AddThis

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Wicked Lady – Katherine Fanshawe


Image result for Magdalen Ki8ng Hall wicked Lady book

I am not the first writer to be inspired by the life and legend of Lady Katherine Fanshawe.

The first novel based on her life was by Magdalen King-Hall who wrote a book called The Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton in 1945. I have a copy and it is exciting reading, though long-winded in the telling by today’s standards. The book was a smash hit in its day and was made into a film - The Wicked Lady.



The film starred Margaret Lockwood in the title role as a nobleman's wife who secretly becomes a highwayman to relieve her life of boredom. The mystery of why she would take such an extreme action was the sensation of its day – women were supposed to be safe at home doing the housekeeping! The film had one of the top audiences ever for a film of its period, 18.4 million – a staggering number. I can remember my mother talking about it as one of her favourite films.
It was one of the Gainsborough melodramas, a sequence of very popular films made during the 1940s in wartime Britain. They provided pure escapism from the deprivation of WWII, with lavish sets and costumes and period settings, and the films were often based on historical novels.

Here is the trailer for the 1945 film – great costumes, but from it you get the melodramatic flavour of the plot. In fact, before it could be released in the US, re-shooting was required as the women's bodices were very low-cut and showed too much cleavage for the American censors.


It was such a hit that the film was re-made in 1983 and starred Faye Dunaway in the lead role. (Poster from www.moviepostercompany.co.uk) The film was a disaster and earned Faye Dunaway an award for the Worst Actress!





In my retelling of the story I have stuck to historical facts more than King-Hall did, including keeping the original names. Research into the background of the English Civil War provided me with plausible plot devices that enabled me to stick with the history more closely. However, as this is a novel for younger readers (14+) I wanted to retain the swashbuckling feel if possible, without making it into a melodrama. My story is told over three stand-alone books with three different points of view, the first book, Shadow on the Highway, is told from the point of view of Abigail, Lady Katherine’s deaf maidservant. You can find out more about how I researched her here.

This post first appeared on the Let Them Read Books Blog. Why not visit the site for more historical fiction, and interesting guest posts.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Nursing in the 1940's and 50's - Fetch Nurse Connie

I am thrilled to welcome Jean Fullerton to my blog today, to chat about her latest book and the way in which she researched and wrote the story. Known for her wonderful Powerpoint presentations about East End London life, Jean brings all her research and life experience in the NHS to her books about 1940's and 50's nursing.
Fetch Nurse Connie - Cover 18th Feb th Jan 2015..doc
Fetch Nurse Connie will be the fifth book in the East End Nurses series. How have circumstances in healthcare changed for Millie and Connie since the first book?

I purposely set Call Nurse Millie in the years after the end of the WW2 and before the introduction of the NHS in 1948 so people could see what the system of health care before the NHS was actually like. In the first book of the series Millie and Connie are employed by a local Nursing Association which is a voluntary organisation supported by subscriptions and fundraising rather than central funding. The second book All Change for Nurse Millie starts on 5th July 1948, the day the NHS came into being so I could show the changes to the new system and some of the problems it had from the very start.

As Connie is Millie’s closest friend and we meet her a great deal in Millie’s story it seemed natural to tell her story in Fetch Nurse Connie, during the same time period. Like Millie’s, Connie’s story starts on VE-Day 1945 when the old health system was still in place so we see Connie  not only grappling with the her patients illnesses but also the social conditions of the time.

Your books are impeccably researched. What are the two most valuable resources you use for discovering about medicine in the 1950's?
jean1 web picture
Thank you for saying so, Deborah. Unlike my previous 19th century books the East London Nurses’ Series is within living memory so I have the great privilege of being able to speak to nurses who worked in East London during that time.  However, my most valuable research resources are my collection of 1930s, 40s and 50s nursing and midwifery text books. These include books on child health, contraception, midwifery, nursing dictionaries and a 1945 doctor’s prescribing dictionary, all of which I have to hand all the time. The most valuable of these books is the 1947 edition of Merry and Irven’s District Nursing. This was the text book all trainee Queen’s Nurses’ would have bought. It has everything from clinical procedures to the various charitable institutions of the time like the Sick Children’s’ Fund and the Destitute Relief Board. It also sets out how fees were calculated and the proper administration of a local Nursing Association. It was totally invaluable in helping me breathe life into district nursing during that period. There is also a breakdown of the way the new Welfare State was to be implemented and how much the individuals had to contribute in to the National Insurance Scheme before they were entitled to receive benefits. I also think I must have every nurses biography of the 20th century and a few before.

