie

FREE EBOOK: Attend any session at our booth and sign up to receive our free ebook of handouts for all our booth sessions!

PODCAST HELP: Bring your mobile device and we’ll set up the free podcast for you!

PRIZES: At the beginning of each of Lisa’s sessions we will hand out tickets, and at the end, a winner will be drawn and prizes awarded. (No purchase necessary, and see our booth for details.)

Book Books Bundle Lisa Louise CookeBOOK SIGNINGS: Books and quick reference guides will be available for purchase, and all our speakers will be happy to sign.

Attend Lisa’s Jamboree Classes

Friday June 1 at 11:30 AM
Reconstruct Your Ancestors’ World with Google

Friday June 1 at 3:30 PM
How Alice the Genealogist Avoids the Rabbit Hole

Saturday June 2 at 10:00 AM
Storming the Iceberg! Start Online to Get Offline

Season Eight

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episodes

2012 – 2013 Season Eight

Episode 141
Behind the Scenes at the Antiques Roadshow. And what you should and should not include in your family tree.

Episode 142
Genealogy Gems Podcast listeners who are blogging about their genealogy!

Episode 143
Hear how one man’s passion for geography and history were saved from destruction, and find out what a portable scanner can do for your genealogy research and mobility.

Episode 144
Get ready to get organized! We’re going to talk about how to digitize, organize and archive your family history with Denise Levenick.

Episode 145
Blast from the Past: Episodes 5 and 6. Gems: YouTube, Bring Back Sites from the Dead, Spice Up Your Genealogy Database, Cast a Shadow on Your Ancestors, US GenWeb

Episode 146
In this episode we discuss the latest genealogy news, one listener’s fabulous use of Google Alerts, and Maureen Taylor’s new history film project.

Episode 147
Jump on the sleigh and make the rounds with me to friends of the podcast. We’ll making surprise stops at listener’s homes, drinking hot cocoa with long time friends of the show and genealogy experts, visiting with the newest member to the Genealogy Gems team, and my Grandson Davy will even make a guest starring appearance!

Episode 148
Genealogy Quick Gems: New RootsMagic App, 5 reasons you need the new YouTube app for family history, new digitized records online, sound preservation, Ancestry search tips video, and more.

Episode 149
A Blast from the Past: Episodes 7 and 8. Civil War Research and the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System Website, A Swedish-American genealogy podcast, The Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, and Shake Up Your Family History research strategies!

Episode 150
Lisa celebrates her 50th birthday and the 150th episode with 50 Fabulous Family History Favorites!

Episode 151
Part 2 of 50 Fabulous Family History Favorites.

Episode 152
Highlights from Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2013 in London including an interview with Dr. Turi King who confirmed the identity of the remains of King Richard III through DNA

Episode 153
Enjoy a blast from the past with episode #10 featuring Steve Morse and his One-Step website. Then delight in Darius Gray, a genealogist and storyteller who provides tips on sharing your family history stories with your family, (recorded at #RootsTech 2013.)

Episode 154
Travel back to #RootsTech – You’ll hear 10 Top Tips for How to Bust Through Your Genealogy Brick Wall, and get the scoop on the new partnership between OCLC / WorldCat and FamilySearch.

Episode 155
Catching Up on Everything Genealogy, and WikiTree Update

Episode 156
What to do when technological changes create mayhem in your life.  Also, get a sneak peek at new changes coming in Ancestry search, and women in naturalization records.

Episode 157
Blast from the Past:  First up is Genealogy Gems Episode #11, first published May 07, 2007, (How to Find Pictures from the Past with Google.com, and a Family History Decoupage Plate Project) and Episode #12 (Top 10 Tips for Finding the Graduation Gems in Your Family History.)

Episode 158
Exclusive interview with Allie Orton, Producer of the U.S. TV series Who Do You Think You Are? Also in this episode: the new Genealogy Gems Windows 8 App, Update on Fold3, OCLC and FamilySearch partnership, and British Research Resources.

Episode 159
Come along as we solve a family history mystery with high-tech and low-tech tools, discuss how to begin African-American research, explore newly available Canadian records, and contemplate the value of work as well as the values we want to pass on to our kids and grandkids.

Episode 160
In this episode you will meet other listeners who are getting the word out about their family history through blogging as well as give you some genealogy blogging pointers,and I will introduce you to my first “Favorite Genealogy Gems.”

NGS 2016 Live Streaming: FREE Genealogy Gems Classes

NGS 2016 live streaming options have expanded this year–and include FREE Genealogy Gems classes you can watch on your mobile device wherever you are.

Can’t make it to NGS 2016? You’re not the only one! You can still join the fun, though–and for free. Lisa Louise Cooke will be live-streaming several lectures from the Genealogy Gems booth “theater” in the Exhibit Hall at NGS from May 4-7, 2016.

Streaming classes are scheduled as follows (so far–more may be added). The time zone for the conference is Eastern standard.

Wednesday, May 4:

9:45 am: Diahan Southard, 3 Reasons to Test Your DNA

10:15 am: Diahan Southard, AncestryDNA Help

1:15 pm: Lisa Louise Cooke, Beginner Evernote

1:45 pm: Lisa Louise Cooke, Advanced Evernote

Thursday, May 5:

12:45 pm: Lisa Louise Cooke, 3 Cool Tools for Newspapers

1:45 pm: Diahan Southard, FTDNA’s Family Finder Help

Friday, May 6:

1:15 pm: Lisa Louise Cooke, Create Google Earth Map Overlays

Saturday, May 7:

12:15 pm: Diahan Southard, Genetic buy medicine online philippines Genealogy & Health

1:45 pm: Lisa Louise Cooke: Genealogy Protection with Cloud Backup

How to watch the free NGS 2016 live streaming sessions from Genealogy Gems

Lisa will stream again through the free Periscope app, which she used for RootsTech 2016. Get the Periscope app in Apple’s App Store or Google Play, sign up for a free account, and follow Lisa Louise Cooke to tune in. Sign up for notifications in Periscope, and your phone will “ping” when she starts streaming.

Click here for the full list of NGS 2016 free Genealogy Gems booth classes, being taught on-site by Lisa Louise Cooke and Diahan Southard from Genealogy Gems and their partners from Family Tree Magazine. More streaming sessions may be added. Be sure to like and follow the Genealogy Gems Facebook page for last-minute additions!

FREE: Watch Classes that Streamed Live from RootsTech 2016

How to Use Your Mobile Device for Genealogy

Powerful Google for Genealogy Search Strategies

 

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