February is here, and my wonderful next door neighbours of many years, Tim and Dawn, have finally tied the knot. Malane and I were honoured to be invited to the reception, which was really an extended-family affair, and we both wish them a very long and happy marriage. Having known them this long, and having now met their respective families (who all seem to accompany each other on holidays together), I have no doubt it will be.
When I first offered Gooseberry LibraryThing Early Reviewers (I can’t believe I actually did that in the September of last year, while I was still writing the final chapters), I was delighted to see that four readers of my Lizzie Blaylock novels requested a copy. Then of course I started panicking. Gooseberry, or Octavius, to give his his proper name, is rather different from Lizzie. I knew from their previous reviews that they liked Lizzie, so how would they take to Gooseberry? I needn’t have worried. They love him.
Recently I’ve been reflecting on how very extraordinary the process of writing (and of reading) is. One of the most surprising (and touching) things—for me—to come out of the reviews so far is how much the reviewers like Bertha. One reader was so taken with the character that she nominated Bertha as Villain-of-the-Year in a recent book poll (without giving too much of the game away, I would hastily point out the Bertha is not the novel’s villain, and yet the nomination seems entirely apt). Originally I intended Bertha to be a very different kettle of fish—young, blonde, petite, and pretty, but with quite stern features; the very opposite of Bertha, in fact—and to play only a very minor role as Johnny Knight’s girlfriend. If anyone is interested, that character got reused as the young sales assistant in the Thames Tunnel, who baulks at the thought of giving Gooseberry a receipt for a pencil. It required a great leap of imagination to re-cast Bertha as I did, and an even greater leap of faith that people would accept this re-casting, but clearly they have. So here’s what I’ve been reflecting on: I imagine a character in my head and then I build them with words. Readers read these words and, if the words are doing their jobs properly, they can build my character in their heads. The character steps off the page and out into the world. It takes on a life entirely its own, and yet shared by readers everywhere. Extraordinary.
Ah, this month’s article. Those of you who have visited my website before may already know this month’s article for Why the Victorians Saw Ghosts – An Illustrated Guide to 19th Century Spiritualism. It’s about Florence Cook, the young British medium famed for her full-body materializations of Katie King, whose story inspired me to write my first novel, The Bridge of Dead Things. Why the Victorians Saw Ghosts normally retails for US$2.99 in most online stores, but you can still download it for free from Smashwords.com. When it comes time to pay, just use coupon code: TD22X. A technical word of warning: go for the ePub version if at all possible; for reasons beyond my control it is vastly superior to the MOBI.
Remember, you can always message me on the Contact Me form or you can send me an email. Both Malane, who designs this website for me, and I really look forward to hearing from you, and I will always try to respond.