Sunday, 29 December 2013

PG Wodehouse Never Posted His Letters-Maybe

Cheltenham High Street 1905
P G Wodehouse, the inventor of Bertie Wooster and Jeeves books, was reputed never to have posted his own letters. He would stamp and address the envelope before throwing them from his window, reasoning that the people of Britain were honest and public-spirited enough to pick them up and pop them in a post box.

“Someone always picks it up,” PG wrote. “And it saves me going down four flights of stairs every time I want to mail a letter.”

Percy Jeeves
I was fascinated to hear that this theory was recently tested in Cheltenham, which is where I live - in that eighteen letters were stamped and addressed to the Gloucestershire Echo staff, at both their homes and the newspaper's office. The letters were placed where they could conceivably been forgotten by the authors, i.e. on window ledges and bins, in bus stops and on benches, cafĂ© and pub tables.

15 of the 18 letters were delivered, although details of where they were left are here, but is probably of scant interest to those who don't know the town.

Apparently, PG Wodehouse's parents lived in Cheltenham and he has fond memories of the town. He recounted that he found the name for his Jeeves character when watching Worcestershire cricketer Percy Jeeves play at Cheltenham College’s ground during a festival match between Gloucestershire and Worcestershire in the summer of 1913. Percy Jeeves was killed at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 when he was 28.

Website of the Jeeves Society

Friday, 27 December 2013

King's Mistress, Queen's Servant by Tracy Borman

Publisher's Blurb

Henrietta Howard, later Countess of Suffolk, was the long-term mistress and confidante of King George II. Described by Swift as a consummate courtier who packed away her 'private cloaths in a chest', by Pope as 'so very reasonable, so unmov'd', and by the world at large as 'the Swiss' (due to her apparent neutrality), she remains as fascinating and perplexing today as she was for her contemporaries. 

Orphaned at the age of twelve after her mother died and her father was killed in a duel, and dragged into poverty by her brutal husband, Henrietta used her own ingenuity and determination to secure a role at the very heart of the royal court. Although renowned for her passivity and mildness, her relations with the Queen became increasingly acrimonious, and she made an enemy of Prime Minister Robert Walpole before eventually resigning her position amidst intense political scandal. 

This is not a new book, but definitely worth a mention, in that having read Lucy Worsley’s ‘Courtiers’, I was eager to discover more about the enigmatic and in many ways tragic Henrietta Howard. In a time when divorce would have ruined her completely, Henrietta found a way to remain within society but living apart from her abusive drunken rake of a husband, though the price she paid was a heavy one.

Her character and ‘quiet reason’ alone appears to have saved both herself and the disgusting Charles Howard, in that with charm alone Henrietta secured position for them both at the Royal Court of Herrenhausen on the eve of the Hanoverian age.

Henrietta and her husband returned to England as established courtiers in 1715, where the shattered relationships of George I and his son and daughter-in-law, George and Caroline contrived to keep Henrietta and her husband apart in that whoever served one was not permitted to associate with someone who served the other.  This may have come as a relief to Henrietta, but Tracy Borman’s description of what she had to endure as a lady in waiting wasn’t a life of pampered luxury but arduous servitude in abominable conditions within a strict arena where protocol is everything.

The fact Henrietta became the mistress of George II is undisputed, but did she do so for her survival, to ensure her royal lover kept her husband at bay, or because she truly loved him is not so clear.  I suspect the former reason, because when George’s irascible temper created holes in their relationship, despite opposition from the Queen, Henrietta retired from court, putting in place her plans for her own home made possible by the death of her awful husband – even I cheered at that point of the book – and an inheritance that enabled her to build her beautiful house, Marble Hill in Twickenham near to Horace Walpole’s property at Strawberry Hill.

What Henrietta endured with dignity and fortitude was enough to break any woman, and Miss Borman’s writing kept me entranced to the end. Here is a small plug for a talented new author, Laura Purcell, who is fascinated with the Hanoverians. Her blog has lots of interesting articles bout them and I happen to know she has begun writing Henrietta’s story, which I am confident will see publication before too long. You saw it here first!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Blog Tour Day

Today is blog tour day, which is a great way to get to know the work of other authors, the emphasis being how we manage our creative process. If you look at the title of my blog, you'll get some idea as to mine, but I'm becoming more structured as I try out new genres - historical ones that is.

