Today, I’m delighted to welcome Meredith Allard to the blog with a fascinating post about her new, festive book, Christmas at Hembry Castle.
There’s a joke I’ve seen on Pinterest, a cartoon of a writer watching TV. The character says, “I’m researching!” to the cynical-looking people standing nearby. For those of us who write fiction, we know that watching TV or movies, listening to music, or going for walks really is research because all of it becomes part of the writing process. Writers, especially fiction writers, need their imagination fueled regularly, and it’s the little things we do, such as stealing an hour here or there to watch a favorite TV show or listen to our favorite music, that help to fill the creative well so that we have a brain full of ideas when we sit down to write.
When it comes time to write, especially if I’m writing an historical story, I try to immerse myself in the time period as much as possible. If I feel as if I’ve traveled back in time, then it’s easier for me to carry my readers along with me on the journey. Here are some of the places I found inspiration while writing my Victorian story Christmas at Hembry Castle. I wrote Christmas at Hembry Castle with the deliberate intention of putting my own spin on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which made the task more challenging, but it was a challenge I relished because I adore Dickens and especially A Christmas Carol. In fact, Edward Ellis, one of the main characters, is based on a young Dickens. Here are some of the resources I used for Christmas at Hembry Castle.
Up and Down Stairs: The History of the Country House Servant by Jeremy Musson
What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool
How To Be a Victorian: A Dusk-to-Dawn Guide to Victorian Life by Ruth Goodman (one of my new favorite historians—she lives what she studies)
The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens’ London and Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England by Judith Flanders
The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England From 1811-1901 by Kristine Hughes
To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace
Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir That Inspired “Upstairs, Downstairs” and “Downton Abbey” by Margaret Powell
The Essential Handbook of Victorian Etiquette by Thomas E. Hill
When reading novels, I look for books written during the era I’m writing about as well as novels written about the era. Other times I’ll find inspiration in a novel that isn’t necessarily set in that time but there’s something about the story that provides some ideas.
The Buccaneers and The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Snobs by Julian Fellowes
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Television and Film
For me, TV and film are the same as fiction—some of what I watch is set in the era, some is not, but all stir my imagination in one way or another.
The miniseries of The Buccaneers
North and South
Lark Rise to Candleford
A Christmas Carol (the animated version, as well as the one with Patrick Stewart and my personal favorite—A Muppets Christmas Carol)
Since my Victorian story is set in the 1870s, people were dancing to waltzes and polkas. Strauss and Chopin were favorite composers, which works well for me since I love to listen to classical music. And of course, many of our favorite Christmas carols that we sing today were quite popular during the Victorian era such as “Silent Night” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”
I adore Pinterest. For me, Pinterest isn’t social media as much as something I do for fun because I love it so much. When I needed to describe the sitting room at Hembry Castle or if I needed an idea of what a Victorian sitting room decorated for Christmas might look like, I simply needed to go onto my research board, find the pin for the photograph I wanted to use as inspiration, and describe what I saw. If you’re writing your novel on Scrivener, you can import those photos directly into your novel file so they’re readily available when you need them.
Wow, it sounds like you had great fun writing your new book. Good luck with it, and have a lovely Christmas:)
Here’s the blurb:
You are cordially invited to Christmas at Hembry Castle.
An unlikely earl struggles with his new place. A young couple’s love is tested. What is a meddling ghost to do?
In the tradition of A Christmas Carol, travel back to Victorian England and enjoy a lighthearted, festive holiday celebration.
Meet the Author
Meredith Allard is the author of the bestselling paranormal historical Loving Husband Trilogy. Her sweet Victorian romance, When It Rained at Hembry Castle, was named a best historical novel by IndieReader. Her latest book, Painting the Past: A Guide for Writing Historical Fiction, was named a #1 new release in Authorship and Creativity Self-Help on Amazon. When she isn’t writing she’s teaching writing, and she has taught writing to students ages five to 75. She loves books, cats, and coffee, though not always in that order. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Visit Meredith online at www.meredithallard.com.
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