As I spend the weekend at the British Museum's Witches and Wicked Bodies exhibition, I hope you will find something illuminating in this and never fear, we are back to history tomorrow!
Update: Since this was published, I'm thrilled to announce I've signed a contract with Pen and Sword books to bring your Life in the Georgian Court. To learn more, click here!
Ever since I can remember, my life has been full of tall tales. Throughout childhood I sat at my granddad’s knee in his cottage on the edge of Sherwood Forest and listened with relish to tales of outlaws and highwayman, of willow the wisps in the trees and, somewhat improbably as I later realised, the full-blooded tale of Lord Byron’s ghost who, he claimed, haunted the rural pub in whose beer garden we passed many happy weekend afternoons.
Those stories have never left me and whether bawdy, bloodcurdling of just plain silly, my granddad’s tall tales made an indelible mark on my life. Add to that a fateful children’s toy brought for me during a pre-school shopping trip and you have the makings of who I have since become. As a child my sister and I loved paper cutout dolls and we made our own though my sister was always the more artistic of the two so imagine my delight when we were both treated to a Marie Antoinette paper cutout doll set, featuring the iconic queen and a whole host of bewigged flunkies. I fell in love with everything about the queen and her retainers from the fine clothes to the powdered hair, the glittering jewels and, best of all, my granddad’s spirited retelling of the gruesome fate that befell her.
My love affair with Marie Antoinette gradually began to expand and grow, as these things do, and before too long I was nursing a fascination with the long 18th century. Growing up where I did, I was lucky enough to pay regular visits to Chatsworth, Haddon and Hardwick and in each of these places I would picture my fine ladies and dashing fellows, filling the houses with a thousand childish stories of my own making. Eventually I began to tell stories of my own though these weren’t period pieces, unless you count a novel I wrote set in 1957, but all the time the glorious Georgians were nagging at me.
For all the love and support of my colonial gentleman , he is not quite as fascinated with Georgian history as I and after several years of marriage, it became achingly apparent that I really needed an outlet for the 18th century stories that were clogging up my brain and, so, A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life was born.
My approach to blog writing is very disciplined and, since I publish a new tale every single day, it has to be. I gather notes, inspiration and stories from everywhere and keep them logged in a spreadsheet by date then, every so often, I dive right in. I take myself off to my favourite coffee shop, where my order of a sparkling water and pot of tea is ready before I even ask for it, sit at my computer and absorb myself in the world of the Georgians. In the space of a few dedicated hours and with a steady supply of tea and music, I might write a dozen first draft posts. I’ll then hone them over the coming days, sure to keep a few scheduled and ready to go at any one time.
If I get to my blog and see one or two posts there, then it’s time to buckle down and really get to it; I love sharing stories of the Georgian era so it’s really no chore. When I started blogging I really thought that it might be fun for a couple of months and hoped, if I was lucky, that a few dozen people might visit the site and perhaps lose a couple of minutes there. Instead I’ve been blessed to meet readers, writers and history enthusiasts from all over the world. Over the year and a bit that I’ve been publishing the site I’ve featured guest posts from some favourite authors, read advance copies of their work and even advised on the state of French roads in 1792!
All of this has been an enormous boost of confidence as I work at my own latest novel, The Mistress of Blackstairs, in the determination that, unlike my three unpublished non-historical works, it will not go unread by all but a few trusted friends! I am on the second draft of Blackstairs right now and the coffee shop is the same, as is the tea and water, the music and concentration. The only difference is that this is fiction, just like those stories granddad used to tell me of Lord Byron’s restless ghost and a pub in Blidworth Bottoms!