Sunday, September 23, 2012

'Marry in Haste' - E-book Release

Like Jane’s novels (see post dated 17th September), one of my Regency novellas is getting a new lease of life.  Marry in Haste has been released for Kindle and I’m thrilled to have it out there again, so easily available for download.

This is one of those stories that’s been through a lot.  It was actually the very first thing I ever wrote and started life as a potential Mills & Boon historical.  Back then I was naive enough to think I could “dash off” an M & B novel without any problems, but of course that wasn’t the case and I learned my lesson.  Many years later, I went back to it and (being somewhat wiser) cut it down to novella size.  Luckily it was then accepted for publication by D C Thomson’s My Weekly Pocket Novel series and later as a large print novella.

However, it’s great to be moving with the times and I hope that it will appeal to fans of the Regency genre who perhaps fancy a shorter story to fill the time in between longer ones.  Here is the blurb:-

‘I need to marry, and I need to marry at once!’

When James, Viscount Demarr confides in an acquaintance at a ball one evening, he has no idea that the potential solution to his problems stands so close at hand …

Amelia Ravenscroft is the granddaughter of an earl and is desperate to escape her aunt’s home where she has endured a life of drudgery, whilst fighting off the increasingly bold advances of her lecherous cousin.  She boldly proposes a marriage of convenience.

And Amelia soon proves herself a perfect fit for the role of Lady Demarr­­­. But James has doubts and his blossoming feelings are blighted by suspicions regarding Amelia’s past.

Will they find, all too painfully, that to marry in haste is to repent at leisure?

Buy links:-

Christina Courtenay

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The first romantic novel?

