Uncategorized

Penny Dreadfuls – Only a Bit of Fun?

Today I welcome fellow author, Pam Lecky, who’s here to tell us about her latest novel, No stone Unturned, book one in a new crime series.

If you enjoyed a good old execution in the 18th or early 19th century, it was possible to buy a crime broadside at the hanging which was produced by specialist printers. These would feature a crude picture of the crime and the culprit, a written account of the crime and trial proceedings and a doggerel, thrown in for good measure. Most of the poor could not read but they enjoyed the lurid pictures, and there was always someone on hand to read out the cautionary poem.

Varney_the_Vampire_or_the_Feast_of_Blood 1845

During the Victorian era, however, literacy rates increased. Combined with technological advances in printing and the advent of the railways making wide-spread distribution viable, the demand for cheap, entertaining reading matter increased rapidly. This led to the first penny serials (originally called penny bloods) being published in the 1830s, and by 1850, there were over 100 publishers of penny-fiction. The penny dreadfuls were printed on cheap wood pulp paper and were predominantly aimed at young working-class men and boys. They usually had eight pages with black and white illustrations on the top half of the front page. Working-class readers could afford these and they did a roaring trade. In contrast, serialised novels at the time, such as Dickens’ work, cost a shilling (12 pennies) per part and were out of the reach, therefore, of most working-class readers.

The subject matter of the penny horrible, penny awful or penny blood was always sensational, usually featuring detectives, criminals or supernatural entitles. Popular characters included Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber, first printed in 1846, who murdered his clients so his neighbour, Mrs Lovett, could cook them in her meat pies. Then there was the endless retelling of Dick Turpin’s exploits and his supposed 200-mile ride from London to York in one night! Supernatural characters, such as Varney the Vampire were extremely popular. But the most successful of all time was the Mysteries of London, first published in 1844. It ran for 12 years, 624 numbers (or issues) and nearly 4.5 million words.

Many famous authors began their writing careers writing penny dreadfuls including, GA Sala and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. She reputedly said “the amount of crime, treachery, murder and slow poisoning, and general infamy required by my readers is something terrible.” Many authors took the melodrama of the dreadful and infused it into their later very successful novels.

When highwaymen and evil aristocrats fell out of fashion, true crime, especially murder, was the most popular. These were then overtaken in the popularity stakes by detective stories with the focus on the police rather than the criminal. By the 1860s, the focus changed again and children became the main target audience.

It was easy for the middle and upper classes to look down on the penny dreadfuls as cheap, sensational nonsense. Some even went so far as to blame them for infamous crimes and suicide. But I suspect many read them surreptitiously ˗ for who doesn’t enjoy a good yarn now and then?

In No Stone Unturned, Lucy’s maid, Mary, is a huge fan of the penny dreadfuls and cheap sensational novels. Lucy, feeling obliged to look out for her maid’s moral welfare (so she claims!), often reads these books and thoroughly enjoys them, too. When the women’s lives are in danger, Mary comes to the fore with her penchant for intrigue and spying. Lucy suspects Mary’s favourite reading material may be at the root of it.

***

No Stone Unturned is the first book in the Lucy Lawrence Mystery Series.

A suspicious death, stolen gems and an unclaimed reward: who will be the victor in a deadly game of cat and mouse?

London October 1886: Trapped in a troubled marriage, Lucy Lawrence is ripe for an adventure. But when she meets the enigmatic Phineas Stone, over the body of her husband in the mortuary, her world begins to fall apart.

When her late husband’s secrets spill from the grave and her life is threatened by the leader of London’s most notorious gang, Lucy must find the strength to rise to the challenge. But who can she trust and how is she to stay out of the murderous clutches of London’s most dangerous criminal?

No Stone Unturned is currently on pre-order at the special price of 99p/99c

Amazon Pre-Order Buy Link

About Pam

Pam is an Irish writer of historical fiction with a particular love of the late Victorian era and early 20th century. Her debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, was awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion; was shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize 2016; made ‘Editor’s Choice’ by the Historical Novel Society; long-listed for the Historical Novel Society 2016 Indie Award; and chosen as a Discovered Diamond in February 2017.

