Monday, June 19, 2006
Guest blogger of the month - Anna Jacobs
Regular blog readers will know that each month we have a guest blogger. This month we are delighted to welcome Anna Jacobs. Anna hails from the UK, but now lives in Australia, where she can see dolphins from her window. I'm jealous! Although she lives down under in Australia, Anna writes stories set 'up over' in Lancashire. Here, Anna talks about her writing and her books. Over to you, Anna.
"Star of the North" is published in paperback at the end of June. It's the second of my four books about the early days of the music hall (set in the mid-1840s) and has my favourite cover of all my books (36 so far). I wasn't intending to write about music halls, as there have been quite a few books about young women with golden voices making good, and I like to find some different aspect of history as background for my stories. But when I was doing some research into the mid-nineteenth century, something clicked for me.
Music halls started out as singing rooms in pubs - just amateur nights where
anyone could perform. Then they got a bit fancier and became concert rooms
or music saloons (usually attached to pubs) before eventually becoming
proper theatres and acquiring the name music hall. And apart from London,
Lancashire had more music halls than anywhere else in England. So I invented
a town (Hedderby), then the Preston family - very poor, with ten children -
and the pub whose singing room turns into a music saloon. The story which
became "Pride of Lancashire" (currently shortlisted as Australian Romantic
Book of the Year) set off at a gallop, a sheer pleasure to write, and led to
three other books. Each is about a different member of the Preston family -
and about the gradual development of a proper music hall that becomes in
Book 4, the "Heart of the Town".
Marjorie Preston is the heroine of "Star of the North". (Did you know "star" was used in the 1840s in the same way it is now, for top entertainers?) She's the prettiest of the sisters and wants desperately to go on the stage, but hasn't a strong enough voice - remember this is in the days before microphones. When she gets a chance to become stage assistant to Denby Sinclair (her main purpose to look decorative), who is making a name for himself as a singer, she takes it, against her family's wishes. But he has a secret which ruins her life and leaves her in dire need, far from home. And the music hall in Hedderby is under threat, too . . .
I so enjoyed writing my four music hall stories. I'm taking a break from them now, but I'll definitely write more about Hedderby later. Currently I'm writing a couple of books set just after World War I, when people tried to send women who'd done unusual jobs during the war back to their old restricted lives. In 1918 women were at last given the vote - if they were over 30 and owned property - while men's only qualification for voting was to be 21. Such a fascinating period! In fact, the history of ordinary women (who often did extraordinary things) has become quite a passion with me, as you'll see if you read my books.
To find out more about Anna Jacobs, visit Anna's website
Her books can be found in bookshops or on Amazon