New Release from Sharon Thompson

Sharon Thompson is a best-selling, Irish author who writes historical novels, with plenty of criminal elements for Bloodhound Books UK. When she is not plotting gritty manuscripts (like ‘The Abandoned’ and ‘The Healer’) Sharon enjoys conjuring light-hearted short stories for magazines like Woman’s Way. Living in rural Donegal, Sharon loves binge-watching movies and TV programmes, walking on the beach with her dog, and making time for coffee or a glass of wine with friends. An avid tweeter, Sharon runs a trending tweet-chat #WritersWise, and can be found online, chatting on messenger or typing out a new idea. ‘The Quiet Truth’ is due for release on 9th Dec 2020. Sharon has also signed with Poolbeg Books Ireland. Her historical, crime novel called ‘The Murdering Wives Club’ from the Sinful Roses series will launch in January 2021. New Release from Sharon Thompson

A Conversation with Author Tim Walker

Today in the Library we have ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Tim Walker, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into his life as an author.

You are very welcome, Tim, please tell us about yourself.

Thank you for inviting me, Pam. I’m an independent author living near Windsor in the UK. I grew up in Liverpool where I began my working life as a trainee reporter on a local newspaper. After attaining a degree in Communication Studies, I moved to London where I worked in the newspaper publishing industry for ten years before relocating to Zambia where, following a period of voluntary work with VSO in educational book publishing development, I set up my own marketing and publishing business, launching, managing and editing a construction industry magazine and a business newspaper. A Conversation with Author Tim Walker

A Conversation with Author Brook Allen

Today in the Library we have ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Brook Allen, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.

You are very welcome, Brook, please introduce yourself:

Brook Allen

Hi, Pam! Thanks for hosting me. I am a writer of historical fiction and particularly love ancient history. That said, I read historical fiction from all periods and sub-genres. My husband and I live in rural Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains and are parents to two extremely well-read and well-heeled Labrador Retrievers who answer to the names Jak & Ali. I recently completed the Antonius Trilogy, three books telling the life story of Roman statesman and general, Marc Antony. It was a fantastic experience, traveling and following his footsteps in Italy, Greece, Egypt, and Turkey. And my first book in the trilogy (Antonius: Son of Rome) won an international award recently; a silver medal in the Reader’s Favorite Book Reviewer Awards for 2020. A Conversation with Author Brook Allen

A Conversation with Author Tonya Mitchell

This evening in the Library we have ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Tonya Mitchell who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.

Thank you, Pam. I’m a great fan of your books. I’m thrilled to have found your Lucy Lawrence series.

Thank you! You are very welcome Tonya, please introduce yourself: 

I received my BA in journalism from Indiana University. My short fiction has appeared in The Copperfield Review, Words Undone, and The Front Porch Review, as well as in various anthologies, including Furtive Dalliance, Welcome to Elsewhere, and Glimmer and Other Stories and Poems, for which I won the Cinnamon Press award in fiction.

I am a self-professed Anglophile and I am obsessed with all things relating to the Victorian period. I am a member of the Historical Novel Society North America and reside in Cincinnati, Ohio with my husband and three wildly energetic sons. A Feigned Madness is my first novel.

Which genre do you write in and what draws you to it?

I read voraciously as a child. There was never a time I wasn’t reading something. When I was eight-years-old, I told my mom I wanted to write a book. I had no idea what I wanted to write, mind you, I just knew I wanted to write books. I cherish To Kill a Mockingbird to this day. I still remember the first time I read it, the colour of the couch, the way the sun shone through the window. But it wasn’t until I read Jane Eyre in high school that I really started gravitating to historical fiction. History fascinates me in ways few other things do. It’s so intriguing, because as a reader I’d think: Wow, things were really like this? How did these people cope? How did they survive? I love seeing characters in those tight spaces, battling it out with the cultural beliefs, social mores, and injustices of their time—particularly women, who had so little power. I think I became a lover of all things British when I started reading—devouring actually—Agatha Christie novels. The combination of mystery inside, oftentimes, an English manor house hooked me every time. And who doesn’t love Miss Marple?

Are you a self-published/traditional or hybrid author?