Pam is represented by Therese Coen at the Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency, London.

In April 2018, she published a collection of all her short stories, entitled Past Imperfect. With settings as diverse as WW1 era Dublin and a lonely haunted lighthouse, romance, mystery and the supernatural await you.

June 2019, sees the release of No Stone Unturned, the first book in the Lucy Lawrence Mystery series, set in the late Victorian era. Pam is looking forward to sharing Lucy’s many adventures with her readers.

Discover more about Pam and her writing by following the links below:

Amazon

Facebook

Twitter

www.pamlecky.com­­

Goodreads

Instagram

fiction, Uncategorized

Interview with Author Samantha Wilcoxson

'God save the Queen! God save our good Queen Mary!'When these words rang out over England, Mary Tudor thought her troubles were over. She could put her painful past - the loss of her mot

Today it’s a pleasure to have historical fiction author, Samantha Wilcoxson with us to chat about her writing life. Her latest novel, Queen Of Martyrs was released on April 12th, 2017, and is the third book in the Plantagenet Embers series. Welcome, Samantha.

How have you found the publishing process so far?

Now that I’ve been through the process a few times, I enjoy taking responsibility for my work from start to finish. Self-publishing offers many challenges in editing, formatting, and design, but it also offers incredible creative freedom. I used to spend days getting things to look just right, but once I came up with a system of formatting from the moment I begin a new project it became much simpler. The independent writing community is extremely supportive, and I have received help and encouragement from more people than I can say.

What inspired you to write this story?

A friend recommended that I write about Queen Mary upon completing Faithful Traitor. I was already gearing up to travel back to the beginning of the Plantagenet dynasty when he pointed out that I had left readers wanting to know more about what happened to that little girl whom Margaret Pole had loved as if she were her own. At first, I dismissed the idea, not having much interest in carrying on into the Tudor dynasty and certain that Mary’s story must have already been told. What I found when I began looking for historical fiction sympathetic to Mary’s point of view was that I was wrong. I quickly became passionate about filling that void.

Can you tell us a little about your novels?

What has become the Plantagenet Embers trilogy, began with a desire to write about one woman, Elizabeth of York. Hers was a story that had gone largely untold despite her proximity to kings, tragedy, and mystery. When she was mentioned, it was often as an inactive bystander to events. I wanted to look at the tumultuous events of the end of the Wars of the Roses and the beginning of the Tudor dynasty more deeply from her personal point of view. By the time I had completed Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen, I knew that I had to carry on with the story of Margaret Pole, a woman overlooked to an even greater extent than her royal cousin. Before I knew it, I was looking at a trilogy of the York remnant rather than a stand-alone novel.

Each of these novels is told from a close third person point of view. Therefore, the reader sees history play out as it would have been seen by the protagonist. I do not jump to a battle scene but wait with Elizabeth as she prays for her husband’s safe return. Margaret is left to wonder what is going on at court and get her news where she can, so the focus of her story is not on Henry VIII’s scandals outside of where they personally impact Margaret. Mary’s story is told the same way, though, in her case, she does become the reigning monarch. Each woman’s personality colors the way they interpret and react to well-known historical events.

Are you a full-time author?

I would have to say sort of. I do not have a job outside of writing, but I do have three children. My working hours are generally limited to when I do not have any of them home or housework to do, but that is another great benefit of a writing career. It easily fits within and around the other demands upon my time. I look forward to truly writing full time in a few years when they are all off to college.

How do you approach your writing and research? Do you plan strategically or do you wait to see where the muse takes you?