Jane Austen wasn’t the only novelist of the Georgian era. Recently, I’ve been reading through some of the greatest books of the eighteenth century, from Defoe at the beginning, to Fanny Burney at the end. It’s one of the best ways of researching the way people thought and the way they lived in this period, and in any case, it’s huge fun.
Defoe, of course, wrote “Robinson Crusoe,” but he was a prolific novelist and also produced “Moll Flanders” and “Roxanne.” In those days, stories existed, and had since people could speak, but they were fables, or fairy tales, or instructive illustrations to moral tales. When Defoe wrote was many academics consider the first novel, these things existed. So why is this a novel? Because, although there are instructive sermons in the book, it’s about one person, a fictional or fictionalised account, depending on whether you believe he heard about Alexander Selkirk and used him as his inspiration. Most academics cite “Robinson Crusoe” as the first “real” novel, and while there are a few others that could arguably also claim that honour, it’s a convenient place to start, and its publication did mark a new idea and a new way to tell a tale.
The story doesn’t dot about, it follows one man’s story more or less chronologically, and has a definite beginning and end. In the previous eras, stories often rambled, and didn’t really have an end, like the many stories associated with Robin Hood or King Arthur. They had great heroes and gods mingled with men, to tell tales of epic greatness. Novels don’t just have their origin in the more refined parts of society, it is also from the people, and folk tradition, and so is unlike many of the other art forms that were popular at the time. They tell the stories of ordinary people living lives that people of the time would have recognised and identified with. And these books came at a time when there was an upsurge in literacy.
By the end of the eighteenth century, for the first time in hundreds of years, most of the population could read. It’s an astonishing development, pushed on by the spreading of the franchise, the very structure of society changing. And people wanted to be entertained. While novels weren’t cheap, they could be bought in serial form, and they could be read out loud and re-read. They were portable, so a person could carry a book around, and they were something everybody could talk about. Just as the e-reader is changing the way we read and treat books, the advent of the cheap novel changed the way people thought.
So in this context, we don’t just have the improving and sermonising novel, we have books of enormous fun and entertainment. The novels of the eighteenth century are some of the most enjoyable ever written, and because the form was in its infancy, there were many experiments.
In this time, the most common novel was the “picaresque” story, that is, a series of loosely linked adventures with one hero or heroine. We’ve become used to novels having scenes with points to make, but the eighteenth century masters let the story take them where it would. So we have sermons, bawdy scenes, scenes of true poignancy and happiness, too. They are a ride to remember.
The next big thing to hit the world was probably “Pamela,” by Samuel Richardson. This is a series of letters in which a poor but honest servant girl recounts the way she rejects the lewd advances of her master, until eventually, he reforms his rakish ways and marries her.
In  Victorian times, this book would have been held up as the epitome of modest and well behaved behaviour to all young ladies. It’s a great book, and has some fascinating insights into the way people thought and acted then, but not everybody agreed with it. Some critics cried out that it was hypocritical, and that Pamela was taking a lesson from Anne Boleyn, and deliberately withholding the goods until her Mr. B married her and made her a lady. Others denounced it as a chance to write scurrilous near-rape, and titillating the reader in the guise of morality. Well, since Mr. B kidnaps the luckless heroine and lays her under siege until she agrees to sleep with him, they might have a point.
The only voice in the book is Pamela’s. She tells the story, and so we have to trust her to tell the truth. And we can take the person she’s talking to into account, too, a respectable older person she loves and trusts, although there are a few other recipients.
Richardson started the book as an instructive text, but the story took him over. Just as many authors say that happens today, he said it happened to him, and Pamela became a real person to him, and to many of his readers. Take it as a sweet story about a virtuous and shy girl and a man she reforms, and you could almost have the Harlequin Presents story of today.
When it came out in 1740, “Pamela” was a sensation, and this, almost as much as the contents, is why the book is still so important. Without it we might not be reading novels. We might be listening to plays or reading poems for our main entertainment. Well, it’s possible, anyway! But as when anything has huge success, people jump on the bandwagon, with greater or lesser success. Novels followed, and some of them are undoubtedly better. “Tristram Shandy” and “Tom Jones” are two of the greatest novels ever written, bursting with life and still eminently readable today. But “Pamela” came first.
 Two books were written by Fielding as parodies of "Pamela," leading to a famous and avidly watched feud between the two authors. “Shamela” was a straight parody, but Fielding’s first published novel, “Joseph Andrews” parallels Pamela’s story, but instead of Mr. B, who Fielding claims is really called Mr. Booby, it’s a relative, Lady Booby, who victimises her footman, Pamela’s brother. It shows a lot of the bouncy joie-de-vivre and enthusiasm for life that makes Fielding’s later books, even “Clarissa,” so enjoyable. Even when Clarissa, tortured by the rake Lovelace, is in the depths of despair, she’s quite capable of a great big fit of hysterics.
The eighteenth century novel had a joy, a way of savouring life that we might have lost, a way of throwing itself into a project with complete whole-heartedness. We could learn a lot from them.

Lynne Connolly

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Birthday Present Books

My birthday presents from my husband tend to arrive when he sees something he thinks I'll like, which makes the birthday season a somewhat prolongued one. I've done rather well over the past weeks (only a few months past The Day!) with two books that are so gorgeous I thought I'd share them with you.
The first is the ultimate book on Vauxhall Gardens by David Coke and Alan Borg (Yale Unversity Press).

It is so large and heavy that it isn't so much a coffee table book as one which, with the addition of legs, would make a very servicable table itself. The book covers the entire history of the gardens from 1661 until its closure on July 25th 1859 - the "LAST NIGHT FOR EVER of VAUXHALL" as the posters declaimed.

The illustrations are amazing - plans, prints, caricatures, portraits, tickets and playbills... I particularly liked the collection of prints of Madame Saqui, a French tightrope and slack-rope performer. A dumpy little woman with thick black eyebrows she doesn't look like the formidable gymnast she obviously was, but the illustration of her descent from a mast sixty feet high down an inclined rope 350 feet to the ground (no safety harness!) is just one of the breathtaking images in the book.