I’m lucky enough to be traditionally published by a small press. My debut will be out this fall. I wanted to go the traditional route simply because I wanted to walk into a bookstore one day and see my book there. That’s been a dream for as long as I can remember. Getting published was a hard road for me, though. I had lots of fits and starts along the way, lots of imposter syndrome. I’d read an excellent book and think: How the hell can I do this? Who am I kidding? There have also been changes in the publishing industry that have made it harder to get published traditionally. The Big Five in the US tend to see debut authors as a huge risk, so if you don’t stand out from the get-go, and I mean stand out amongst the brilliant, already-successful authors with big followings, chances are you won’t get far. It’s very competitive.

Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?

In a nutshell, the authors who were writing what I most wanted to read. After Jane Eyre, I began looking for other dark stories: Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, and Bram Stoker. At some point along the way, I figured out that gothic was really what I loved. From there, I went on to read Shirley Jackson, Margaret Atwood, and Laura Purcell. If there’s something dark and murky about it, something uber twisted, chances are I’m going to love it. What that says about my mental state, I’m not sure 😉

What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?

I think the hardest part is that horrible first draft. Facing the blank page is a monster to me. I know the first draft is supposed to be bad (there’s a reason writers call it the vomit draft), but it’s hard to write drivel and move on. But that’s what you have to do, keep writing badly until it’s down. It’s the next passes, the editing, that I prefer because I have something to work with I can make better. That’s not to say editing is easy, it’s just that I’d rather have something to improve than work from nothing. I like the research too, though sometimes keeping myself from going down rabbit holes is a struggle.

What was the best piece of writing advice you received when starting out?

Proceed as if success is inevitable. I have it stuck to the wall in my office where I write to remind me. Oddly, it didn’t come from an author. It was a meme I think, but honestly, it helped. It’s what got me through all the highs and lows. It helped me keep my head down and working as I approached each milestone. There was some doubling-back of course, but it was all about forward momentum.

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?

I have three teenage boys at home, so school hours are the best time for me. Things get a little chaotic after that. I also work late at night sometimes if things are flowing after everyone has gone to bed.

If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?

I’d probably be drinking too much coffee in Starbucks, lamenting that I should’ve become an author.

If you could travel back in time, what era would you go to? What draws you to this particular time?

I’d go back to the Victorian period, probably to the 1880’s. It’s when my book takes place. It was such a fascinating time. At the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign, rooms were lit by candle and transportation was by horse; by the time she died, the world was ushering in electricity and automobiles. The industrial revolution was well underway, but the women’s movement—suffrage, gender equality, etc. was way behind. The dichotomy of that boggles. Reading and writing female protagonists from that era, women who wanted to break free of the mold men were so determined to keep them in, makes for such vivid storytelling. Plus, the clothes. To die for.

Please tell us about your debut novel. 

Elizabeth Cochrane has a secret.

She isn’t the madwoman with amnesia the doctors and inmates at Blackwell’s Asylum think she is.

In truth, she’s working undercover for the New York World. When the managing editor refuses to hire her because she’s a woman, Elizabeth strikes a deal: in exchange for a job, she’ll impersonate a lunatic to expose a local asylum’s abuses.

When she arrives at the asylum, Elizabeth realizes she must make a decision—is she there merely to bear witness, or to intervene on behalf of the abused inmates? Can she interfere without blowing her cover? As the superintendent of the asylum grows increasingly suspicious, Elizabeth knows her scheme—and her dream of becoming a journalist in New York—is in jeopardy.

A Feigned Madness is a meticulously researched, fictionalized account of the woman who would come to be known as daredevil reporter Nellie Bly. At a time of cutthroat journalism, when newspapers battled for readers at any cost, Bly emerged as one of the first to break through the gender barrier—a woman who would, through her daring exploits, forge a trail for women fighting for their place in the world.

Available: October 6th 2020

Pre-order book: https://www.cynren.com/catalog/a-feigned-madness)

Pre-order ebook: Amazon

 

If you would like to know more about Tonya and her work, please check out her links below:

Facebook         https://www.facebook.com/TonyaMitchellAuthor/

Twitter               https://twitter.com/tremmitchell

Instagram:        https://www.instagram.com/tmitchell.2012/

Email:               tmitchell.2012@yahoo.com

 

 

Amelia Edwards: A Victorian Trailblazer

Amelia Edwards was a fascinating woman who popped her head above the parapet of  convention and made a real impact in her own lifetime. And this was an era when women were supposed to stay at home and not be noticed. Not only did she support herself with her writing, both as a novelist and  journalist, but she fell in love with Egypt and the consequences were absolutely wonderful.

