The Burneys and To The Fair Land
“To The Fair Land isn’t about the Burney family, and nor does it feature them as characters. So how did their lives inform the writing?”
As part of the To The Fair Land Blog tour in April 2021, I wrote a guest post for the lovely Historical Fiction With Spirit blog, looking at how the writer Frances Burney and her family were inspirations for To The Fair Land. Read The Burneys and To The Fair Land.
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797): An Inspirational Woman
On International Women’s Day 2020 I attended the unveiling of a Blue Plaque to Emmeline Pethick Lawrence in Weston-super-Mare. Afterwards I gave a short talk at an event on Inspirational Women as part of the Weston-super-Mare Literature Festival. The text of the talk, in which I explain why Mary Wollstonecraft is, for me, such an Inspirational Woman, is available on my blog here.
A Tyrant and A Demon
“In spite of all Hannah More had done for Ann Yearsley, she ended up being accused of being a ‘tyrant’. As for Ann, from being Hannah’s ‘meritorious woman’ she changed into a “’Demon’.”
It was a pleasure as always to be invited onto Catherine Curzon’s splendid blog, A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life, with a blog about two eighteenth-century Bristol poets, Ann Yearsley and Hannah More. The women came from very different backgrounds – Ann was a milk woman, and Hannah lived on a private income. For a time they worked closely together, when Hannah took the ill-educated but talented working woman under her wing. Sadly, though, their relationship fell apart in bitter recriminations. Find out why in A Tyrant and a Demon.
Ann Yearsley (British Library on Flickr, No Known Copyright Restrictions)
Dan Foster in conversation with Helen Hollick
“I’m a law officer. Whether that means I’m good or bad depends on which side you’re on.”
Helen Hollick ran a series of author interviews with a difference – instead of interviewing the author, she talked to the character! The interviews featured authors who had been awarded an IndieBrag Medallion. The second Dan Foster Mystery, The Butcher’s Block, gained the award in 2017. Dan Foster made his appearance on Novel Conversations to talk to Helen about how it feels to make an arrest, his pickpocketing childhood, and accusations of corruption levelled against the Bow Street Runners. You can read Novel Conversations with Dan Foster here.
A Problem Beyond Human Solution: Women’s Education in the Eighteenth Century
“Too much education was a dangerous thing: it created dissatisfaction and unsettled the labouring classes.”
I was thrilled to be invited to write a guest blog (March 2018) for Geri Walton’s splendid history site which looks at all things eighteenth and nineteenth century. In my blog, I looked at the issue of women’s education in the eighteenth century, and the debate that raged about how and to what extent women should be educated. You can read A Problem Beyond Human Solution: Women’s Education in the Eighteenth Century here.
Bristol History Podcast
I talked to Tom Brothwell on the History Podcast about writing and researching historical fiction. Amongst other things, we discussed how my interest in the history of protest and reform informs my fiction and non fiction. The podcast is available to listen to on Soundcloud at the Bristol History Podcast website.
Blame it on Charles Dickens
“The opening of A Tale of Two Cities said: people have different viewpoints; there is no single way of looking at things.”
I’m delighted to be the author in the spotlight on Hist Fic Saturday for the JaffaReadsToo blog, musing on why I write historical fiction – and blaming it on Charles Dickens! You can read “Why do I write historical fiction?” here.
Diamond Tales: A Sneak Preview of the next Dan Foster Mystery
I’m delighted to have taken part in the Discovering Diamonds’s Christmas blog, which ran from 3 to 23 December 2017 and featured stories and articles by a variety of authors, including Helen Hollick (the Jesamiah Acorne series), Alison Morton (the Roma Nova series), Susan Grossey (the Inspector Plank series) and a host of other sparkling authors writing on the theme of “diamonds”.
Diamond Tales included a sneak preview of the next Dan Foster novel! You can read the preview here.
Experiments on the Poor: Madame Gilflurt’s Covent Garden Salon
“I cannot give you an adequate idea of the wretchedness of an hospital…Everything appeared to be conducted for the accommodation of the medical men and their pupils, who came to make experiments on the poor, for the benefit of the rich.” The Wrongs of Woman: or, Maria, A Fragment, Mary Wollstonecraft
In The Butcher’s Block, Dan Foster encounters a gang of body snatchers. Find out why the sick, destitute and poor hated and feared grave robbers in a guest blog I wrote for the delightful Madame Gilflurt’s Covent Garden Salon on 14 November 2017. Read Experiments on the Poor.
