Me and my books....
A Bit About Me
I have always worked in IT and until October 2019 I was a full-time project manager. Now that I am retired I can focus on the thing I love most - writing. At the age of 40 I did a part-time BA degree in Literature at Warwick, which progressed to an MA and then a PhD, my thesis being "Glimpses of Utopia & Dystopia in Victorian Fairylands". As a result of giving a paper on fairy tales I was approached by a publisher who suggested I gather together some lesser known fairy tales and as a result "Enchanted Ideologies: A Collection of Rediscovered Nineteenth-Century English Moral Fairy Tales" was published by The True Bill Press in 2010. I don't think the book is still available as the publisher went out of business.
During my research I “discovered” Mary De Morgan, a Victorian writer of fairy tales, amongst many other things. I became somewhat obsessed with De Morgan and as I wanted to share my research I wrote "Out of the Shadows: The Life and Works of Mary De Morgan", which was published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing in 2012. Despite my intensive research there were still many gaps in my knowledge - (why didn't she marry, why did she go to Egypt, how did she become a directress of a girls' reformatory) - and because I couldn't let De Morgan, or the act of writing, go I decided to write a fictional novel based on De Morgan’s life - the result being "The Jewel Garden". It is told from the perspective of a fictional character and tells of her fictional relationship with Mary De Morgan. This novel is a labour of love and I am thrilled that William & Whiting published it in February 2018.
I have just finished my second novel, "Song of the Nightingale". It is a historical novel, set in 18th century Italy that tells of two young boys who are bought from their families, castrated and then trained to be singers. This was something that was actually done at the time, though this story is purely fictional. It is told from the point of view of Philippe, who is the count's secretary and is tasked with taking the boys to Florence and settling them into the conservatoire, which is run by Jesuits. It tells of the boys' journey, of course, but it also tells of love, murderous revenge, deceit and reconciliation. The book is just published by The Conrad Press.
I am now working on my third novel, whose working title is "Grandmothers' Footsteps". It will tell of four generations of women and their attempts to tell their “her-stories” to a world deaf to the female voice. I am interested in the re-telling of stories, especially the fairy tale, through the centuries, and I want to weave one throughout the book as a link between the women. No completion date - now that I am retired I can spend more time on writing (when I am not singing in a choir, playing netball, walking my new dog, learning to paint.......)
Song of the Nightingale
Philippe, the narrator of this tale, is secretary to Count De Lorenzo, and lover to the Count’s young wife. He is tasked with buying young boys from poor villagers, having them castrated and taking them to Florence to be taught to sing as castrati. The parents are told that their sons are especially blessed with their wonderful voices and they do not object to the boys making a physical sacrifice in order to thank and praise the Lord; nor to the bag of gold they are given in exchange.
The boys are innocents, victims of circumstances beyond their control. Surely they can have nothing to do with a barber’s mysterious death, or the suicide of an abusive Jesuit priest?
This is a tale of passion, revenge, guilt, regret, loss and redemption.
The Jewel Garden
FEBRUARY 23RD 2018
I am thrilled that my debut novel has been published and is available for others to read. It is set in a time when women were starting to rebel against Victorian conventions and to strive for their independence. This is a story of Hannah Russell’s physical, emotional and artistic journey from the back streets of the East End of London to the noisy souks and sandy wastes of Egypt; from the labyrinthine canals of Venice to the lonely corridors of Russell Hall in Kent. Hannah thinks she has found love with Mary De Morgan, a writer of fairy tales and one of William Morris’s circle of friends. But where there is devotion there can also be deceit and where there is hope there also dwells despair.
Out of the Shadows: The Life and Works of Mary De Morgan
Who was Mary De Morgan and why should she be dragged out of the shadows cast by her illustrious parents, her male siblings and the members of the Arts and Crafts circle in which she moved? Why should the academic spotlight be shone onto her life and works?
De Morgan (1850–1907) was undoubtedly a woman of her time: she was unmarried and therefore one of the million or so “odd” women who had to earn their own living, which she did mainly by writing. She was one of the many who took part in the great effort to “improve” the lives of the poor in the East End of London; she was caught up in the spiritualist phenomena, not only because her mother was an ardent supporter and practitioner, but also because De Morgan herself was considered to be a “seer”; she, like many Victorians, suffered from the curse of tuberculosis but despite going to live in Egypt for health reasons, she then became the directress of a girls’ reformatory until her death.
A Collection of Rediscovered Nineteenth-Century English Moral Fairy Tales
All of the fairy tales in this book were written and read during the nineteenth century--a very few may still have been read in the early twentieth century--but any surviving copies have been abandoned in dark corners of libraries and second-hand bookshops; none has hitherto been considered worthy of republication. This lack may, in some cases, be justifiable, but nevertheless every text has an important place in literary history as a contribution to, and a result of, the time in which it was written. The fairy tales in this collection are presented, therefore, as texts which are indicators, instigators, or inhibitors of social change.
"She is too fond of books & it has turned her brain"