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.

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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

The Shepheard Hotel Cairo

By the middle of the Victorian era, foreign travel was much easier and tourism was flourishing. One of the most popular destinations was the land of the pharaohs – Egypt. The ‘leisure’ classes took advantage in their droves and some could even afford a Thomas Cook Tour up the Nile. A forty-day round trip from Cairo to Luxor in the 1850s cost about £110, the equivalent of £12,856 today. 

Touristen_in_Egypte_-_Tourists_in_Egypt
Credit: Nationaal Archief

Two distinct groups of visitors tended to undertake the trip. The first were the military and government officials either stationed in Egypt or en route to India, via the Suez Canal. For many, a stop over in Cairo was an attractive proposition. Secondly, you had tourists drawn to Egypt by its romantic associations, unique antiquities and of course, the wonderfully mild winters. Both groups wanted ‘home from home’ comforts in their accommodation while staying over in Cairo.

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Samuel Shepheard

A canny Englishman, by the name of Samuel Shepheard, found himself in Cairo in 1842, having been thrown off a P&O ship for taking part in an unsuccessful mutiny. He found work at the British Hotel in Cairo and within a couple of years, had bought the hotel and renamed it after himself.

During a hunting trip he met and became friends with Khedive Abbas and two years later Shepheard, with the khedive’s help and influence, managed to buy a former palace on Esbekier Square, an area of park land with tropical greenery and rare trees, that was once occupied by Napoleon’s army and used as headquarters during his invasion of Egypt.

 

Shepheard's Hotel

Shepheard’s new hotel became known as a ‘safe haven’ for weary travellers who were guaranteed the best whiskey and the company of fellow Westerners. As the hotel grew in popularity, its guests included British military officers, bureaucrats, and wealthy American travellers. One of its most celebrated guests at the time was the novelist Anthony Trollope. Samuel was renowned as a superb host which contributed in no small part to the success of the hotel.

Shepheard made a small fortune from the hotel, benefitting from the dawn of adventure tourism along the Nile.  Shepheard sold the hotel in 1861 for £10,000 and retired to Eathorpe Hall,  Warwickshire, England. 

DiningDespite his departure, Shepheard’s Hotel remained the centre of the Anglo-American community in Cairo and in 1869, it hosted the celebration of the Grand Opening of the Suez Canal.

The hotel became the playground for international aristocracy where any person of social standing made a point of being seen taking afternoon tea on its famous terrace. 

In my novel, Footprints in the Sand, I base the Hotel Excelsior on Shepheard’s Hotel. It was the perfect setting for Lucy to mingle with the odd assortment of fascinating guests, who would eventually feature in the murder mystery. The famous dining room is the setting for one of the pivotal scenes in the book.

Footprints-EBOOK-Cvr

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?

Buy Link

Footprints in the Sand: New Release from Pam Lecky

The excitement of releasing a new book never dims. Amazon stole a march on me by setting the book live for pre-order in the middle of the night, however, it was a nice surprise to wake up this morning and see the link was there.

46203408._SY475_I think of all my books, this one will resonate with me the longest. It combines two great loves: Victorian adventure with a feisty heroine and ancient Egypt. How could I resist putting them together.

It was important to me for Lucy to grow more independent and to emerge from the shadow of Phineas Stone from the first book, No Stone Unturned. I know many readers will wonder why Phineas doesn’t feature much in this book (don’t worry – book 3 is all about him!), but I wanted Lucy to come into her own and shine.

And how could she fail with her devoted maid, Mary, by her side, always ready to bring her down to earth when Lucy’s enthusiasm takes her down the wrong path?

I don’t want to give too much away, other than this is another murder mystery which will keep you guessing until the end. Above all, I hope it entertains and leaves you wanting more! It might even tempt you to go on a journey up the Nile!

Series Ad 1

What’s it all about?

Cairo 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 to the land of the pharaohs.

Travelling to Cairo as the patron of the charming French Egyptologist, Armand Moreau, Lucy discovers an archaeological community plagued by professional rivalries and intrigue. It is soon apparent that the thriving black market in antiquities 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?

Footprints in the Sand will be published on the 14th March. Buy Link HERE.

If you enjoy Lucy’s antics in Egypt, do, please, leave a review to let me know.

Thank you!

 

 

A Conversation with Olivier Bosman

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

You are very welcome, Olivier, please introduce yourself:

My name is Olivier Bosman and I write the D.S. Billings Victorian Mysteries. Born to Dutch parents and raised in Colombia and England, I am a rootless wanderer with itchy feet. I’ve spent the last few years living and working in The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Sudan and Bulgaria, but I have every confidence that I will now finally be able to settle down among the olive groves of Andalucia.