The Little Bookworm Spotlight
“Books and champagne definitely go together well!”
I’m honoured to be featured on Emma Mitchell’s blog, The Little Bookworm, talking about Chill With a Book Award winner Bloodie Bones: A Dan Foster Mystery. I’m discussing what inspired me to write the book, what I’m currently working on, why I write historical fiction, and revealing the three authors who have most influenced my journey as a writer. And I answer that all-important question: Marmite – yes or no? It’s a controversial issue in our house…read The Little Bookworm Spotlight here.
War and the Manly Science: Tuesday Talk Guest Blog
” ‘There’s good money in bare-knuckle fighting, honestly earned.’ Dan grinned. ‘More or less.’ ” Bloodie Bones: A Dan Foster Mystery.
In fact, as a serving Principal Officer of Bow Street (Bow Street Runner), Dan would have known perfectly well that boxing was illegal. On my guest article for Helen Hollick’s blog, Let us Talk of Many Things, I ponder the reasons why the illegal sport of bare knuckle fighting was tolerated by the authorities in the eighteenth century. You can read War and the Manly Science here.
Love Me, Love My Character
“I know there are those who think that boxing is low and vicious and it’s true there are plenty who call themselves pugilists who are nought but butchers.”
Dan Foster says a few words on Alison Morton’s blog (1 December 2016) and I discuss why I wrote Bloodie Bones: A Dan Foster Mystery and the inspiration behind the book. Read Love Me, Love My Character here.
Hen Pearce: A Pugilistic Hercules
This guest blog on Catherine Curzon’s blog, A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life, looks at Bristol pugilist Hen Pearce, the Game Chicken. Hen features in the first Dan Foster Mystery, Bloodie Bones. How is it possible to reconcile images of the pugilist as a sensitive, humane hero with the brutal realities of bare-knuckle boxing? You can read Hen Pearce: A Pugilistic Hercules here.
Running for the Finishing Line
Anna Belfrage, HNS Indie Award 2016 judge and winner in 2015, invited the four finalists for the HNS Indie Review Award 2016 onto her blog in the run up to the award announcement. On 11 June 2016 it was my turn to talk about the inspiration behind Bloodie Bones: A Dan Foster Mystery, future plans for Dan, and what being shortlisted for the award meant to me. You can read Running for the Finishing Line here.
Historical Novel Society Indies Reviews Editor’s Choice A-Z Blog Hop, April 2016
Dan Foster talks about his work in Bloodie Bones in this blog hop run by HNS Reviews Editor Helen Hollick which features books picked as Editor’s Choice by the HNS Indies Reviews – with blogs written by our main characters! Read B is for Bloodie Bones here.
Talking Books with Suzie Grogan (Radio Interview)
Suzie Grogan has uploaded some of her Talking Books radio shows (10 Radio) onto Soundcloud, including the interview I did on Bloodie Bones: A Dan Foster Mystery in 2016. You can listen to the show here (scroll down). Find out about Suzie and her books here.
Jaffa Reads Too: Author in the Spotlight
Guest author on Jaffa Reads Too on 27 July 2015, talking about Bloodie Bones and what’s in store for Dan Foster in the future. Read the Jaffa Reads Too blog here.
A Victory Celebration
In the eighteenth century the war between poachers and gamekeepers could be brutal. In autumn 1796, Bow Street Runner and amateur pugilist Dan Foster is sent to a Somerset village to investigate the murder of a gamekeeper…
Read an extract from my forthcoming historical novel, Bloodie Bones, which was part of a Christmas Party Blog Hop on 20 December 2014. Our theme was “a celebration”. Read A Victory Celebration and hop to the other blogs at Lucienne Boyce’s Blog.
“Instantly I felt it in my soul”
Silas Told was a Bristol sailor, Methodist and slave trader, and the subject of a guest blog about searching for the real story behind 18th-century spiritual autobiography for the Oxford Centre for Life Writing, Easter 2014. Read “Instantly I felt it in my soul” some thoughts on interpreting the life of Silas Told.