The second treasure is The Epicure's Almanack: Eating and Drinking in Regency London, The Original 1815 Guidebook edited by Janet Ing Freeman (The British Library).
At the instigation of the publishers Longmans, Ralph Rylance visted about 650 eating establishments in and around London and produced the first "Good Food Guide". Chop houses, confectioners, coaching inns and gentlemen's clubs are all here
and, beside the clubs, six of them still survive in more or less the same premises: The Seven Stars (53, Carey Street), The Bell (now the Old Bell) (96, Fleet Street), The Cheshire Cheese (145 Fleet Street), The George & Vulture (George Yard), Simpson's (Ball Court) and the Cock & Woolpack (6, Finch Lane.)
Rylance also visted all the markets and provides a survey of seasonal foods.
With Janet Freeman's detailed notes it is possible to discover the recipe for Alamode beef - a staple of many a dinner - learn about bills of fare and prices, understand about meal times and the clientele of these eating places and much more.

I'm enjoying both of these so much that I'm not getting much of my own writing done, although they are generating plot ideas at an alarming rate!

Louise Allen

Monday, September 17, 2012

A new lease of life

These past three weeks have been some of the busiest of my writing life. The good news was that Accent Press accepted five of my backlist titles - historical adventure romances - for release as ebooks.  The not-so-good news was the realisation that three of these were written before I bought my present desktop, and were not saved on floppy discs (that's how old my previous PC was)  All I had were print copies.  I tried scanning them with both a flat-bed and hand-held scanner.  That didn't work because each page was saved as a jpeg image impossible to convert to Word.

Lateral thinking was called for. This involved a Stanley knife, a chopping board, and deconstruction of a print copy of each title.   Then a good friend (who earned himself extra sparkles on his halo) spent two days photographing every page as I placed them on a white backing sheet. He then ran through OCR software, put each page into a chapter folder and emailed them to me. I then reinstated all the formatting and took the opportunity to do some editing as well.  At last all three were complete.
The next job was to find images that would help with cover design, and prepare an info page which included brief character descriptions, a blurb
and any reviews.
Those three titles: Dangerous Waters, A Place of Birds, and The Iron Road are now available on Amazon Kindle.

So too are Eye of the Wind, shortlisted for the Parker Romantic Novel of the Year Award, and available free from 19th - 23rd September, and Tide of Fortune.   The Chain Garden will follow shortly.   I'm delighted that books which I so enjoyed writing are getting a new lease of life and the opportunity to reach a new readership.

Jane Jackson.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Coaching Puzzle

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the Corse Lawn House Hotel, between Ledbury and Gloucester. (Beautiful location, good food and atmosphere, so worth a visit if you’re passing that way.)

On its website the hotel says this about the house itself:

“Corse Lawn House is an elegant Queen Anne Grade II Listed building set back from the village green and fronted by an unusual ornamental pond (originally built as a coach wash into which you could drive and turn a stage and four horses).”

Now that’s a fascinating statement, isn’t it?

I went to have a look at this coach wash. Sure enough, there is a ramp leading down into the pond. It’s paved with granite setts and looks old. If you peer at the photograph, you may just be able to make it out under that huge willow tree.

There is certainly room for a stage and four to be driven round inside the pond. So there would have been room to wash both the stage and the horses. I hadn’t heard of such a thing before, but it sounds practical enough to be true.

However, there’s a puzzle.

Bang in the middle of the ramp, there’s quite a large and solid stone block, about half a metre high and 25 cms across. By the look of it, the block is about the same age as the rest of the ramp. What on earth was it for?

Judging by the prints of coaches that I have, the block would have caught the axles of most stage coaches or mail coaches. Look at this one here, in a mail coach print from 1827. The axles, particularly the front one, are quite low to the ground.

When I got back home, I started to research my puzzle. And I got nowhere.

The hotel was originally the manor house of Corse Lawn. Neither the hotel, nor even the village, is mentioned in my 1806 copy of Cary’s New Itinerary. According to Cary, the principal road from Gloucester to Ledbury went through Staunton, which is the next village to Corse Lawn and which had an inn called The Swan. That suggests that the coaching road went through the village of Corse Lawn but that the Corse Lawn Hotel was not a coaching inn at that period. So why would it have a stagecoach wash? The website definitely refers to “stage” and not to “carriage” which implies mail coaches or stagecoaches etc rather than private carriages.