Inclement weather during a hiking holiday in France, and a pioneering spirit, led Amelia to Egypt in the autumn of 1873. Mere chance, but it changed her life completely. Already an experienced travel writer, she took to the land of the pharaohs with a passion and wrote about her experiences in A Thousand Miles Up the Nile.

I came across the book by chance while undertaking research for my second Lucy Lawrence novel, Footprints in the Sand. I was astonished when I first read the book for it could have been written today. There was none of the stilted dryness you would expect from a Victorian writer but humour and a fascinating insight into Egypt’s heritage and its people. For anyone with an interest in Victorian women (who broke the mould!) or indeed Egyptology, I highly recommend investing in a copy. She even did the wonderful illustrations in the book (example below)!

Amelia was born in London in 1831, daughter of an ex-army officer and an Irish mother. She was educated at home and soon showed a talent for the written word. She produced her first full length novel in 1855 – My Brother’s Wife. Her poetry, stories and articles were published in magazines including Chamber’s Journal, Household Words and the Saturday Review and Morning Post. Her many novels proved popular.

By the time Amelia was 30, both her parents had passed away. Against the conventions of the time, she decided to go travelling (without the proper male escort!) and had the funds to do it because of her writing success. With a female companion, Lucy Renshawe, she set off, only hiring male servants or guides as required. Her first trip was to Belgium in 1862 and in June 1872 the pair explored the Dolomite Region of Northern Italy (Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys).

Credit: Amelia Edwards

But over the winter of 1873-74, Amelia and Lucy sailed up the Nile to Abu Simbel. Unlike most travellers who saw Egypt as another pleasure-ground, Amelia was keenly aware of the underlying political and cultural problems of the country. To her shock, she witnessed the results of the highly lucrative and extensive illegal trade in antiquities. Sites were being pillaged and destroyed by all and sundry. All of this was happening in an unstable political climate with rivalry and tension between French and English explorers added to the mix. Saddened and disturbed by what she saw as the desecration of Egypt’s heritage, she returned to England determined to do something about it.

Flinders Petrie

Amelia was convinced a more scientific approach was needed to preserve Egypt’s treasurers. She studied Egyptology and formed lasting friendships with the likes of Gaston Maspero, who would later become director general of excavations and antiquities for the Egyptian government, and one of the greatest Egyptologists, Flinders Petrie. Amelia promoted the founding of an Egyptological society, culminating in its first meeting in 1880 at the British Museum. Two years’ later, it became the Egypt Exploration Fund, its main purpose to study, conserve and protect ancient sites in Egypt. Amelia’s campaigning paid off, and soon they were able to fund the exploration work of Flinders Petrie in Egypt.

Subsequently, Amelia undertook grueling lecture tours and even gave up her successful novel writing to concentrate on all matters Egyptological. Eventually, her work earned her honorary degrees from several American universities and in honour of her work, she received an English civil list pension for “her services to literature and archaeology”.

In the early 1890s, Amelia’s health began to deteriorate, and in January 1892, Lucy Renshawe, the woman who had travelled with her and shared her home for nearly thirty years, died. A few months later, Amelia succumbed to influenza. She is buried at St. Mary the Virgin, Henbury, Bristol.

Amelia left a library and collection of Egyptian antiquities to University College London and a bequest to established the first English Chair in Egyptology. Fittingly, Flinders Petrie was the first appointed to the Edwards Chair in UCL.

I cannot deny that the Egypt described by Amelia in her book presented countless possibilities for mischief to a mystery writer. Her descriptions of Cairo and the many sites she visited, transported me back to Victorian Egypt like no dry contemporary source could do. My heroine, Lucy Lawrence, shared some of Miss Edwards’ qualities of curiosity and determination and so Footprints in the Sand quickly transformed from a vague plot idea to a novel.

Cairo, Autumn 1887: A melting pot of jealousy, lust and revenge. Who will pay the ultimate price?

Lucy Lawrence throws caution to the wind and embarks on a journey of self-discovery in the land of the pharaohs.

Travelling to Cairo as the patron of the charming French Egyptologist, Armand Moreau, Lucy discovers a city teeming with professional rivalries, and a thriving black market in antiquities which threatens Egypt’s precious heritage.

When the Egyptian Museum is burgled, Lucy is determined to solve the case, much to the annoyance of the local inspector of police, and the alarm of Mary, her maid. But when an archaeologist is found murdered in the Great Pyramid, Lucy is catapulted into the resulting maelstrom. Can she keep her wits about her to avoid meeting a similar fate?

