Work in progress
I’ve spent November in the fascinating city of Granada, in southern Spain. Not in reality, alas, but in my head. Granada is the wonderfully evocative backdrop for the next Helen Oddfellow adventure.
I visited in January and fell in love with its hidden alleyways, Arab-style architecture and multi-layered history. I couldn’t resist sending Helen there – but she doesn’t get the relaxing break she was hoping for! She’s soon on the trail of the legendary Book of Nothing, hidden at the time of the book-burnings in the medieval city and reputed to hold dangerous, ancient knowledge…
I decided to write the first draft of the novel in a month-long daily writing sprint, which is a new writing method for me. It was a challenge, but I wrote 50,000 words, around 2,000 words a day with two days off. It’s a very messy first draft, but it gives me a great base to work from.
Dickens in Kent
From Helen in Granada, to Charles Dickens in Kent. Dickens inspired my latest novel Folly Ditch, so I spent a lot of time researching his life. This month I’m giving two talks to local history groups about Dickens’ Kent connections.
Did you know Dickens was caught up in one of the first train crashes? He was travelling in the Folkestone to London boat train (the train that met the boat from France) when it derailed on a viaduct in Staplehurst, Kent. Dickens was in a carriage that was stuck half-on, half-off the bridge, and scrambled out to help other passengers. Eight people died and many more were injured. Afterwards Dickens – incredibly – climbed back into the carriage to rescue the manuscript of his work-in-progress, Our Mutual Friend. Even more intriguing, Dickens was not travelling alone, but with Nellie Ternan, now thought been his mistress. Disasters can unmask secrets, however well hidden.
I’ll be talking about Dickens at Deal’s Astor Theatre on Thursday 15 December, as part of the regular The History Project evenings. Tickets here.
Recommendations: what I’m enjoying now
One fictional character that no-one seems to get tired of is Sherlock Holmes. I enjoyed the latest outing for Sherlock and friends, Netflix’s Enola Holmes 2, which gives us the further adventures of Sherlock’s younger sister Enola, who wants to beat her big brother at the detecting game.
Enola, daughter of an undercover suffragette with a nice line in pyrotechnics, investigates the disappearance of a match girl from a factory where an outbreak of ‘typhus’ is killing off the workers. The film is great fun if you fancy a winter evening lounging on the sofa.
I’ve also discovered another enjoyable Sherlock spin-off. Liz Hedgecock’s A House of Mirrors puts Holmes’ landlady Mrs Hudson centre stage as a redoubtable sleuth in her own right. But is she really Mrs Hudson? Not everything is as it seems in this clever introduction to the series. I’ll be back for more.
History and Mystery promotion
Talking of series, my Helen Oddfellow series is part of the History Crime And Mystery Series promotion with Bookfunnel this month. The promotion is a great way to discover your new favourite series. Find out more here.