Cary’s Itinerary also lists the noblemen and gentlemen’s seats “situate near the Roade” and the Corse Lawn Manor House isn’t listed there, either. Whoever was living there at the time doesn’t seem to have rated a mention by Cary.

Curiouser and curiouser.

The mundane answer is possibly that the stone block was added to the ramp much later, in order to stop people driving coaches (or even cars?) into the pond. The fact that the block looked extremely old doesn’t prove anything, of course. The house owner could have used an old block so that it was in keeping with the rest of the ramp.

Which would be a shame, I think. I’d much rather there was a quirky, romantic reason for the existence of that stone block in the middle of the ramp. Maybe you can think of one?


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Austenesque Extravaganza!

Today we have something different on the blog, Part 2 of 3 inter-related "missing scenes" from Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. They have been written for Meredith's fabulous "touring Thursdays" part of the  Austenesque Extravaganza by three Austenesque authors including myself. The other two wonderful authors are Susan Mason-Milks (Part 1) and Stephanie Barron (Part 3). We hope you enjoy our glimpse of the tangled romantic triangle of Edward Ferrars, Elinor Dashwood and Lucy Steele - as well as a guest appearance from Jane Austen!

Part 1 can be found on Susan's blog. Then read Part 2 here before going to Stephanie's blog (link below) for the final twist in the tale.

Part 2 -Flashback! Edward and Lucy Reach An Understanding, or Lucy's Cunning by Amanda Grange

If only . . . 
His thoughts spiralled back to the day, long ago, when he had met Lucy Steele.
He had, at the time, been young, lonely and homesick. He had been sent to study with a private tutor in Longstaple and, even to Edward’s quiet soul, the house had been dull - until the visit of his tutor’s niece, Miss Lucy Steele . . .  'It is a credit to you that you wish to learn,’ he said chivalrously.  ‘May I help?’
Lucy blushed again, an attractive rosy tint spreading over her face and neck, and moved a little on the window seat so that he might sit next to her.
‘If it ain’t too much trouble,’ she said shyly.

It was a grey autumn afternoon and Edward entered the library, expecting to find it empty as usual. Instead, he found it contained a very pretty young lady, as well as the dusty tomes. She was perusing a large volume of poetry and reading some of the words aloud. She blushed when she looked up and saw him, and her first remark was enchantingly humble. 
‘You must think me very stupid, spelling the words out like that, but I ain’t clever like you.’

What sixteen year old boy could resist such charm? To have a pretty girl begging humbly for his help and looking at him admiringly was intoxicating, and before long he was looking forward to the sessions in which he was the tutor and Lucy the pupil. Dear Lucy blushed over each mistake, and his heart warmed to her with every slip and error.
‘It all seems like such a funny way of saying things, but I like to read about love,’ she confided in him, as they studied a book of poetry. ‘Love is what matters, ain’t it? Whether people are rich or poor, it’s the fact they’re in love what counts.’
She looked at him so entrancingly that he thought one such look was worth a dowry of twenty thousand pounds.

Alas, her visit came to an end. But as the years passed, she visited often, and then she and Edward were together - until the day came when Edward left his tutor’s house for good and returned home to his domineering mother and sister, as well as his buffoon of a brother.  Small wonder, then, that he treasured the visits he still made to his tutor from time to time, particularly when Lucy was there – which she was, surprisingly often. 

And then came the day of the trip. It was such a simple thing. She stumbled over a rug and fell into his arms. She blushed and apologised, and made an excuse to leave him. But when she found him in the library again the following day, she started as though surprised, and made to leave the room. Then she stopped, and said with a becoming hesitancy, ‘You must wonder why I’ve been avoiding you.’
He had not been wondering any such thing, but she immediately confided in him, saying that her stumble and its unfortunate results had been seen by one of the maids and now her sister, Anne, was very angry with her.
‘She says if we was engaged it'd be different, it'd stop the gossip, but rich young men don't marry their tutor’s nieces.’ She looked up at him from beneath her lashes and said, ‘Do they, Edward?’
To which he mumbled, ‘I am sure they do.’

