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Posts Tagged ‘Historical Fiction’

It’s publication day for The Girl with the Silver Clasp, my second novel for Orion!

I’m so excited to finally be able to share the story of Jess, Rachel and Giselle, as they overcome their differences to save a faded mansion in Cornwall and its traditional harbour community, freeing themselves to follow their dreams.

I loved writing this story, which was inspired by the changes that took place in the 1920s as the world recovered from the trauma of the First World War with the hope of creating a better life after all the suffering.

Like The Ferryman’s Daughter, the story is set just outside St Ives, with its beautiful coastlines and luminous light that, especially after the First World War, attracted artists and crafts men and women in a unique atmosphere of creativity. Part of the story comes from my family background and my great-grandmother, who forged nails in a workshop in the backyard of the family home in Lye in the industrial Black Country.

Another comes from my love of art deco, with its clean lines and colours. Sadly, my own attempts at metalwork and enamelling were brief, and a long time ago, and I definitely don’t have anything near Jess’ eye and skill. But I loved researching for the story, just as I’ve always loved visiting St Ives.

It’s also about female friendship, and learning to overcoming differences to work towards a better future. When I was writing the story, I could never have guessed just how important friendship and supporting each other would become for all of us in the time of Covid. It’s given me a new insight into the world after the First World War, where Jess, Rachel and Giselle attempt to come to terms with the past and build a better future – as well as making me realise just how previous was the life we knew before the pandemic, and that I’ll never take for granted the ability to travel the short distance to the coast again!

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Watercress with those little roots, all ready to get growing!

In The Ferryman’s Daughter, Hester, like her mother before her and countless women throughout the ages, makes the very best of the foods she can forage to supplement her family’s meagre income.

The view from the cafe Hester dreams of making her own, looking out from St Ives towards Godrevy Lighthouse

One of my own favourites is watercress. I can remember it growing wild in abundance when I was a child, but living in sheep country I’m not sure I’d like to chance it straight from a stream these days, even if I could find it. So imagine my excitement when I stumbled across the fact that watercress doesn’t need a stream. It doesn’t even need to stand in water. It grows quite happily in the ground or in a pot. And even better, you don’t need to try and source seeds. One bunch of watercress from the supermarket, or even better fresh from a farmer’s market or greengrocer, will do. The little white hairs that are the roots are usually already there on the stems, and a week in water and they’ve increased, grown stronger and are ready to go.

I may not exactly forage for my watercress, but I love being able to wander out and pick fresh peppery leaves for a salad or a garnish for soup.

The harbour at St Ives – Hester’s taste of freedom!

When I was researching Hester’s recipes for The Ferryman’s Daughter I was delighted to come across this one for watercress soup. It’s simple, the colour is amazing, and it tastes delicious – especially with an indulgent swirl of cream or crème fraiche, and fresh white bread, a luxury Hester could only dream of, especially during the shortages of The Great War. It was only natural it became one of the recipes featured in the back of the book.

So whether from your own crop, or it’s grabbed from a supermarket, this is the delicious recipe for Hester’s watercress soup.

Watercress Soup

Salt and pepper

30 g butter

1 medium onion

1 stick celery

Approximately 250 g potatoes

Approximately 250 g watercress

Approximately 300 ml water

Salt, pepper and cream to taste.

Melt butter in pan. Chop onion and cook until soft. Add chopped stick of celery. Peel and chop potatoes into small pieces. Add to pan and stir. Add enough water to cover and simmer until potatoes are soft. Chop watercress, add to soup and warm through. Blend until smooth. The original recipe says to add milk, but I like to keep the tang of watercress and thin slightly with water (or stock) to the preferred consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir with a swirl of cream (or similar). Serve with slices of fresh crusty bread.

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Today I’d like to welcome Thorne Moore, best selling author of A Time for Silence, who is published by Honno Press. Thorne’s latest novel, The Covenant, is a prequel to A Time for Silence and is published on August 20th 2020.