Thus far some of the bloggers write ancient history, so I hope they don't mind the fact my stories don't go further back than England in 1642.

Here is a link to a previous example from the Writing Process Blog Tour from Erin Albert, a writer I don't know but then that's the point of a tour so we can get to know one another:

Then there is Adam Haviaras' Blog, and finally the writer who invited me, Jen Black who writes about Eleventh century Vikings and Nineteenth Century Smugglers as well as Scottish Tudor Courtiers.

What am I working on?

A cozy murder mystery set on board a steamship between New York and London in the year 1900

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I don't know that it does. Murders on board ship aren't unknown, nor are single ladies in long dresses who ask awkward questions a phenomenon created from my own mind.  However I hope my characters are engaging enough to make the stories interesting. They don't just root out criminals, they have personal histories, secrets and tragedies of their own which help mould their inquisitive characters. Otherwise why would they be interested in the fates of strangers?

Why do I write what I do?

I'm a bit of a dabbler and like to cross genres and test out my ability to write credibly inside different character heads. My first stories were historical family sagas with multiple PoV's. Then I switched to a main PoV and write two Victorian romances, followed by a historical biographical about a woman who lived during the English Civil War in first person, present tense. This last was something I didn't intend, but the character decided she wanted to be written that way, so I had no choice but to let her.

I wrote two romances because, well to prove I could step outside the 17th Century. Then I attempted cozy mystery writing because firstly, I love reading them, and because I like the idea of the history being the background and the atmosphere of the story rather than the sole purpose of it. It allows my own creativity in the plot and scenarios, but there is a certain amount of research needed to make the setting credible.  I have no idea of they will go anywhere but I enjoy writing them - and that's the whole point.

How does my writing process work?

I used to begin with a vague idea and allow the characters to tell me where to go. This didn't work 
with the Elizabeth Murray book as she was a real person, so I had to select certain events in her life, and stick to a timeline, incorporating several threads to to make the story real.

The cozy mysteries needs far more organising, in that I start at the end, i.e. the killer, then work 
backwards with the elements that bring them to commit the murder in the first place, sprinkling clues and red herrings along the way for my amateur sleuth to find and mull over. No one should be too obviously bad or good so the solution is unclear for as long as possible.

This process is the most challenging, but also the most fun. Sometimes I change my villain half way through when the story leads me to giving a particular character a reason which had not come to light before then and the story works better that way.

My Three for 9th December

Wendy Laharnar, is the author of the YA medieval novel The Unhewn Stone, about a modern Swiss teen experiencing life inside the William Tell legend in 1307 AD. Wendy was a nursing sister, but in later life enjoyed working in a college with text books and students. For many years she raised beef cattle on her grazing property in the Southern Highlands of NSW. She has now retired with her husband and mini Schnauzer to the seaside on the east coast of Australia.

Alison Stuart is an award winning, cross genre Australian writer of historicals with heart.  Whether duelling with dashing cavaliers or waywards ghosts, her books provide a reader with a meaty plot and characters who have to strive against adversity, always with the promise of happiness together. Alison is a lapsed lawyer who has worked in the military and fire service, which may explain a predisposition to soldier heroes.  She lives with her own personal hero and two needy cats and likes nothing more than a stiff gin and tonic and a walk along the sea front of her home town.  She loves to hear from her readers and can be found at her website, facebook, twitter and Goodreads.
Blog:  “Ms. Stuart requests the pleasure of your company…”

Samantha Tonge lives in Cheshire with her lovely family and two cats who think they are dogs. She has sold over 80 short stories to women's magazines, and her work appears regularly in the People's Friend. Her debut novel, Doubting Abbey, has just been published by digital-first Carina UK Harlequin.  She loves to hear from her readers and can be found at her websitenovel, facebook, twitter and Goodreads.