The Female Writer’s Apology: Or, Then and Now
Why did so many women writers in the eighteenth century adopt male pseudonyms, and why do some writers still do it today? A blog written for the SilverWood Author’s Spring 2014 Blog Hop. Read The Female Writer’s Apology here.
We Will Have a Fire: Arson During Eighteenth-Century Enclosures
“Inclosure came and trampled on the grave/Of labour’s rights and left the poor a slave”… An article about arson as protest against enclosures in the eighteenth century. Part of the “Casting Light Upon the Darkness” Blog Hop organised by author Helen Hollick, 21 December 2013. Read We Will Have a Fire here.
Giants and Geniuses
“The pressure of all these hyperboles weighs heavily on me. I’m exhausted by all these “mosts” and “greatests” and giants and geniuses. And if I choose someone less well known, I don’t want to have to justify my choice of subject by making grandiose claims for them.”
A blog for the Women’s History Network pondering the question of who gets a biography written about them. I’m currently writing about the life of suffrage campaigner Millicent Price (nee Browne). Millicent is not particularly well known. So why did I choose to write about her and not one of the more famous suffrage activists? Find out in Giants and Geniuses here.
Walking in her Shoes
In 2018 Elaine Martel spent her weekends walking in the footsteps of the women who helped to win votes for women, to raise funds for CARE International, who work to empower women worldwide. In April she came to Bristol and, using the walk in The Bristol Suffragettes as one of her guides, visited some of the city’s suffrage sites. She also caught up with me for a quick interview. You can read about Elaine’s Bristol walk here. You can read our interview here.
Photo: 23 Gordon Road, the home of Annie Kenney
Commemorating Votes for Women 100
2018 is the one hundredth anniversary of the enfranchisement of (some) women (full franchise equality was not achieved until 1928). It’s a milestone in women’s history and here in Bristol we are planning lots of events to mark the occasion. I wrote an article for Local History News (Summer 2017) outlining some of the events in the pipeline, and making suggestions for anyone who is thinking of getting involved in their own area. You can read the article as a pdf or on the British Association for Local History website.
Suffragettes and Insanity
“The suffragettes’ demand for justice was dismissed as a form of madness.”
On 2 November 2016 I was a guest on David Lawlor’s blog, History With a Twist, with a blog about how the government tried to use laws designed to cope with the mentally ill to deal with militant campaigners. You can read the blog here.
Lady Constance Lytton: Book Review
I reviewed Lyndsey Jenkins’s immensely readable biography, Lady Constance Lytton: Aristocrat, Suffragette, Martyr, for Bristol 24/7 on 8 May 2015. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the suffragette movement generally, and also for those who would like to know more about a suffragette with many Bristol connections. You can read the review here.
The Bristol Suffragettes who fought fire with fire
“By the autumn of 1913, women campaigning for the right to vote had put up with years of violence and repression from street thugs and the state alike…” The opening of Eugene Byrne’s feature on the suffragette campaign in Bristol and my book The Bristol Suffragettes, in the Bristol Times on 17 September 2013.
An interview with Suzie Grogan about The Bristol Suffragettes and suffragettes in Devon and Somerset on 10Radio’s Talking Books show on 16 August 2013. You can read a review of the book and listen to the show on Suzie’s blog, No More Wriggling Out of Writing. The podcast is the programme’s third most listened to since it was originally broadcast. Podcast and book review.
The Right Stuff
An article about the Bristol suffragettes published in the August 2013 issue of Clifton Life – pp 50-51.
“Mind set” in historical fiction
“If the story isn’t going to revolve around characters who are just moderns in fancy dress, it’s necessary to try to understand the attitudes, values and beliefs of a particular era. But how do I go about discovering mindset?”
As part of the Death Makes No Distinction blog tour (25 November to 1 December 2019), I was delighted to be invited to write a guest blog for Books, Life and Everything, which looked at the challenges of reflecting the “mind set” of your characters. You can read the blog here.
Author Interview with Fiona McVie
“There are always so many ways a story can go and in the end you make a choice about how you’re going to tell it this time, in this book. For every book you finish, there are many other manifestations of it in the shadows behind it: the characters you didn’t include, the settings you didn’t use, the themes you didn’t pursue, the turns you didn’t take.”