Apart from Millie, who is your favourite character to write? Is he/she constructed around a real person from the past?
I actually enjoy writing her friend Connie, who is the heroine of the new book.  She has a very different story and other issues in her professional and personal life to cope with. Unlike Millie she is part of a large East End family, very like my own. After her fiancĂ©’s home-coming takes and unexpected turn Connie finds herself spending a great deal of time trying to put her heartache behind her and convince her mother and two sisters that there’s more to life than marriage and children.
I never consciously construct a character around anyone in particular but I hope Connie, like Millie, is a little bit like the nurse I strive to be.

What would surprise Connie and Millie most about nursing  today?
As a registered district nurse with 20 years’ experience working in East London I’m sad to say that today ‘care’ sometimes seems missing out of the equation. Not by nurses’ I might say. I teach nursing at a London University and can assure you the vast majority of the nurses I nurture through their 3 year’s training are kind and compassion and I’d be happy for them to nurse any of my nearest and dearest. Sadly, it’s the overburdened NHS full of targets, statistics and research that sometimes put unbearable pressure on them. In Millie and Connie’s day a nurse was responsible for all their patients’ needs. This included housework, personal care and nutrition along with the more obvious nursing tasks such as dressings and medication.  However, I’m sure she’d be amazed at the range of drugs now available – especially those to regular body systems such as diabetes, high blood-pressure and pain relief  plus being able to undertake such complex operation as open heart surgery and joint replacements.

How carefully do you plan your books? Do you have a strong outline, or do the characters know where they want to go?

Because I weave at least six patients’ stories through Connie’s over-arching story I plan my novels very carefully on a colour coded table. This allows me to space out Connie’s meeting with her patients, family and her ex-fiancĂ© Charlie. I can also see, for example of there are too many scenes with her family bunched together or if there’s too much space between her patients as we see their stories.
Of course it changes as I get to know the characters and ideas come to me but it gives me a place to start.

Thanks for asking me to drop by Deborah and for anyone who might want to read Connie’s story here’s a quick insight.
Fetch Nurse Connie.
Connie Byrne, a nurse in London's East End working alongside Millie Sullivan from Call Nurse Millie, is planning her wedding to Charlie Ross, set to take place as soon as he returns from the war. But when she meets him off the train at London Bridge, she finds that his homecoming isn't going to go according to plan.
Connie's busy professional life, and the larger-than-life patients in the district, offer a welcome distraction, but for how long?
Available from Orion Fiction on kindle, paperback and hardback on 4th June 2015
Click on the bookcover to pre-order.
Easter with Nurse Millie out 19th March
Fetch Nurse Connie out 4th June 2015.
All Change for Nurse Millie
Christmas with Nurse Millie e-novella.
Call Nurse Millie.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Award-winning author Charlotte Betts reveals her favourite English chateau

9780349404493

I have just finished Charlotte Betts' latest novel, Chateau on the Lake, which is yet another gripping romance from this award-winning novelist. I first came across Charlotte because she has written several books in one of my favourite periods - the seventeenth century, but for this novel we are invited to explore the 18th century and Revolutionary France.

After the death of her parents Madeleine Moreau must travel to France to search for the relatives she has heard of, but never met. The meeting proves disastrous and she is given shelter at Chateau Mirabelle, a breathtakingly beautiful castle which is home to the aristocrat Etienne D'Aubery. Of course there is a little competition for Madeleine's affections, with the handsome Jean Luc, and plenty of dark and sinister secrets in the Chateau's past.

Charlotte Betts recreates the detail of the period painstakingly, whilst still providing a pacy and satisfying romance. The sense of the course of the French revolution with all its horrors - the guillotine, the starving peasants, the mob violence - all these are faithfully depicted, whilst never losing the forward momentum of the plot. It is a hard thing to do, to juggle romance against such gritty realism, but Charlotte Betts does it seamlessly.

I wondered, after the attractions of France, which would be Charlotte's favourite English chateau, a place in which to spend a quiet afternoon - 

Corfe Castle is one of my favourite historical sites to visit. We often holiday in Dorset and I love the way the castle is the focal point of the village. It's always been sunny when I've visited and I like to sit quietly in the sunshine and allow the tourists' voices fade away. If I close my eyes and listen to the echoes of time it's almost possible to unlock the secrets of the past. I conjure up a vision of Lady Mary Bankes who, when her husband was away, led the defence of the castle during a six week siege by the Parliamentarians. What a wonderful novel that would make! Perhaps I shall write about that one day.
Charlotte 

National Trust


Corfe

With her talk of English Civil War sieges, I might just beat her to it. (Only joking of course!)
Find out more about Charlotte Betts on her website