Her response surprised him.
‘Oh, Edward! I shouldn’t have doubted you, you’ve made me so happy,’  she said with a radiant smile. ‘Now can I tell Anne?’
‘Tell her what?’ he asked.
‘Why, silly, that we’re engaged.’ Then she faltered oh! so charmingly, her face a picture of vulnerability and said, ‘We are engaged, ain’t we? I thought that’s what you meant. Only maybe you meant that some men marry their tutor’s nieces, but not you?’

He protested against this, and before he knew it, she had given him a kiss on the cheek and said, ‘Well, that’s settled then, now we can tell our families.’
He had been alarmed and said that his mother would disinherit him. Lucy, equally alarmed, said, ‘Don’t tell her then. I ain’t going to hurt you, Edward, not for the world. Maybe your brother Robert could break it to her?’

He said he did not think it was a good idea, and Lucy accepted his advice. But now, years later, with no possibility of marriage in sight, she was restless. The truth would out in the end, and then what would happen? He would be forced to marry her, for it was the only honourable course of action, and he would find himself disinherited, as well as married to a woman in whom he had no interest; for although she had conquered some of her ignorance, and her speech was better than it had been formerly, she was no bright, intelligent Elinor.

He felt a sense of unease. He wished he knew where Lucy was and what she was doing . . . 

Now go to Stephanie Barron's blog for Part 3: Lucy Steele's Sense - and Jane Austen's Sensibility.

We hope you enjoy our vignette. Our thanks go to Meredith for organising this fun event!

Amanda Grange

Sunday, September 09, 2012

St Osyth's Priory - To Marry a Duke

The Priory from inside.
St Osyth's Priory
To Marry a Duke  was inspired by an actual place, St Osyth’s  Priory, a few miles away from where I live. This is the best preserved mediaeval building inEurope. The Priory used to be open in the summer to members of the public but the current owners stopped all this about 25 years ago.

I was fortunate that the local historian allowed me to spend the day looking through original documents, letters and plans and then invited me to accompany her when she took a private coach party on a tour of the house and grounds. It would seem that in order to retain his grant the owner has to allow three coach parties a year to visit his home.

The descriptions and names of the rooms are accurate, they all existed in the Regency and indeed most of them still do. I made every effort to get the history correct so a reader is getting a true picture of the Priory as it was in 1812.

Unfortunately the Regency section of the building was demolished in the early 19th century and then parts of it rebuilt and this is what remains today. There is no longer a gatehouse and long drive and the ornamental lake has also gone.

However, as you will see from the pictures I've included, the Priory is still magnificent and well worth a visit if you're in the vicinity. The local church is also beautifully preserved from that time and is, as I described, no more than a stone's throw from the front of the Priory.

The Priory was surrendered to Henry VIII in 1539 by Prior Colchester and the King gave it to Thomas Cromwell, the Earl of Essex, and it never reverted to the Crown. Thomas Darcy bought the Priory and other estates for the princely sum of £3974. 9s 41/2d the same year he was created Lord Darcy of Chichester.

Queen Elizabeth was entertained here by Darcy’s son. After he died the Savage family inherited it and it was allowed fall into decay.

Front view of St Osyth's Priory
1768 the Earl of Rochford moved in and bought some Poplar treesLombardy and four or five of them are still growing in the park. These were the first to have been planted inEngland. George III went to inspect the camp at Colchester stayed at  St Osyth. Rochford was also a personal friend of George II and 111.

Lady Allegra Witherton and her brother, the Duke of Colchester, are not based on any historical figures. I always wanted to write a romance about an aristocratic woman and a hero who is in trade - most Regency stories have the roles reversed. Jago Tremayne and his daughter Demelza, my hero and his daughter, are from Cornwall somewhere I lived for two years and my children were small and still have a fondness for.

best wishes
Fenella  - link for To Marry a Duke

Friday, September 07, 2012

Desired - Radical Politics and Political Satire!