I am an avid reader and film fan (in fact, my study is overflowing with my various dvd collections!)

​I did an MA in creative writing for film and television at the University of Sheffield.  After a failed attempt at making a career as a screenwriter, I turned to the theatre and wrote and produced a play called ´Death Takes a Lover´ (which has since been turned into the first D.S.Billings Victorian Mystery). The play was performed on the London Fringe to great critical acclaim.

I am currently living in Spain where I make ends meet by teaching English .

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

I write Victorian mysteries. I love a good mystery. I like creating intrigue and suspense and keeping the readers hooked till the end, and I just love the past. If only I had a time machine, I’d be travelling throughout the ages, never to return to my own time again. My books are set in the late Victorian period, because I was inspired to write Gothic Victorian mysteries after reading Wilkie Collins. There is something irrepressibly appealing about dark gas-lit alleys, and sinister men in top hats, and shifty looking maids lurking in corridors, and enigmatic damsels with long dresses and hidden pasts.

Are you an avid reader? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?

I read all kinds books. Mysteries and literary fiction are my favourite. Combine the two and you get something like Alias Grace or The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood; or The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. I’m currently going through all the Booker Prize nominees.

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

I’m self-published. I like the control it gives, and I get to set my own deadlines, which suits me well, because I’m a slow writer.

Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?

I’ve had an unusual upbringing. My parents are Dutch, but I was born in Colombia, where I lived until I was eleven. Then we moved to England, where I spent my teenage years. I haven’t stayed put since. I don’t feel like I belong in any particular country. I’m a foreigner everywhere I go, and this is reflected in my main character, John Billings, who was brought up in Madagascar by his missionary parents, and got stranded in England aged fourteen when both his parents died. He’s an alien in his own country which helps him see things from a different perspective. But it also means that, along with the fact that he is a homosexual and a Quaker, he is forever an outsider, which makes life hard for him.

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

The hardest part is writing the first draft. Getting the words down. If writing were like sculpting, then writing the first draft is akin to sitting on a muddy river bank scraping together the sticky clay and hauling the heavy load back to the workshop. Once the first draft is completed, the fun part starts, which is sculpting and shaping the mass of words into a thrilling little story.

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?

I’m a morning person. If I don’t do any writing before lunch, it won’t get done. My mind ceases to work after lunch time.

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

I’d be doing something that involved making up stories. Film making, or comic books, or composing songs. I can’t imaging not being able to tell stories.

Please tell us about your latest published work.

D.S. Billings Victorian Mysteries Boxset

Dimly lit cobblestone streets. Sinister looking men in top hats lurking in the fog.

The first three books in the DS Billings Victorian Mysteries Series have been bundled together to chill you to the bone. Detective Sergeant John Billings is an honest and hard working man who has risen swiftly through the ranks to become one of Scotland Yard’s youngest detectives. But in his private life he struggles with the demons of loneliness, morphine addiction and homosexuality. In these mysteries he will lead you on a thrilling journey into the darkest recesses of Victorian society.

viewbook.at/dsbillingsmysteries

https://www.olivierbosman.com/

https://www.facebook.com/olivier.bosman.author

 

A Conversation with Historical Fiction Author, Carol Hedges

Today in the library I have a very special guest. I happen to be a huge fan of Carol’s Victorian crime series, so I am really pleased to share this interview with you.
Which genre do you write in and what draws you to it?
 
I write Victorian crime fiction. I used to write teenage fiction, until the market got flooded by celebs, and I decided to switch genre. As I read Victorian authors, like Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, etc., and specialized in this era at university, it seemed a natural choice. My series ‘The Victorian Detectives’ is set in 1860s London … mainly because the 1880s is a rather crowded field. I have two main detectives, DI Leo Stride and DS Jack Cully, and a host of other members of Scotland Yard’s Detective Division, plus the populace of London who wander in and out of the books, causing havoc.
 

Are you an avid reader? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others? 

I don’t think you CAN be a writer unless you are a reader. I always have a couple of books on the go. One is usually a research book on some aspect of the Victorian era (currently a book on Lunatic Asylums). Then, true to my genre, I have a couple of crime novels to read. I enjoy Philip Kerr, Kate Atkinson (the Jackson Brodie books), Robert Harris, Donna Leon, Tobias Hill. I’ll sometimes dip into a writer I’ve never come across, if recommended. I like series best ~ you know if you’ve enjoyed one, there are more to follow.