 

 

As a child I was very fond of the Narnia books (mostly because of the Pauline Baynes illustrations). One sentence in The Magician’s Nephew made a deep impression on me. “Aunt Letty was a very tough old lady: aunts often were in those days.” I really liked that. All the images I had had of Victorian women until then, thanks to BBC adaptations of Dickens, usually starring Martin Jarvis, had been of sweet little things with very pretty dresses and ringlets, on a par with fluffy kittens and with about the same IQ, or sad victims doomed by poverty or consumption.

There’s Victorian literature for you, or at least the variety written by men, who lived among women, were raised by them, nursed by them – women they lusted after and married, and yet men never seemed to rise above smug contempt for them. Women are portrayed as feeble and infantile, in need of protection and mastery. Show them as strong and they are mere figures of ridicule, like Trollope’s Mrs Proudie.

Thorne with Honno author Judith Barrow, and Firefly editor, Janet Thomas

Of course Victorian literature written by women presented a completely different picture of female understanding and determination in the period. In the works of the Brontës, Mrs Gaskell or George Eliot, women were rational creatures with at least as much determination and fight in them as the men who treated them as an amusing sub-species.

Real women, like fictional ones, were the same. Law, church and society were against them. Women who failed to marry were objects of contempt and pity. Those who did marry, officially ceased to exist. In the 18th century, it had been decreed that “By marriage, the very being or legal existence of a woman is suspended, or at least incorporated or consolidated into that of the husband.”

So it wasn’t just the vote that women lacked. A wife couldn’t hold property of her own, couldn’t keep her own earnings, couldn’t seek divorce from an intolerable union, couldn’t claim custody of her own children, couldn’t have control over her own body and couldn’t even claim to be a person in her own right. If she had paid work, it was at a far lower rate than any man. If she fell into ‘sin’ she was utterly outcast.

See her on the bridge at midnight

Saying, ‘Farewell, blighted love!’

There’s a scream, a splash, good ‘eavens!

What is she a doing of?

I am sure plenty of women, faced with what life threw at them, did choose suicide as the only way out. And disturbingly, male writers seemed to like the idea of women drowning themselves rather than living to face shame. But many women refused to go under. They refused to accept their lot. They refused to bow to injustice.

They fought back, sometimes at immense cost to themselves and though Parliament, run by men, gets the credit for any changes reluctantly forced through, it was often women’s struggle that lit the touch paper – not just the suffragettes like the Pankhursts, but women like Caroline Norton who campaigned tooth and nail for the Custody of Infants Act, the Matrimonial Causes Act and the Married Women’s Property Act. Or Josephine Butler who fought for the legal rights of wives and the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act which allowed for the forced and often violent examination of prostitutes. Or Florence Nightingale whose reforms improved the status of female work and raised levels of health care. Or Annie Besant who fought for the rights of the matchgirls to better pay and conditions. Denied the schools and colleges open to their brothers, women fought their way into education, science, medicine. Intrepid women like Gertrude Bell conquered mountains, deserts and jungles, while thousands of ordinary women took their fate in their own hands and sailed for the colonies in the hope of making a better life for themselves. Despite their corsets, crinolines and bustles, women weren’t meek and amenable. They never have been.

In the workplace, though they were lucky to receive half the pay given to men, they were indomitable providers, slaving to keep their families from starvation when husbands died, or fell sick, or deserted. They didn’t fade away if fortune turned against them, they kept fighting, doing whatever it took to keep going, whether that meant slaving in an unhealthy factory, managing the family business, keeping geese in the back yard, taking in washing, or prostitution. Whatever it took. The world pictured women as sweet simpering angels in the house. They were better than that. They were human.

In my new novel, The Covenant, Leah Owen is a woman after my own heart. She has intelligence and determination. She has dreams, and when they come to nothing she turns to the next. She fights. She values her self-respect. Which doesn’t mean she enjoys the struggle. Few women would have done. She’s an Aunty Sally and the world is throwing everything it can find at her. But no matter what is thrown, she refuses to fall. Unless by her own choice.

 

 

My links

The Covenant: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08CZJ8BSL

Honno: https://www.honno.co.uk/

website: https://thornemoore.com/

FB Author page: https://www.facebook.com/thornemoorenovelist

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThorneMoore

Amazon author page http://amzn.to/1Ruu9m1

 

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Today I’d like to welcome Francesca Capaldi, whose debut, ‘Heartbreak in the Valleys’, has just been released by Hera Books. I wanted to ask Francesca about her inspiration and her writing process – and about writing a saga set in Wales.