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Victorian Tourism: Thomas Cook

Today, everyone is familiar with the guided tour or cruise, but such things were virtually unheard of in the early years of the Victorian age. The man who changed that, and who is now considered the inventor of modern tourism, was Thomas Cook.

Who was he?

Thomas-Cook
Credit: Thomas Cook Group

Thomas was born in 1808 in Derbyshire, England, and left school at ten years of age to work. In 1826, he became a Baptist minister, becoming an itinerant evangelist, distributing pamphlets and sometimes working as a cabinet maker to earn money. Eventually, Thomas settled in Market Harborough and while there, was persuaded by the local Baptist minister to take the temperance pledge. As a part of the temperance movement, Thomas organised meetings and held anti-liquor processions. In March 1833, Thomas married Marianne Mason at Barrowden in Rutland. They went on to have three children, John, Henry (who died in infancy) and Annie.

The First Excursion

Cook’s initial idea of offering excursions came to him while walking to Leicester to attend a temperance meeting, thus taking advantage of the extended Midland Counties Railway. On 5th July 1841, Thomas escorted almost 500 people, who paid one shilling each for the return train journey. It was the first publicly advertised excursion train in England.

A Growing Business

Soon after, Thomas moved to Leicester, and set up as a bookseller and printer, specialising in temperance literature but also producing guidebooks. Then, in 1846, he took 350 tourists by train and steamboat to Glasgow. For customers travelling for the first time, he offered a guidebook entitled Cook’s Scottish Tourist Practical Directory. One particular chapter bore the heading: Is it Safe for Ladies to Join in Highland Tours? [I’d love to know the answer!]

Credit: Thomas Cook Group

In the early 1860s, Thomas ceased to act as a personal guide and became an agent for the sale of domestic and overseas travel tickets to countries such as America and Egypt. As the decade progressed, alpine journeys became popular and in 1864, parties began to venture into the newly united Italy. Thomas opened a London premises on Fleet Street, London, and in 1872, he went into partnership with his son, John, and renamed the company Thomas Cook & Son. Around this time, the firm started to use ‘circular notes’, which were eventually known as travellers’ cheques.

Thomas retired in 1878, following a disagreement with his son. He moved back to Leicester where he lived quietly until his death in 1892. The business passed to his only surviving son, and was subsequently taken over by Thomas’s grandsons in 1899. The company continued to be run as a family firm until 1928.

Nile_cruises
Nile Cruise Poster 1922

The ‘Cook tour’ rapidly became famous during the Victorian era. However, not everyone thought highly of them. One critic referred to them as ‘everything that is low-bred, vulgar and ridiculous’ (Blackwood’s Magazine, February 1865).

Not surprisingly, the worst critics were the wealthy English, now finding their exclusive haunts overrun by the middle-classes. Another gripe was that tourists were ruining the places they visited by importing their customs, such as tea, lawn tennis and churches!

In my novel, No Stone Unturned, Lucy Lawrence does not travel as part of a Cook tour to Egypt, however, she does encounter many tourists in Cairo who have. As Lucy is fairly occupied trying to solve a robbery, and subsequently a murder, she doesn’t pay them much heed. However, it was her upper class of Victorian male who traditionally did the ‘Grand Tour’, the forerunner of the guided tour. It was frowned upon for a woman, even a widow such as Lucy, to travel without a male escort. Thankfully, there were women prepared to break the mould, and I talk about one of them in my next post on Victorian travel.

Footprints-EBOOK-Cvr

Footprints in the Sand – Book 2 of The Lucy Lawrence Mysteries

Cairo, Autumn 1887: A melting pot of jealousy, lust and revenge. Who will pay the ultimate price?

Lucy Lawrence throws caution to the wind and embarks on a journey of self-discovery in the land of the pharaohs.

Travelling to Cairo as the patron of the charming French Egyptologist, Armand Moreau, Lucy discovers a city teeming with professional rivalries and jealousies and a thriving black market in antiquities which threatens Egypt’s precious heritage.

When the Egyptian Museum is burgled, Lucy is determined to solve the case, much to the annoyance of the local inspector of police, and the alarm of Mary, her maid. But when an archaeologist is found murdered in the Great Pyramid, Lucy is catapulted into the resulting maelstrom. Can she keep her wits about her to avoid meeting a similar fate?

Buy Link