 
Are you a self-published/traditional or hybrid author?
I used to be published by Usborne, when I wrote YA. Now, I am entirely self-published, using Amazon as a platform. My publishing name is Little G Books (named after my granddaughter). I publish in ebook and paperback formats, and I use a professional cover artist to do my wonderful covers. It is definitely worth paying out for good covers. The advantages of self-publishing, for me, is that I have control over pricing, platforms and publicity. The disadvantages are that few mainstream bookshops will take Amazon-generated fiction. But then, as most of my sales come via ebooks, that isn’t a big problem. I don’t ‘owe’ an agent 12% of my earnings, nor a publisher 25%! All good as far as I am concerned.
 
Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?
My English teacher has probably been my greatest influence, which shows how important schooldays are. Mrs Myles, who taught me in Years 7 & 8, loved the writing process. She used to set us ‘compositions’ every week, giving us a title and then seeing what we produced. It stopped me being terrified of the blank page, and made me think in all sorts of directions. I am so upset that the modern curriculum no longer gives space for free creative writing! I wonder how many writers of the future are being stifled.
 
What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?
I am a TERRIBLE procrastinator. Given the choice, I’d rather dust behind the fridge than actually write. I have learned, though, to be disciplined, as I know that as soon as I sit down at my computer to write, I will just get on with it … and time will flash by as I do. I gather, from ‘fessing up’ to this on social media, that I am definitely not alone.
 
What was the best piece of writing advice you received when starting out?
I remember reading somewhere that there is no such thing as ‘writer’s block’ ~ it is just a fancy excuse for not writing. Yes. Ouch!
 
Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
I like writing in the late morning … and then again late afternoon. If I am editing, I can do it at any time, but I seem to be drawn towards those particular times of day. I do NOT set myself any word limits; if I manage a page or five pages, that is enough. Distractions include: cat taking over writing chair, fish cavorting in the pond below my window and the local goldfinch thug-pack visiting the bird feeders.
 
If you could travel back in time, what era would you go to? What draws you to this particular time?
I would love to go back to my fictional period: the 1860s. Not sure who I’d be ~ possibly not one of the starving poor, but I’d like to stand in Oxford Street and just watch the passing traffic and people. However much research you do, there is so much more you miss. What did it SMELL like? How did the people SOUND? What were their faces like? We know that any TV/film adaptation of a Victorian novel cannot ever be accurate ~ I find I shout at Ripper Street and The Woman in White, etc., as I know they are presenting a false image. Where are the rotten teeth? The smallpox marks? The clothes are always far too clean, as are the streets. I’d so love to go back, for 24 hours, and see what it was really like. And then come back and write about it!
 
Please tell us about your latest published work. 
Intrigue & Infamy is the 7th book in The Victorian Detectives series. I am currently working on the 8th, Fame & Fortune, to be published later this year.
 
It is 1866, the end of a long hot summer in Victorian London, and the inhabitants are seething with discontent. Much of it is aimed at the foreign population living in the city. So when a well-reputed Jewish tailoring business is set aflame, and the body of the owner is discovered inside, Detective Inspector Lachlan Grieg suspects a link to various other attacks being carried out across the city, and to a vicious letter campaign being conducted in the newspapers. Can he discover who is behind the attacks before more people perish?

 

Elsewhere, Giovanni Bellini arrives in England to tutor the youngest son of Sir Nicholas Haddon, ex-MP and City financier. But what are Bellini’s links to a dangerous Italian radical living in secret exile in London, and to beautiful Juliana Silverton, engaged to Harry Haddon, the heir to the family fortune?

Romance and racism, murder and mishap share centre stage in this seventh exciting book in the Victorian Detectives series.  Buy Link

Social Media Links:
Twitter: @carolJhedges

Penny Dreadfuls – Only a Bit of Fun?

If you enjoyed a good old execution in the 18th or early 19th century, it was possible to buy a crime broadside at the hanging which was produced by specialist printers. These would feature a crude picture of the crime and the culprit, a written account of the crime and trial proceedings and a doggerel, thrown in for good measure. Most of the poor could not read but they enjoyed the lurid pictures, and there was always someone on hand to read out the cautionary poem.

Varney_the_Vampire_or_the_Feast_of_Blood 1845During the Victorian era, however, literacy rates increased. Combined with technological advances in printing and the advent of the railways making wide-spread distribution viable, the demand for cheap, entertaining reading matter increased rapidly. This led to the first penny serials (originally called penny bloods) being published in the 1830s, and by 1850, there were over 100 publishers of penny-fiction. The penny dreadfuls were printed on cheap wood pulp paper and were predominantly aimed at young working class men and boys. They usually had eight pages with black and white illustrations on the top half of the front page. Working-class readers could afford these and they did a roaring trade. In contrast, serialised novels at the time, such as Dickens’ work, cost a shilling (12 pennies) per part and were out of the reach, therefore, of most working class readers.