 

Can you tell us a little of your writing journey and how you came to write ‘Heartbreak in the Valleys’. Did you always want to set a book in Wales?

I’d wanted to be a writer since I was a child, but didn’t send anything for publication until I joined an adult education class. I started with short story sales. After a while I started writing various novels as well, young adult and contemporary romance, none of which were picked up, although three pocket novels were bought by DC Thomson. One of the contemporary novels was set in Ceredigion, but one agent told me that nobody wanted novels set in Wales! Being half Welsh, it made me more determined that there should be novels set in Wales!

Did you find writing for magazines helping in writing your novels?

On the whole, yes. Writing magazine stories helps you to write concisely and I do think it’s easier to start with them and move to novels rather than do it the other way round. It’s also less daunting to start with short stories. Getting a few accepted for publication gave me the courage to try something longer.

I’m interested to see the story of Idris and Anwen was inspired by your own family history. What drew you to explore your history, and do you feel there is anything we can learn from the time of WW1, particularly in the light of the current global pandemic?

I’ve long been interested in my family history, especially with my parents coming from very different backgrounds (my father was Italian). On the Ancestry site, I discovered my great grandfather’s World War 1 military record and the fact he was medically discharged eight months after he enlisted. The novel started life as a short story, but having had a passion for social history since my degree, I was soon researching the records for other information. And so was born Heartbreak in the Valleys.

I have seen quite a few parallels between the current pandemic and World War 1. Food shortages is an obvious one. People have taken more to growing their own now, as they did then with the allotment schemes. In the early stages of this pandemic, nobody knew how long food shortages would last and how severe the pandemic would get, which is much like the war. The Spanish ‘flu pandemic that started in 1918, has already been used as a parallel in the media, though there were many diseases causing widespread mortality before that. These included tuberculosis (‘consumption’), which three women in my family died of and the diphtheria epidemic of 1914. As awful as this pandemic is, it gives us an idea of what people of the past lived with constantly.

I loved the portrayal of the village community, and particularly all the characters. Did you base the village and its characters on specific places and people you know?

The village, which I call Dorcalon (literally, ‘Heartbreak’), is based almost entirely on Abertysswg in the Rhymney Valley. It’s where my mother and her mother were born, and where my great grandparents lived for thirty-odd years. I’ve taken a few liberties with it, which is why I didn’t want to give it its real name. Although the seed for the story was my great grandfather Hugh’s medical discharge, Idris is not based on him at all. The only real person who appears in the story (apart from mentions of historical people like Lloyd George) is a minor character called Mary Jones. She was my great gran, on the other side of the family from Hugh. Everyone else is a product of my overactive imagination!

How did you go about getting the historical details right, and creating the atmosphere of the world of WW1?

Lots of research and reading. I have several social history books, including accounts written by people living at the time. I trawled the 1911 census for an idea of the makeup of households and family size, job descriptions and places of origin. I read through contemporary local papers for types of social activities, shops, court proceedings and so on. I found several websites about the local pals’ battalion. I also looked at the historical OS maps.

It was interesting seeing the mixing of the different classes as the community pulled together to survive the shortages. Was there any particular story, or part of your research that inspired this part of the novel?

I think it was reading something of the Suffragettes that helped form the character of Elizabeth, the manager’s daughter, who I saw immediately as an enlightened woman of her times. The Suffragettes put their activities to one side during this time to help the war effort and I realised that Elizabeth would be the kind of woman who’d want to make a difference, hence her idea for the allotments.

Can you say what are you writing now?

I haven’t long finished another Valleys book, which is due out in the Autumn. I’m taking the opportunity to create a couple of short stories for magazines – I’ve missed writing them!

Thank you for joining me on the blog, Francesca – and I’m looking forward to the next ‘Valleys’ story already! 

 

Heartbreak in the Valleys

You can purchase a copy of the book HERE

November 1915. For young housemaid, Anwen Rhys, life is hard in the Welsh mining village of Dorcalon, deep in the Rhymney Valley. She cares for her ill mother and beloved younger sister Sara, all while shielding them from her father’s drunken, violent temper. Anwen comforts herself with her love for childhood sweetheart, Idris Hughes, away fighting in the Great War.

