Monday, August 18, 2014

GUEST POST: The Governess and the Stalker by Mark Morey

The Governess and the Stalker Research and Inspiration

The late Victorian period is not often used as a setting for novels, despite the massive hypocrisies of the time.  This is why I chose to write the Governess and the Stalker and set it in 1879, and I challenged myself to write a gothic mystery within this setting.  By the time of this novel the Industrial Revolution has been underway for nearly a century, and that, along with the expansion of the British Empire, meant that England was awash with wealth.  Despite this wealth the working classes had never been poorer, and life was tough with long hours, poor pay, squalid accommodation and the threat of financial disaster which could arise from illness or accident.  And if financial disaster struck, even if it was entirely out a person’s making such as the character in my story Constance West, then the poor were consigned to the workhouse and literally blamed for falling destitute.  Part of my inspiration for writing the Governess and the Stalker was the message that we should not erode the many gains of the past century and a half.  There are times when I feel that some in our society would like that to happen, because with low wages and low taxes business can make more profit.  There is more to a just society than ever-increasing profit for business.

The collapse of the bridge over the Firth of Tay in December 1879 has fascinated me for some time.  It was an engineering masterpiece, the longest bridge in the world at the time, and six months after it opened it was blown down in a storm.  It was blown down because the designer miscalculated the wind stresses on the structure.  The Victorians placed great emphasis on personal responsibility, so one man could make one mistake and it could result in a disaster such as this one.  We have learned a lot since then.

I started work on this story five years ago by writing the storm sequence and the collapse of the Tay Bridge.  I read a book on railway disasters and I also visited some websites on the Tay Bridge disaster which gave me more information.  When I commenced writing the story proper I bought the book ‘Victorian London’ by Liza Pickard, for general background to life in that city at the time.  I supplanted this with online research, and came across a particular gem which was a newspaper article describing the Old Nichol slum.  I used those words written at the time because I couldn’t do better myself, so the gaunt family making boot uppers actually existed.  I find that chilling.  The Old Nichol slum was demolished a few years later at the prompting of journalist William Stead, but this wasn’t a good thing.  Instead the former inhabitants of Old Nichol were forced to crowd into other East End slums because that was all they could afford, and this overcrowding made life worse rather than better.

For the haunted house sequence I discovered a website which covered an actual, haunted house, so my story has real ghosts.  Like the Old Nichol description, using reality in historical fiction makes a story seem more real.

A major part of this story comes out of me being an Australian author, and having been to Britain many times I realise that my country’s past, our culture and even our sense of humour is very much like Britain.  It was quite easy to transplant my personal heritage to another place and time, and the Governess and the Stalker and its sequel, Maidens in the Night, are the end results of this.

I hope that readers enjoy the mystery I have written, and I also hope they enjoy their journeys through the streets of London in 1879.

The Governess And The Stalker
By Mark Morey
Genre: Historical Crime / Mystery

Book Synopsis

It is the first of June 1879 and twenty-year old former governess Michelle Blissett has just wed her master James Devine.  Tragically James dies on their wedding night.  Jesse West, recently discharged from the workhouse, is proud that he killed his father and is looking forward to killing Michelle and her step-children.
Michelle Devine relocates her household to London.  Michelle’s brother-in-law Luke then runs up gambling debts which Michelle settles by travelling to Edinburgh to pay the enigmatic Brian Finlay.  Michelle narrowly escapes death when the bridge over the Firth of Tay collapses while a train is crossing, and she returns to London for a new start to her life.  She forms a friendship with handsome young Paul Lawrence before a ragged stranger threatens her.  Michelle and her step-children move to Paul Lawrence’s manor in the Cotswolds before Jesse West tracks them down.  Paul Lawrence injures Jesse badly but Jesse slips away to recover.
The sins we do come back to haunt us.

Author Biography

I am part-time in the workforce and a part-time author, and writing technical documentation and advertising material formed a large part of my career for many decades. Writing a novel didn’t cross my mind until relatively recently, where the combination of too many years writing dry, technical documents and a visit to the local library where I couldn’t find a book that interested me led me consider a new pastime. Write a book. That book may never be published, but I felt my follow-up cross-cultural crime with romance hybrid set in Russia had more potential. So much so that I wrote a sequel that took those characters on a journey to a very dark place.

The Red Sun Will Come and Souls in Darkness were published by Club Lighthouse in mid-2012.  My next novel, The Governess and The Stalker will be published by Wings ePress in July 2014.  A sequel Maidens in the Night is due to be published later this year, and at the moment I am working on a historical fiction manuscript set in Italy during the 1930s.

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