On Hist Fic Saturday I am excited to welcome back to the blog historical fiction writer
Susan has just published her latest historical novel, Faith, Hope and Trickery and I am thrilled that she has taken the time to talk to me about why she writes historical fiction.
Why I write historical fiction by Susan Grossey
When you think of the Regency period, what comes to mind? I’m guessing that you’re now imagining Jane Austen, or perhaps the astonishing confection that is the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, or maybe the rather portly George IV, or even any one of dozens of heated romances with titles like “The Wicked Marquis and the Innocent Maid”. And if I say “historical detective”, is it Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot who leaps into view? A genre that you rarely see is a mash-up of the two – Regency detective – and yet this is precisely the space in which I find myself writing.
I cannot claim to have thought of it myself. Rather, the timing was foist upon me by real history. In my day job I work as an anti-money laundering consultant (basically, I advise institutions on how to avoid criminal money) and I was doing some research for a client into the history of banking fraud. And I came across the story of Henry Fauntleroy, a London banker who took advantage of his clients’ lack of understanding around the latest financial technology – share certificates – to pinch their assets. He was caught in 1824 and put on trial, at a time when fraud carried the death penalty. (Those were the days….) His story formed the basis of my first historical crime novel – “Fatal Forgery” – and when I realised that I had fallen in love with my narrator, Constable Sam Plank, I decided to write six more books about him. And there he was, firmly anchored in the Regency period.
But if it was not my choice, it was certainly my very great fortune – what a gift of a period! The two strands that thread through all five of the novels I have written so far (there are two more to go) are policing and finance, and both were experiencing enormous, exciting change in the Regency period. In policing terms it was post-Bow Street Runners and pre-Metropolitan Police, with London kept in check by magistrates and their constables (of which Sam is one, based at the magistrates’ office in Great Marlborough Street – now the Courthouse Hotel). And in finance, people were coming to terms with all sorts of innovations: share certificates, paper banknotes and amazing investment opportunities (railways! gas lighting!). As you can imagine, there is tremendous scope for writing about all sorts of financial crime.
So why do I love living in the past? First of all, I love research. I live in a university city with access to the most amazing library, and I like nothing more than a day spent in the newspaper archive or the rare books room, looking at actual publications that someone handled and read in the 1820s. It’s like putting together the most complicated and satisfying jigsaw, with every detail that I learn helping to make the picture that little bit clearer. I can take nothing for granted. Even writing a simple sentence like “Sam sat down with his wife after dinner and she poured him a welcome cup of tea” involves all sorts of checking. When did men of his class eat their main meal in the 1820s? Did they have cups? Did they have tea? Did they have it every day, or was it a special treat? And you know what readers of historical fiction are like – they expect to get both a story and reliable information for their money, so I’d better get it right!
And secondly, I have always preferred the past to the future. I have probably read no more than a handful of novels set in the future, whereas my shelves (stairs, tables, footstools...) are groaning with historical fiction. I like to learn as I read, and I like to escape. Nothing allows me to do this quite as effectively as good historical fiction. Like all readers I have favoured eras: I’m a sucker for anything eighteenth century, and went through quite a long phase of “first world war but on the home front”. But when it comes to my own writing, I’m drawn back time and again to the Regency – so why not tie that wonderful white cravat, gentlemen, or adjust that feather-trimmed bonnet, ladies, and join me.
Susan has written five Sam Plank novels, set in subsequent years in the 1820s: “Fatal Forgery”, “The Man in the Canary Waistcoat”, “Worm in the Blossom”, “Portraits of Pretence” and “Faith, Hope and Trickery”.
|CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform|
Rose Welford, the wife of a bootmaker, is smothered in her bed in the summer of 1828. Her husband quickly confesses to the crime, claiming that a message from beyond the grave told him to do it. At ever more popular gatherings in fields, factories and fine houses, a charismatic preacher with a history of religious offences seems to be at the heart of it all – but who, and what, can be believed when fortunes are at stake?
In this fifth novel in the series, Constable Sam Plank is drawn into matters beyond his understanding when his wife Martha hears a message of her own and his junior constable Wilson makes a momentous choice.
Susan has her own blog here
You can purchase her novels (in paperback and various e-editions) here
And you can follow Sam himself on Twitter, where he appears as @ConstablePlank
Huge thanks to Susan for being my guest today and for continuing to entertain us with the wonderful Sam Plank Regency Crime series.