Yet when Idris returns, he is a changed man; no longer the innocent boy she loved, he is harder, more distant, quickly breaking off their engagement. And when tragedy once again strikes her family, Anwen’s heart is completely broken.

But when an explosion at the pit brings unimaginable heartache to Dorcalon, Anwen and Idris put their feelings aside to unite their mining community.

In the midst of despair, can Anwen find hope again? And will she ever find the happiness she deserves?

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Publication of

The Ferryman’s Daughter!

The bowl is from Cornwall and as for the apples – well you’ll have to read the book to find out!

Today is publication day for The Ferryman’s Daughter, my very first book for Orion. We may be in lockdown, in an uncertain world, and definitely with no opportunities for wild celebrations, but I’m still wonderfully amazed and excited to see my novel sail out into the world.

I loved the time I spent with Hester, the passionate, independent-minded and determined heroine of The Ferryman’s Daughter. The original inspiration for Hester was Rosa Lewis, who in Victorian times rose from a kitchen maid to cooking for royalty and owning her own hotel and who was also the inspiration for the popular TV drama series ‘The Duchess of Duke Street’, which is still repeated now and again.

But when I was writing my story of resilience and friendship overcoming the uncertainties brought to a community facing

St Ives, in Cornwall, where the story is set

WW1, I never thought how much this would resonate in the lockdown life of a global pandemic. On the other hand, it also feels similar because of the way so many of us have been brought together, and that, for the most part, it’s kindness and solidarity that is getting us through.

So I hope you enjoy the story of Hester, who never gives up on her own dreams, while helping the nurses and volunteers nursing the survivors of the battlefield back to health again. I love that Hester remains doggedly positive, whatever life might throw at her. I’m holding onto that too.

The UK edition is available HERE

The US edition is available HERE

To celebrate publication day, here is the recipe from the book for the most delicious apple cake. Simple but tasty – and the very thing to cheer up life in lockdown.

Jan’s Scrumptious Apple Cake (the inspiration for Hester’s mum’s best apple cake)

250 g butter

225 g caster sugar

3 eggs

Half cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

260 g sifted self-raising flour

2 lemons

 

For decoration:

Two or three eating apples (coxes or russet are best) unpeeled

One lemon

Sugar and water for lemon syrup

 

Preheat oven to 180c/ 350f/gas mark 4. Grease and line a 23cm/ 9inch springform tin.

 

Combine butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Slowly add the eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Fold in the flour and the grated rind of two lemons. Spoon batter into the tin. Slice the apples and arrange until the top of the cake is completely covered. Bake in the middle of the oven for one hour (or until a skewer comes out clean).

Meanwhile, cut thin strips of lemon rind and boil in water and sugar until crystallised. Roll into curls. As the cake cools, make holes with a skewer and pour in the sugar syrup. Decorate the cake with the crystallised lemon peel.

Serve warm or cold, with a generous dollop of clotted cream

 

And the sea is St Ives in Cornwall, where The Ferryman’s Daughter is set. This was a wild and windy day a couple of years ago. I was planning to go back this summer – maybe next year!

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The copies of The Ferryman’s Daughter have arrived!

The paperback is safely in my hands, and the book is also up on NetGalley

as well as for pre-order on Amazon ready for publication day on May 14th.

It’s well and truly out there!

It’s always and exciting moment, the day your book finally becomes real and there it is, sitting in your hand about to go out into the world and have a life of its own. Receiving a box of boxes in the middle of lockdown was quite surreal. Having my feet photographed instead of signing was a first, and then there was the business of opening it, with much handwashing and hand santiser before I could finally get a glimpse of the beautiful cover.

My lovely editor at Orion had sent me a photograph, so I knew the colours were stunning, but they still took my breath away when I was finally able to liberate a copy from the packaging (with the help of Miss Phoebe, who was under the impression that something so exciting could only be gravy bones, of course).

And since then I’ve been looking at it and taking it everywhere with me – even on the day’s dog walk!

