Lest We Forget

By Clare Langley-Hawthorne

We’ve had some terrific blog posts this last week and, if I hadn’t been in London, I would have commented more because there has been some great advice. Yesterday James made the observation that it takes a great deal of courage to be a writer and I think it’s a particularly difficult brand of (non-lethal…) bravery that is required – because in the world of writing the public and the personal overlap. Publishing means that your work is out for all to see (for better and for worse) and, if criticism of you work feels personal, praise feeds your dreams and ego in a way that no other job ever could.

Being in London the week before Remembrance Day has meant, however, that my own writing has been informed by the courage of those who have served and died in the service of their country. I came to London to celebrate my birthday as well as undertake some research at the Imperial War Museum. As it turned out, I have been surrounded by references and material relating to the First World War that has (serendipitously) fed into almost all my books: from my current WIP which is set against the backdrop of the outbreak of war in 1914; to the sequel to Lady Coppers and the fourth Ursula book which are both set in the midst of ‘the Great War’.
The excitement of undertaking research never fails to inspire me. At the Imperial War Museum, I was reading the diary of a female policewoman stationed at a munitions factory during the First World War and was delighted to find a special pass for her dog ‘Rip’ in the files (along with an official studio portrait of the dog!). Only this kind of hands-on research can reveal the eccentricities of the real people who help me create my characters. It seems strangely appropriate that everywhere I turn at the moment there is a reminder of Edwardian Britain. Indeed, sometimes I have to wonder – did I pick the historical period for my books or did it pick me?

Unlike my fellow bloggers I don’t have any pearls of wisdom to share, but rather a couple of questions: Have you ever felt a period, place or person resonate so acutely that you were drawn to write about it? What real people or real events inform your writing?

For me, it would seem that it is the Great War that is calling me and, especially as Remembrance Day approaches, the ghosts of the past insist that I heed the call…Lest we forget.

Just Released – The Serpent and The Scorpion!

By Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Well it’s blatant self promotion and birth announcement time! I’m so excited the second Ursula Marlow mystery, The Serpent and The Scorpion, comes out tomorrow and I can’t help myself! It’s hard sometimes to remember that it takes such a long time, 18 months typically, from manuscript to print, so for an author it’s like a very, very long pregnancy (and trust me I know what that feels like having had twins!) So now it’s time to celebrate – and I confess a few glasses of champagne have already been drunk (and the book isn’t officially in stores until Tuesday!)

When describing The Serpent and The Scorpion, Kirkus Reviews wrote “Pre-World War I England is a seething cauldron of conflicting ideologies as Bolsheviks, suffragettes, socialists and merchants of death battle for control.” I couldn’t have summed it up better – and reading this it’s obvious why I was drawn to this period in history!

All this month however I’m going to explore the themes in the book rather than the historical period in question – because I’m fascinated how, as an author, I find certain elements in a book suddenly coming to the fore. In my first book, Consequences of Sin, there were past betrayals and lost innocence. In The Serpent and the Scorpion, Ursula Marlow is still recovering from the events in Consequences and trying to make her way in the world as an independent businesswoman (a rarity in Edwardian English Society). The themes in this book are therefore a little different – the betrayals are more personal, the stakes are higher and Ursula is now older and wiser – yet still all too vulnerable. So I get to explore lust and greed, the pursuit of power and the cold calculation of those who relish the prospect of war with Germany. Whoever said history was dull and stuffy!

Next week I will be focusing on the theme of lust in my books: not just lust for another person but also lust for power, independence and revolution. The Serpent and The Scorpion is set in 1912 against a backdrop of socialist activism, militancy amongst the suffragettes and an escalating arms race. Oh and there are a couple of murders thrown in for good measure. My mother-in-law advised me when I started the manuscript for The Serpent and The Scorpion that I also needed “more sex…tastefully done of course!” and I’m pleased to say this aspect of lust is also taken care of. Ursula Marlow is named after a DH Lawrence character after all…

October is a big month for my fellow Killzone authors with Joe Moore and Kathryn Lilley having new books released as well, so it will be ‘champers’ all round for us here! Over the next few weeks I’ll be traveling on tour so I hope to meet some of you in person as well as in the blogsphere. For all the details about events, locations and times please visit my website at: www.clarelangleyhawthorne.com