I was a guest on Fiona McVie’s Author Interviews blog talking about writing, reading, inspiration, and the latest Dan Foster Mystery, Death Makes No Distinction. You can read the interview here.
Crime and Passion
An article on Female First about my favourite crime fiction. It ranges from classics like Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, to Golden Age crime fiction and beyond. But which crime writer is top of my list? You can find out by reading the article at Female First here.
My Inheritance Book
“There’s no such thing as private property in Nature! The woods and fields belong to the earth, and so do we.” The Little Grey Men, BB
I was delighted to be a guest on Rhoda Baxter’s blog in July 2017 talking about my “inheritance book” – that is, a book I’ve inherited from the generation above. I chose one of my favourite childhood reads, The Little Grey Men by BB. It was amazing to revisit the book and realise just how much it has influenced me. It’s definitely due for a re-read! I was also asked to name a book I would leave to future generations, and I chose my copies of William Morris’s The Earthly Paradise which have autograph letters written by the great man himself pasted inside them. Not surprisingly, these are the books that count as my most treasured possessions! You can read My Inheritance Book on Rhoda Baxter’s blog here.
How to Respond When a Reader Claims There’s an Error in Your Books
“One particular example periodically crops up from my Arthurian Trilogy, which is set in the 400s post-Roman Britain…I mention that war horses were ‘corn fed.’ It does become somewhat tedious having to explain that ‘corn fed’ in British – and horsey – terms means fed on oats and barley, not corn on the cob maize, and indicates a wealthy owner of a well-fed horse.” Helen Hollick
It’s a tricky one, isn’t it? Your reader says you’ve made a mistake but you haven’t. How should you respond? I muse on the options in a guest blog for the Alliance of Independent Authors Advice Centre. Read How to Respond When a Reader Claims There’s an Error in Your Books here.
Jane Eyre: Rebel Woman
“From the opening page of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre you know you are in the company of a rebel female.”
I was invited onto Helen Hollick’s Discovering Diamonds website recently to write about one book that has been a major influence on me as a writer and reader. I chose Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and discussed my view of her as a rebel female with particular reference to her reading. The female reader has long been regarded as a subversive figure, and I’ve always loved Jane for her determination to read and think for herself. You can read Jane Eyre: Rebel Woman here.
The Joy of Beta Reading
“We all know that it’s easier to spot other people’s mistakes than our own. True enough, but let’s face it, their mistakes are often our mistakes…”
I was delighted to be a guest on the ALLi blog in November 2016, musing about how beta reading other writers’ work can actually improve your own. Read The Joy of Beta Reading here.
Why Wikipedia isn’t Real Research for your Self Published Novel
On 30 May 2016 the Alliance of Independent Authors published an extract from the talk I gave on doing research for the 4th Leicester Self Publishing Conference on 7 May 2016. You can read Why Wikipedia isn’t Real Research… here.
Using An Assisted Publishing Service
I very much enjoyed talking to Tim Lewis of Begin Self Publishing about my experiences of using an assisted publishing service – SilverWood Books. You can read a summary of the interview and listen to the podcast (released on 3 February 2016) on the Begin Self Publishing website.
Bringing the Past to Life
The 2015 Bristol Festival of Literature included a two-day Book Bazaar featuring seminars and talks on the craft and business of writing. As part of these events, I gave a talk on researching the historical novel – Bringing the Past to Life. I’ve now made the text of this talk available as a free download (PDF document). You can read/download Bringing the Past to Life here.
Walking and Writing
A guest blog on Jane Davis’s blog on 22 May 2015 about how walking inspires my writing. Read Walking and Writing here.
Bambi, Ben Dearlove and Bristol Tramgirls
An interview in Bishopston Voice looking at my fiction and non-fiction work, 25 September 2014. Read the Bishopston Voice article.
“I’ve never seen the point in historical fiction”
A debate about writing historical fiction with author Jane Davis in June 2014. Read the debate on Jane Davis’s blog.
Show, Don’t Sell
A guest opinion piece for the Alliance of Independent Authors blog, March 31 2014. The success of author events is measured in more than just sales…read Show Don’t Sell.
Fact, Fiction and Fantasy
“It’s imagination that makes a story…” A guest blog for the IPR blog on 10 January 2014 on fact, fiction and fantasy in historical novels. Read the IPR Blog.