It’s an amazing feeling. I still can’t quite believe it’s actually real! I’m a little sad that I won’t be having the planned party in my garden (which is currently in full bloom and just waiting for a celebration), but I know that will come later.

Meanwhile, I feel incredibly lucky for The Ferryman’s Daughter to have made it out into the world at all. When I was writing the story, I had no idea that Hester’s determination to dust herself down, pick herself up and keep on going, even in the face of panic buying of flour and sugar (no toilet paper at the time of World War One!) threatening to destroy her fledgling business would so soon be reflected in our own world. It made me root for her even more.

So here’s to publication day. I can’t wait to introduce Hester to the world – not to mention her delicious recipes, designed to rebuild the strength of recuperating soldiers and help those she loves to keep up their spirits in a world abruptly changed. Go, Hester!

 

Review copies of The Ferryman’s Daughter are available from NetGalley HERE

It can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK Here  and Amazon US HERE

 

 

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Today, I’m delighted to welcome Mollie Walton, and her alter ego Becca Mascull, to the blog to talk about her work and how she is surviving lockdown. Mollie’s second book in her gripping Ironbridge series is published on April 30th. Congratulations Mollie, and take it away, Becca!

 

 

I’m Becca and I’m surviving lockdown.

Of course I am. I’m not an NHS frontline worker or any other kind of key worker who are essential to the running of the world. So, I can do my bit and stay at home. But it is weird being mostly stuck inside the home for weeks on end, isn’t it? There are good days and bad days, right? Some days I get loads of work done, I exercise, I cook great meals and have some fun leisure time with my daughter and yes, I feel like I’m smashing this lockdown thing. Other days I feel like I barely want to get out of bed or engage with anyone or anything.

I’ve never been a person to say I’m bored, because there are always books and TV and movies and music and people to talk to. But some days, I feel so low, I can’t get joy from a thing. I know I’m not alone though. If I’m truly honest, the main thing that’s kept me going through this is Facebook. I share a lot of edgy memes with a twisted humour every day; they make me laugh and I know others enjoy them, as they tell me so often! I’ve also been playing the piano a lot and sharing these pieces in daily mini concerts on Facebook too. I’ve had people tell me that the soothing piano music has helped with their anxiety, but even one lady said it calmed down her nervous dog! That’s a win-win for me.

But in lockdown, the most difficult thing I’ve found is that my brain isn’t always working as I want it to. I’ve spoken to many other writers about this phenomenon and almost all have agreed: our creative brains are not braining. I’m not sure the precise reason for this, but it’s something to do with the general anxiety and malaise that surrounds us in this worldwide.

So, instead of fighting it, I’ve decided to go with it. Instead of forcing myself to try to write my current book (deadline July!), I’ve spent my time instead doing further, deeper historical research and I’ve found some wonderful stuff, about pit bank girls, strawberry picking, coal mining accidents, Londonhotels in 1875, how to wear a bustle etc etc.

My brain can cope with research. I’ve now finished that and I’m hoping my brain will play ball next week when I continue with drafting chapters. Wish me luck…

 

Becca at her piano – prepare to be calmed!

The Secrets of Ironbridge

 

A dramatic and heartwarming Victorian saga, perfect for fans of Maggie Hope and Anne Bennett.

1850s Shropshire.

Returning to her mother’s birthplace at the age of eighteen, Beatrice Ashford encounters a complex family she barely knows. Her great-grandmother Queenie adores her, but the privileged social position of Beatrice’s family as masters of the local brickworks begins to make her uncomfortable.

And then she meets Owen Malone: handsome, different, refreshing – and from a class beneath her own. They fall for each other fast, but an old family feud and growing industrial unrest threatens to drive them apart.

Can they overcome their different backgrounds? And can Beatrice make amends for her family’s past?

 

You can buy the paperback:

UK edition HERE

US edition HERE

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Today, I’m delighted to welcome the author of the popular Pennington’s series, Rachel Brimble. The Pennington stories, with their strong heroines making their way in a world in which women were generally expected to stay at home, are a perfect escape from the current restrictions – and who can resist the drama of the Titanic?

Welcome to the blog, Rachel!

A Shop Girl At Sea and The Titanic

 

Thank you so much for having me here today, Juliet!