As I suspect is true with most authors, I do a little bit of both. I begin with researching the person that I have chosen to write about. Because I live in the US and write about England, that generally means ordering lots of books rather than research trips, though I was blessed enough to take a trip to the UK in 2015. I begin with a detailed timeline of my protagonist’s life, including both personal events, such as marriages and childbirths, and the broader historical events going on around them. Based on these facts, I begin to create personalities and motivations that make sense to me, evolving that timeline into a personal story. In each book, characters have blossomed into more than I thought they might be when I began. Cecily of York is an example of that from my first book. I did not plan to make her a major character or to give her such a spunky personality, but she has ended up a readers’ favorite. The same thing happened when I was able to bring Catherine Gordon, the wife of Perkin Warbeck, into Margaret’s story. I hadn’t previously realized how much their stories intertwined. It is fascinating to see where that stark list of facts can take my characters.

Have you ever been tempted to write in another genre?

I started out writing another genre because I was intimidated by my beloved historical fiction. My first published work is middle-grade inspirational fiction titled No Such Thing as Perfect. I also published a middle-grade historical fiction novel, Over the Deep, before convincing myself that I needed to explore my true passion. I’m so glad I did! There is no place I would rather be lost than in historic England.

Though I do not ever see myself stepping away from writing about history, I am also taking the plunge into nonfiction with a group project coming out this summer from Pen & Sword Books. The British Stripped Bare will be a look at romance throughout the history of Britain, and I am privileged to work on it with a group of wonderful writers. My personal contribution will be a look at the barriers to making a marriage in Tudor England and a few scandalous couples who snuck around them.

What part of the research process is the most enjoyable?

It is a joy to see historical figures come to life centuries after they are gone, even if it is only in my imagination. I love finding little tidbits of information in biographies that make great story elements, such as the fact that Margaret Pole and Catherine Gordon served Princess Mary together or Elizabeth of York’s odd final progress while she was ill and pregnant. A great biography can be just as compelling as historical fiction, and I appreciate the glimpse into the way people thought and lived differently. I especially enjoy exploring the way faith was such an important facet of their lives. This especially comes out in Mary’s story, of course, with her attempt at counter-reformation, but each of these women made many of their important life decisions based on teachings of the church. It is such an entirely different worldview than we hold today, and I find it captivating.

Favourite author?

Like any incurable bibliophile, I have many, but I am also devoted to trying new authors. Sharon Kay Penman is probably the greatest inspiration for my writing. My style is my own, but her dedication to extensive research and giving life to those long dead is a philosophy I have attempted to emulate. I also adore the writing of CJ Sansom. His Matthew Shardlake has to be my most beloved fictional character. When he is hurt or disappointed, my heart aches. Toni Mount’s new Seb Foxley series greatly reminds me of Shardlake, so I have a growing attachment to her books as well.

Of course, every writer also has their favorite classic authors. Mine is Charlotte Bronte. Villette is a book that spoke directly to my soul, and I love the eloquent use of descriptive language in each of the Brontes’ novels. They have a way of writing about matters of the heart that make the reader say, ‘Yes! That’s just how it feels!’ Edith Wharton is another favorite. I love the slow build and inevitable heartbreak.

Favourite quote?

That’s a tough one! I would have to say Hebrews 10:24. ‘Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.’

Favourite movie?

I’m not much of a movie fan, though I have a soft spot for Star Wars. I prefer period dramas, such as Downton Abbey, The Borgias, Victoria, John Adams, North and South, The Crown, and even the questionably accurate The Tudors.

*****

Bio91g5WEFpLjL._UX250_

Samantha Wilcoxson is an American writer and history enthusiast. She has written three novels and works as a freelance writer. Living with her husband on a small lake in Michigan with three kids, two cats, and two dogs, Samantha has plenty of writing inspiration.

‘Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen’ has been named an Editors’ Choice by the Historical Novel Society. This most recent of Wilcoxson’s novels has been long-listed for the 2016 HNS Indie Award.

Amazon Author Page

Universal Book Links

Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen

FaithfulTraitor

QueenOfMartyrs

Untitled design

To find out more about Samantha please see:

Facebook: Plantagenet Embers

Twitter

Goodreads

Youtube

Blog