The subject matter of the penny horrible, penny awful or penny blood was always sensational, usually featuring detectives, criminals or supernatural entitles. Popular characters included Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber, first printed in 1846, who murdered his clients so his neighbour, Mrs Lovett, could cook them in her meat pies. Then there was the endless retelling of Dick Turpin’s exploits and his supposed 200 Pennydreadfulmile ride from London to York in one night! Supernatural characters, such as Varney the Vampire were extremely popular. But the most successful of all time was the Mysteries of London, first published in 1844. It ran for 12 years, 624 numbers (or issues) and nearly 4.5 million words.

Many famous authors began their writing careers writing penny dreadfuls including, GA Sala and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. She reputedly said “the amount of crime, treachery, murder and slow poisoning, and general infamy required by my readers is something terrible.” Many authors took the melodrama of the dreadful and infused it into their later very successful novels.

When highwaymen and evil aristocrats fell out of fashion, true crime, especially murder, was the most popular. These were then overtaken in the popularity stakes by detective stories with the focus on the police rather than the criminal. By the 1860s, the focus changed again and children became the main target audience.

It was easy for the middle and upper classes to look down on the penny dreadfuls as cheap, sensational nonsense. Some even went to far as to blame them for infamous crimes and suicide. But I suspect many read them surreptitiously – for who doesn’t enjoy a good yarn now and then?

In No Stone Unturned, Lucy’s maid, Mary, is huge fan of the penny dreadfuls and cheap sensational novels. Lucy, feeling obliged to look out for her maid’s moral welfare (so she claims!), often reads these books and thoroughly enjoys them, too. When the women’s lives are in danger, Mary comes to the fore with her penchant for intrigue and spying. Lucy suspects Mary’s favourite reading material may be at the root of it.

No Stone Unturned is the first book in the Lucy Lawrence Mystery Series.

NoStone-EBOOK

A suspicious death, stolen gems and an unclaimed reward: who will be the victor in a deadly game of cat and mouse?

London October 1886: Trapped in a troubled marriage, Lucy Lawrence is ripe for an adventure. But when she meets the enigmatic Phineas Stone, over the body of her husband in the mortuary, her world begins to fall apart.

When her late husband’s secrets spill from the grave and her life is threatened by the leader of London’s most notorious gang, Lucy must find the strength to rise to the challenge. But who can she trust and how is she to stay out of the murderous clutches of London’s most dangerous criminal?

Amazon Buy Link

The Blue Velvet Sapphires of Kashmir

My latest novel, No Stone Unturned, is the first in my Victorian mystery series featuring Lucy Lawrence. As I started to research, I stumbled across the story of the famous Kashmiri sapphires. I could not believe my luck. It is a fascinating story and got me thinking: what would a scurrilous Victorian rascal do if he got his hands on some …

karakash_river_in_the_western_kunlun_shan_seen_from_the_tibet-xinjiang_highway-1
Kashmir Landscape: Photo Credit Nick Kent-Basham

Treasure in the Hills: A mountainous region of Kashmir, known as Padar, held a fabulous secret. It is a remote region high in the Himalayas, well off the beaten track. Various stories abound as to how it finally revealed its treasure-trove; some say a landslide, others that hunters or travellers came across the first stones lying on the ground. Not knowing what they were, the gems were traded for salt and other supplies in Delhi. Eventually, they were sold on to someone who recognised they were rough sapphires. Many transactions followed until they eventually turned up in Calcutta.

kashmir_sapphire_map-1

2263ff92-48af-11e4-85c0-e01c50cfcd63-2The news of this transaction got back to the maharajah in Kashmir, who discovered the sapphires had originated in his area. Extremely annoyed, he went to Calcutta and demanded them back. Every single transaction in the long train had to be undone. Each man who had sold the sapphires gave back what he paid, and so it went through many towns, until at Delhi, a merchant received back a few bags of salt (not his lucky day!).

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Padar Mine 1890

Still miffed, the Maharajah of Kashmir sent a regiment of sepoys to take control of the mines to ensure no more precious stones went astray. During the life of the mines, the yield was disappointingly low and commercial mining ceased early in the 20th century. Their rarity and the fact they are exceptionally beautiful, with a texture like velvet, has led them to be the most prized and expensive sapphires in the world.

 

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Victorian 4.3 Carat Diamond and Kashmir Sapphire Ring
 

No Stone Unturned is the first book in the Lucy Lawrence Mystery Series.