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with stories of the Titanic sinking and the fates of those who lost their lives and those who survived.

Once I started on my journey to publication, I vowed that one day I would write a book featuring the Titanic and—fourteen years and twenty three books—later, I’ve finally upheld that vow with A Shop Girl At Sea!

This book is the fourth instalment in my popular Pennington’s department store series (all books can be read as stand alone stories) and it was while I was writing book 3 (A Shop Girl’s Christmas) that I discovered the heroine who was destined to head to New York on the fated ship.

Amelia Wakefield is Pennington’s head window dresser and she is sent by the store’s owner, Elizabeth Pennington to America to see what the department stores there are doing and how Bath’s finest store can compete. Perfect! I had my reason and my main character… now I needed to find Amelia’s love interest.

My first problem was finding a way of placing the hero in the romance on the ship, but also have him survive so that he and Amelia might find their happily ever after. As we know, it was women and children first when the Titanic started to sink and many of the men who survived were badgered and villainised for having escaped.

Eventually I found Samuel Murphy, a seaman and dock worker who is seeking his own destiny by heading to America in a bid to escape the constraining responsibilities of his family life. Once aboard, he and Amelia meet, and their journeys become intertwined. When disaster strikes and the Titanic hits the iceberg, Samuel is ordered to row one of the lifeboats and this is how he and Amelia manage to survive.

About a third of this Pennington’s story takes part on the fated ship and the rest in the store with a second strand of the story safe and away from danger in England.

This is probably my favourite Pennington’s book so far because I managed to achieve so many of my writing goals within its pages. Readers and reviewers have been so fabulously generous with their 4 and 5 stars reviews, I honestly couldn’t be happier!

Happy Reading…

Rachel x

 

A Shop Girl at Sea

 

Bath, 1912.

Amelia Wakefield loves working at Pennington’s, Bath’s finest department store. An escape from her traumatic past, it saved her life. So when Miss Pennington sets her a task to set sail on the Titanic and study the department stores of New York, she couldn’t be more excited – or determined!

Frustrated with his life at home, Samuel Murphy longs for a few weeks of freedom and adventure. Meeting Amelia on board the Titanic, Samuel can’t help wonder what painful history has made the beauty so reserved. But he already has too many responsibilities for love.

Ruby Taylor has always kept her Pennington co-workers at a distance. Making sure her little brother is safe has always been her priority. But when that means accepting Victoria Lark’s offer of sanctuary, more than one of Ruby’s secrets is under threat of being revealed…

A riveting and uplifting saga, perfect for fans of Elaine Everest and Fiona Ford.

Click below for purchasing links.

Amazon UK: HERE

Amazon US: Here

Kobo: HERE

Barnes & Noble HERE

 

Rachel Brimble

 

Rachel lives with her husband and their two daughters in a small town near Bath, England. She is the author of over 20 published novels including the Pennington’s department store series (Aria Fiction) and the Templeton Cove Stories (Harlequin).

Her next project is a Victorian trilogy set in a Bath brothel which she recently signed with Aria Fiction. The series will feature three heroines determined to change their lives and those of other women. The first book is due for release in Autumn 2020.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and has thousands of social media followers all over the world.

To sign up for her newsletter (a guaranteed giveaway every month!), click HERE:

Website: https://rachelbrimble.com/

Twitter:  @RachelBrimble

Facebook:  RachelBrimbleAuthor

Instagram: RachelBrimbleAuthor 

 

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Hester’s Comfort Food Corner

Perfectly delicious Poppy Seed Cake

(from a First World War recipe)

 

Hester, the heroine of The Ferryman’s Daughter, is a passionate cook, whose fledgling cake-making business is put in jeopardy by the panic buying and hording of sugar (no toilet paper in those days!) at the start of WW1. Instead, she spends the war cooking the best comfort food she can manage with limited ingredients for recuperating wounded soldiers and the volunteer nurses looking after them – many of them well-brought up young ladies faced with the shock of their lives in a world changed forever.