Today I am celebrating the UK publication of Desired, the fifth in my Scandalous Women of the Ton series. Here it is with its beautiful UK cover!

I loved writing Desired for many reasons but one of the most important was that I adored the character of the heroine, Tess Darent. Tess has a big secret – she is a female cartoonist drawing caricatures of the government in support of the radical party. She wants political reform and she uses her pen to try to achieve it, working under the pseudonym of Jupiter.

Political satire was rife in Georgian and Regency England. William Hogarth’s drawings had a moral tone to them. Artist and cartoonist Thomas Rowlandson’s work was witty but he was also making strong and influential comment on the politics of the time. He would highlight the flaws of political leaders and he could influence the popularity and reputations of those in power through offering clever criticisms of social and political trends. George Cruickshank, another cartoonist of the period achieved notoriety with political prints satirising the royal family and those in power - until he was paid off with a bribe of £100 in 1820!

As far as I know there were no female satirists of the period but there is no real reason why there should not have been. Drawing and painting was seen as an accomplishment for ladies of the gentry and the upper classes in the period who had plenty of leisure time. Itinerant drawing masters would travel the country, teaching the daughters of the wealthy how to draw. It is against this background that Tess has developed her skill in cartoons and caricatures.
Radical politics in the 18th and early 19th century did much to keep the revolutionary traditions of the medieval Peasants Revolt alive. The Radicals called for the redistribution of land and wealth amongst the population and during the years that followed the French Revolution the British Government cracked down on them hard because of fears that they would inflame the population to overthrow the established order.

I feature the Spa Fields riots of 1816 as a backdrop to Desired. The popular and law-abiding Radical Henry “Orator” Hunt had been asked to address two meetings of “Distressed Manufacturers, Mariners, Artisans and others” and he took a petition to the Prince Regent asking for reform. When the Regent failed to respond in any way (no surprise there!) several radical leaders encouraged the crowds to riot. About two hundred men, inflamed by patriotic rhetoric and also by alcohol, marched through the city towards the Tower of London, arming themselves from gun shops on the way. By the time they reached the Tower their numbers had dwindled, they failed to persuade the guards to open the gates and were dispersed by a detachment of cavalry. The rising, such as it was, was a complete failure but at a time when war made the ruling classes more paranoid about rebellion and revolution it only served to set back the cause of peaceful reform.

I found the research for Desired fascinating and enjoyed weaving it together with what I hope is a very sweet and romantic love story!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Country House Living

Last month, I was once again at the wonderful Dillington House in Somerset, teaching at the Summer School. Dillington House is basically Jacobean with a 1830s makeover; the public rooms are splendid and the gardens and grounds extensive. I, too, grew up in a large country house – though not as large as Dillington – and, what struck me on this visit was the remembrance of how it felt to live in a country house.

Dillington is devoted to making its guests happy. From the moment you enter the Gothic doorway, you feel welcomed. There are vases of flowers, delicious home-made cakes for tea and nothing is too much trouble for the staff. Even when I stupidly locked myself out of my bedroom one evening, the caretaker came over to let me in, with a smile and a ‘It’s no trouble.’

When you actually live in a country house, as I did as a child at Hall Garth, it doesn’t strike you as odd that the entire staff: cook, butler, nanny and nursery-maid, Mrs S. who came in to clean, Mrs T. who did the mending, my father’s groom and the gardener, were there solely to ensure my family’s comfort.

My mother didn’t have to do a thing: the cleaning, cooking, laundry etc were all done for her. She didn’t even have to look after us children. The groom cared for my father’s hunters. The gardener grew fruit, vegetables and flowers for the house and looked after the pigs, hens and ducks.

So, when I arrived at Dillington, the memories flooded back. I didn’t have to do any housework, my bed was made for me and delicious meals appeared on cue. The gardens were beautifully kept for me to enjoy – in fact, I held my classes outside under a tree, with flowers scenting the air and butterflies dancing.

