The story behind The Girl in the Photograph

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Yesterday it was paperback publication day for Kirsty Ferry’s third Rossetti Mysteries book, The Girl in the Photograph, and today Kirsty joins us on the blog to chat a little bit about the historical inspiration for the novel … 

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to finally see three of the Rossetti Mysteries in paperback. It is absolutely a dream come true, and they all look so utterly stunning together that I can’t help staring at them and, yes, even stroking the covers.

However, a book doesn’t turn into a book without a spark of inspiration, and my inspiration for The Girl in the Photograph was a lady called Julia Margaret Cameron. Cameron was a photographer who lived from 1815 to 1879. She became known for portraits of contemporary celebrities and depictions of Arthurian legends and other wonderful themes so beloved by the Pre Raphaelites that have coloured this trilogy. As the slightly rebellious nineteenth century Pre Raphaelite Movement, founded in 1843 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt (who you may remember from The Girl in the Painting) progressed from poetry, to art, to photography, so my books have followed this path. I also incorporated some later art movements in this book; Dame Laura Knight who was part of the Lamorna group of artists in Cornwall visited Staithes in Yorkshire and was part of their art community for a little while. Laura and the Staithes Group all deserved a spot in my book too.

I decided I wanted to use Cameron and her photography when I discovered a newspaper clipping hidden inside a second hand Pre Raphaelite Tate exhibition catalogue I ordered from Amazon. The clipping fluttered out as I was looking for a picture of Lizzie Siddal, the muse and lover of Rossetti.  It depicted a profile of a mysterious lady who Cameron had photographed, and there was a discussion over who she might have been. There was going to be an exhibition including this picture and the experts all had their opinions on her. I read the extract with a mounting sense of excitement. This, I knew without a doubt, was to be the premise for my next Rossetti book – a beautiful girl in a photograph, a moment in time captured in black and white and attributed to Julia Margaret Cameron. It was easy to know who would ‘star’ in my contemporary thread – it had to be Lissy, Jon’s sister from Some Veil Did Fall. The question was, what is Lissy really like? She spends all her time matchmaking, but she’s hiding some hurt from her past and has quite a brittle veneer – but then in comes Stefano, the one she can’t get over. Can he change her back to the loving girl she really is beneath all the London polish? And my historical couple – well, I couldn’t resist Julian as soon as I started writing about him. He’s a photographer capturing the last days of the Staithes Group of artists, and staying in the Dower House of Sea Scarr Hall, the home of Lady Lorelei Scarsdale. Like Lissy, Lorelei is hiding some secrets and only Julian can get close enough to discover who she really is.

So yes, I loved writing these books (which is why I did a Christmas one as well – there were only ever meant to be three originally!) and loved the way everything just slotted into them from my research and inspiration. I really hope you enjoy reading them just as much.

THGITPGPREORDERThe Girl in the Photograph is now available to purchase on as an eBook and in paperback from all good book retailers. Click on the banner above for buying options. 

For more on Kirsty Ferry:
Follow her on Twitter: @Kirsty_ferry
Like her on Facebook: Kirsty Ferry Author

History and Imagination: Living in the Past by Jane Lovering

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Last week on Valentine’s Day we released Living in the Past by Jane Lovering – which is Jane’s first timeslip book and, rather uniquely, is set between the present day and the Bronze Age! On the blog today, Jane talks a little bit about why she decided on this particular time period and the advantages and disadvantages of writing about (not so recent) history … 

I’ve always been fascinated by history – but not recorded history. My particular love is for the history that exists before people started writing stuff down and putting ‘spins’ on it. The history I love is conjectural, where only traces are left we have to imagine what those things were, and what they were for. So, essentially, it’s a history that has already come with its own stories, because we have to fill in so many gaps with our imagination.

This is why I wanted to write a timeslip, featuring a period of history that really doesn’t give us much in the way of definite answers. It’s all traces in the soil, a few artifacts for us to argue over and some tantalising art. We don’t know whether some things were ritual, practical or ‘just because’ and writing a book is one way of saying ‘maybe this is what happened and what these things were for.’ Of course, I don’t know. Just like I’ve imagined midwinter and midsummer gatherings where ‘greater family’ would gather to trade animals and goods. I mean, it seems reasonable, they were going to need new bloodstock from unrelated animals and items that they perhaps didn’t have the means to manufacture. We have very little evidence for this, but it’s the sort of thing that might well have happened, so I’ve just pushed imagination forward a bit!  We’ve got a good idea of what the outside of a Bronze Age house might look like, but no idea what they would have had inside, apart from a hearth, so I’ve dreamed up home-carved furniture and a stack of wood, drying for winter beside the fire, meat hung up to cure in the smoke and a bed covered in woven blankets. I don’t know whether any of these things really did get stored inside, but it seems logical to think that they might.

I fully expect to be overtaken by research in the future. Fifty years ago who would have dreamed of some of the reconstruction and archaeological techniques we have today? Ground penetrating radar, geo-phys in all its glory, microscopes that can tell us what people ate and isotope analysis that can tell us where animals and people were born and raised. It’s amazing stuff.

And romance? Well, love is love and has been through the ages. Humans must have fallen in love back in the Bronze Age, just as they do now. It’s an emotion that’s necessary to human continuation, after all! Would it have been so different four thousand years ago? And as for time-travel, well, maybe that’s just another discovery we are waiting to happen …

Living in the Past is now available to purchase on all eBook platforms. Click on the banner below for buying options. 