So, welcome to Hester’s Comfort Food Corner. Some are traditional recipes I came across in my research, others are simply favourites. The idea is that they are fun, easy to make – and above all comforting! And since sugar and flour are once again available in our modern changed world, I think it’s safe to dispense with exact historical accuracy (including the delights of potato flour) in exchange for good, solid, old-fashioned comfort …

 

To start off, it has to be my WW1 seed cake, my comfort cake for all occasions, including celebrations. It’s the one I’ll bake when I can finally hold a physical book launch for Hester and The Ferryman’s Daughter. It’s easy to make, fail-safe, and simply delicious!

 

WW1 Poppy Seed Cake

 (This is a scaled down version of the original, which, in true Edwardian fashion, demanded ten eggs. There are also modern oven settings, instead of the instructions to let the fierceness of the oven be over before putting the cake in to prevent scorching – unless anyone has an old-fashioned range handy, that is).

Ingredients

8 oz         227g         Butter

8 oz         227g         Sugar

2 ozs        57g          Caraway or poppy seeds

8 oz         227g         Self raising flour

2oz           57g          Candied peel

Rind and juice of one orange

Rind and juice of one lemon

3 eggs

Small cake tin (mine is 7″/18cm, which works really well)

 

Method:

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time with flour alternately, then add rind and juice of one orange, and the rind of one lemon, caraway/poppy seeds, and candied peel.

Cook at 170C Gas Mark 3 for forty-five minutes then down to 150C Gas Mark 2, and finally 140C Gas Mark 1 till cooked. (I find it usually takes just under an hour in total)

While still warm, pierce the cake with a skewer and drizzle in the juice of the lemon.

The original would probably have been served as it was, but I’ve found it goes really well with lemon butter icing with a few drops of vanilla added, for a really luxurious treat (edible butterflies optional!).

The fancy version …

 

 

 

 

 

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Copy edits are funny things.

 

After months of working on The Ferryman’s Daughter, writing and re-writing, editing, rewriting again and then tweaking, this is the final time I’ll see the book in manuscript form. It’s also the last chance to make any changes. Not major transformations, it’s already too late for that. Copy edits are about consistency, making sure the whole thing hangs together as a whole, with events taking place in the right year with everyone with their right ages all the way through. It’s more about the technical aspects of a story than any previous edits. It’s also where the joins from the different versions (when things like an age change can slip through the net) are smoothed out to make the final whole.

 

I always find it a strangely satisfying process. Frustrating at times. Even irritating, as you hunt down some little detail that then requires changing throughout the book and can drive you mad, as well as zapping all those repeated words you never spotted (may I never use ‘just’ again!). It’s where you have to stand back from the story as a writer and become a proofreader, complete with electronic tracking, with comments on the side to be addressed and corrections in the text. As someone who earns her living as a proofreader (although not for fiction), it’s quite surreal to see my own work this way – and crawl away into a corner at the recognition that I make the same mistakes! Why is it that the brain always adds that missing word, even though you’ve been over that paragraph a hundred times?

The copy edits are a final distancing from any emotional attachment to the story, which is vital to root out any tiny errors that might otherwise slip through, and also a goodbye to the characters and locations that have lived inside your head, 24/7, for the past year or so.

Up to this point, the book is fluid. Nothing is set in stone. It can change, and frequently does. But once you press ‘send’ on this particular email, with the corrected manuscript attached, that’s it. This is where the baby grows up, ready to go out into the world and take on its own life – starting with its appearance in ‘The Bookseller’ (super-proud moment).

The Ferryman's Daughter in The Bookseller

The Ferryman’s Daughter in The Bookseller

 

You could go on with copy edits forever. As with anything, there’s always some tiny mistake, some minor tweak that can be made. But at some point you have to call it a day. Personally, I always know when I can’t do any more. It’s when I loathe the book with a passion you would not believe. When I never want to see another word of it, or have to have anything to do with its dratted characters, ever again, and I seriously question why I thought this was a good idea in the first place.

This may sound disastrous, when there’s promotion just around the corner. But that’s the thing. It’s like childbirth. The moment the book comes back in proof form (okay, even before that), the agony is forgotten. It’s time to fall in love with the story, all over again.

 

Roll on the proofs!

 

Porthgwidden Beach, St Ives, where part of the story takes place

Porthgwidden Beach, St Ives, where part of the story takes place

 

 

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