My bedroom at Dillington was in the old servants’ wing in the attic. Interestingly, it was laid out exactly as at Hall Garth: a corridor with two larger rooms at either end and three smaller rooms on one side. At Hall Garth, the end rooms were occupied by the cook and the butler. They were pretty Spartan with lino, thin curtains, old iron bedsteads and whitewashed walls. The three small rooms (once housemaids’ rooms) were filled with junk, including an old linen press, warming-pans and stone hot-water bottles.

At Dillington, my end bedroom was warm and carpeted, with TV, a comfortable bed and tea and coffee to hand. Two of the three smaller rooms were now modern bathrooms, so I had my own bathroom as well. As I went up and down the forty-two stairs to the ground floor, I spared a thought for the housemaids at Dillington who had once climbed the same stairs, probably with jugs of hot water or scuttles full of coal for family members and their guests.

It was a moment for reflection. How could my mother have been happy doing absolutely nothing, being waited on hand and foot? And, worse, how could the staff’s bedrooms have been so shabby and stark? They worked really hard, they deserved proper carpets and comfortable beds.

Nobody at Dillington is shabbily treated. The staff I spoke to all loved working there. As a teacher, I was looked after extremely well, and students were busy with their various classes and far from lazy. In contrast to Hall Garth, Dillington is a country house full of energy and purpose where everyone is respected. And that is as it should be.

I’ve only ever seen Dillington in August but, next February, I shall be back to teach The Infinite Variety of English, a look at the huge variety of writing in English, from diaries and love letters to novels and poems. It should be fun. I’m looking forward to seeing the house in winter, perhaps under a blanket of snow with the skeletons of its magnificent trees glistening with frost and having another week of gracious living.

Photos: Top: Dillington House from the front.
             Middle: Hall Garth, my childhood home
             Bottom: Dillington House from the back
Elizabeth Hawksley

Monday, September 03, 2012

Musical Inspiration

A question I am frequently asked is, "where do you get your inspiration"?  Usually I mention the historic buildings I have seen, or the landscape, but sometime a scene or even the idea for a whole book will come from a song.  This can be anything from a rock song, a ballad, or a folk song etc etc.

That great writer of medieval historicals, Elizabeth Chadwick, is often inspired by some fairly heavy rock numbers, and even suggests a soundtrack to accompany her books!  I wouldn't go that far, and I find that I can't write at all if I am playing songs in the background as the words get in the way. However, when I am listening to music very often an idea for a story or sometimes just a scene will come to me.

In the book I have just completed there is a scene in the second of these that was inspired by Barry Manilow's version of a Mark Radice song, "Some Things Never Last".  It starts "It's three in the morning, you're nowhere in sight....." and while listening to it I visualized the the very darkest moment in the story, where the hero is at his very lowest, saddest point.  I made a note of the scene, and when I came to write it I listened to the song again, several times.  I think it is one of the saddest scenes I have ever written, but I will have to wait until the book is published next year to see if you agree with me!

I have just finished a short story for Harlequin's Undone! series, and the idea for that came from a much more modern song.  One of my sons was in a band at that time, and together the guys wrote a song called Moonlight Runaway. While I was listening to this at one of their gigs (hiding at the back of the room and leaving all the youngsters to crowd the stage), the idea for the story came to me, a moonlight meeting between two people who had once been very much in love.....  I can't tell you any more, or it would give away the story, but watch this space and I will let you know when it is published.

Sometimes it is only the germ of an idea that comes from a song, such as "Best of Both Worlds" by Mark London and Don Black and sung by Scott Walker.  This was the starting point for "Disgrace & Desire", the story about Eloise, the wanton widow and how much she is prepared to sacrifice for love. And then of course there are all those stories I have yet to write, like the one from the old folk song that starts "An Outlandish Knight/ From the north country/He came a-wooing of me....." or or course, Chris de Burgh's "Lady in Red"....

Are you ever inspired by music, or do you associate certain songs with specific books? Do let me know.

Sarah Mallory
The Illegitimate Montague - pub Dec 2012