LIP OUT NOW

For more on Jane Lovering:
Follow her on Twitter: @janelovering
Like her on Facebook: Jane Lovering Author
Check out her website: http://www.janelovering.co.uk/

The Legend of the Swashbuckling Pirate

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The Legend of the Gypsy Hawk by Sally Malcolm is a swashbuckling pirate tale. In this fascinating post, the author describes some of the legends that inspired her novel …

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A pirate is hanged at Execution Dock.

Pirates have a special place in the heart of all romantics, especially those with a taste for adventure and a healthy disregard for authority.

They are the ultimate rebels, the punk rockers of their day, thumbing their nose at social convention.  Scandalous in the silks and brocade reserved exclusively for the upper class, pirates flaunted their wealth and sexuality, even allowing women to join, and occasionally lead, their crews.

Pirates thrilled and shocked their contemporaries, and very quickly legends sprang up around these fascinating rebels.

Trials of infamous pirates like Captain Kidd were reported in salacious (although not entirely accurate) detail in the eighteenth century scandal rags, and that’s where the pirate myths really began.  So captivating were the stories woven around these men that, while awaiting death, renowned pirates were visited in their cells by dazzled women eager for a little pirate stardust …

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The Flying Dutchman, or, The Demon Ship, published 1839.

By the 1830s, with an increasingly literate population eager for entertainment, the ‘penny-bloods’ began to dip into pirate legends from the Golden Age of Piracy. One of the earliest was The Flying Dutchman, published in 1839, telling the tale of the legendary ghost ship and designed to horrify, thrill and delight its eager readers.

And so began an industry. From The Pirates of Penzance and Treasure Island, to movies like Captain Blood and Pirates of the Caribbean, our fascination with the outrageous, dangerous and rebellious pirate remains as enduring as ever.

Long may it continue, say I.

If you enjoyed Sally’s post on pirates, why not give her novel a go? The Legend of the Gypsy Hawk is now available in paperback from all good bookshops and stockists. Purchase it here:

Amazon UK: http://goo.gl/LFpAhz

Amazon US: http://goo.gl/sELQfe

If you need more convincing, watch the fab book trailer here:

https://youtu.be/InHVhS0LMDs

 

Ladies of the Road by Henriette Gyland

Recently I wrote a guest post on Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell about highwaymen in general and why they make excellent heroes in a work of fiction. In my latest novel The Highwayman’s Daughter the heroine, Cora, holds up a carriage belonging to the hero and gets more than she bargained for.

I chose to make her a highway robber because I wanted to create a heroine who was both gutsy and bold and wouldn’t shy away from what was generally perceived as a male domain. However, while I was doing my research for the book, I discovered that it wasn’t actually that unusual for women to turn to the road and a life of crime in this way. Throughout history, a number of notorious female highway robbers have made their mark, and here are a few of them.

Moll Cutpurse, whose real name was Mary Frith, was born in 1584. After driving her

Moll Cutpurse

Moll Cutpurse

parents to distraction for being a “rumpscuttle”, an old word for “tomboy”, they decided to put her on a ship to America, but she absconded as it was setting sail and ran away to the infamous rookeries in St Giles in London where she set herself up as a fence.

An astute businesswoman with a reputation for integrity in the wicked world, she became an institution, not least because she wore men’s clothes and smoked a briar pipe. She was caught after holding up General Fairfax but managed to buy her freedom for £2000, and died of natural causes in 1659 – a relatively long life for that period and despite her exploits.

Ann Meders born 1643 was another female highway robber, and she added fraud and bigamy to her portfolio. Obsessed with the idea of achieving high social and financial status, she regarded marriage to a wealthy man as one way and married three times in rapid succession without dissolving her previous marriages. She worked her way through a number of wealthy lovers but no matter how much money she received, she was always broke. She turned to the road and carried out many robberies, but was eventually arrested for stealing a silver plate.

At the Old Bailey she caused a stir by wearing a low-cut dress, however, when that didn’t provide her with the sympathy she needed from the jury, she claimed to be pregnant. A new jury, consisting of women only, was sworn in, but they found her claim to be false, and she was hanged at Tyburn in 1673, aged 30.

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Lady Katherine Ferrers

Perhaps the most famous female highway robber was Lady Katherine Ferrers, born in 1662. Her marriage at 16 to a much older man proved to be a bit of a disappointment to her as her husband seemed far more interested in the running of his estate than in his bored, young wife. To add some spice to her life she turned to highway robbery where she enjoyed the sense of power from seeing men lose their bluster with a pistol pointed at them.

Her career on the road could have come to an abrupt end when she held up a celebrated highwayman named Jerry Jackson, but he saw the funny side, and they became lovers. Catherine Ferrers ended up adding murder to her list of crimes, and her partner was later hanged at Tyburn. What happened to end her career is less certain, but she may have sustained a wound during a robbery and died from that.

Her adventures were the inspiration for two films both entitled The Wicked Lady.

Is it a crime to steal a heart? 
Hounslow, 1768. Jack Blythe, heir to the Earl of Lampton, is a man with great expectations. So when his carriage is held up by a masked woman, brandishing a pistol and dressed as a gentleman of the road, he wholly expects to have his purse stolen. And when he senses something strangely familiar about the lovely little bandit, Jack also expects to win his cousin’s wager by tracking her down first. 
But as Jack and the highwaywoman enter into a swashbuckling game of cat and mouse, uncovering an intricate web of fiercely guarded family secrets, the last thing Jack expects to have stolen is his heart.

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