NoStone-EBOOKA suspicious death, stolen gems and an unclaimed reward: who will be the victor in a deadly game of cat and mouse?

London October 1886: Trapped in a troubled marriage, Lucy Lawrence is ripe for an adventure. But when she meets the enigmatic Phineas Stone, over the body of her husband in the mortuary, her world begins to fall apart.

When her late husband’s secrets spill from the grave and her life is threatened by the leader of London’s most notorious gang, Lucy must find the strength to rise to the challenge. But who can she trust and how is she to stay out of the murderous clutches of London’s most dangerous criminal?

Amazon Buy Link

A Conversation with Author Dianne Freeman

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

Dianne Freeman headshotA special welcome to you, Dianne. I love to chat with historical fiction authors, particularly those who write in the same time period as I do. Please tell us a little about yourself:

I’m a life-long book lover who retired from the world of corporate finance to pursue my passion for writing. After co-authoring the non-fiction book, Haunted Highway, The Spirits of Route 66, I realized my true love was fiction, historical mystery in particular. I also realized I didn’t like winter very much so now my husband and I pursue the endless summer by splitting our time between Michigan and Arizona.

Did you read much as a child? Are you an avid reader now? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?

When I was about eight years old, my family moved to a house about 3 blocks from the public library and I’ve been an avid reader ever since. I don’t get to read quite as much now as I used to but while historical mystery is my favorite genre, I enjoy all varieties of historical fiction and most types of mystery.

Are you self-published or traditionally published?

I’m traditionally published with Kensington Books.

Which genre do you write in and why?

I write historical mystery with a bit of humor. I started with this genre because it’s what I love to read. I continued because I enjoy digging into the late Victorian era, plotting a crime, then creating a story around it. I love leaving clues then leading readers in the wrong direction with a scattering of red-herrings.

Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?

I like to think if Janet Evanovich and Edith Wharton had ever been able to collaborate, they might have come up with a main character like my Frances Wynn. (I also like to think there are no calories in food eaten while standing so what do I know?) But I’ve definitely been influenced by Evanovich’s humor and the elite world of Wharton’s books.

Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?

 I’d imagine it must have, but not in anyway I could define.

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

I write in drafts, so every time I have to return to page one and start the next draft I have a moment of dread that I won’t be able to fix whatever is wrong. I’ve found if I print the draft and read it through first, maybe jotting a few (hundred) notes, I realize it’s not that bad and I can tackle whatever problems it presents.

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?

Late afternoon is my favorite time, but I like to take a walk to think about what I need to write before I sit down and actually do it, so sometimes weather can interfere with my writing schedule.

What is the best thing about being an author? And the flipside – what is the worst?

I have a feeling this is a common answer, but I love the whole process of writing—the research, plotting, spinning a tale—it’s like traveling to another world. Marketing and promoting aren’t all bad, they can actually be fun, but they really take up a lot of time.

Is social media an essential chore or something you enjoy? Which forum do you prefer?

I do enjoy social media, but as mentioned above, it can be so time consuming. My favorite way to distract myself would be Facebook.

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

I’m retired so I’d go back to doing whatever I want, which would include plenty of reading, gardening, and maybe I’d even learn how to cook.

It’s the last day and the earth is facing oblivion – what book would you read?

Pride and Prejudice – again. At least I already know how it ends in case I don’t get to finish it.

A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder 600px widePlease tell us what you are working on and your latest published work.  

I’m currently working on book three of The Countess of Harleigh Mysteries. Book one, A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder released in June, 2018.

The story takes place in London in 1899. Frances Wynn, Countess of Harleigh, is a widow dealing with a high society burglar, a marriage-mad sister, and a murder. When the London season turns deadly, she fears one of her sister’s suitors may be the killer. Frances must rally her wits and a circle of gossiping friends and enemies to unmask the culprit before she becomes his next victim.

 

Buy Link – Amazon US

Buy Link – Amazon UK

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

Website:  https://difreeman.com/
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/DianneFreemanAuthor/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Difreeman001

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/diannefreemanwrites/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17347322.Dianne_Freeman

 

 

 

The Unfortunate Career of Henry Edgar, Cat Burglar (1811-?)

skeleton-keys
Set of Victorian Skeleton Keys

London born Henry Edgar, had the dubious honour of earning the nickname, in police circles, of ‘Edgar the Escaper’. Unfortunately, no photograph exists, but he was described by the police as five feet seven, of fair complexion with large features, brown hair and a gentlemanly appearance. Not being a particularly successful thief, he did become famous for being difficult to hold; he was often caught but somehow always managed to escape. The Unfortunate Career of Henry Edgar, Cat Burglar (1811-?)