I'm very happy to welcome Mary to Wondrous Reads as part of her Velvet blog tour, and I hope you enjoy the interview!
Hello Mary! Where did your interest in history and historical fiction first come from?
Probably after reading WITCH CHILD (Celia Rees). It made me see that historical fiction could be just as gripping as modern fiction. Besides, I was running out of ideas for modern stuff.
Have you noticed a recent surge in YA historical fiction popularity?
I haven't any facts or figures, but I'd like to think so. Certainly I'm getting more reviews and more emails and letters than when I started.
How much research does each of your books require?
This is a "how long is a piece of string" type question! One could keep things simple, just put people in period clothes sort of thing, or go the whole hog and research so closely that it would take days to write a paragraph. I usually take the middle ground: try and extract the essence of whatever time I'm writing about, pick some real people, find a few things that actually happened, get the fictional characters' names right, discover what they were wearing and what jobs they had, and then get going. I love researching and could happily go on for days; it's the best bit.
Your new book, Velvet, is quite haunting and seems like a change for you. What inspired it?
The idea for VELVET came about as I was writing FALLEN GRACE. One is about death/funerals/undertakers, the next about contacting the dead. I do like my books to have an "edge".
Velvet also includes a medium, Madame Savoya. Was this a popular profession during the Victorian period?
Absolutely. "Speaking to spirits" started in 1844 when two sisters in the US said that they were being contacted by a ghost, and quickly spread to the UK. It became very fashionable to consult a medium, and got to the stage where even Queen Victoria was said to have used a oujia board. Arthur Conan Doyle - the writer of Sherlock Holmes - was also a keen believer.
What is it about the Victorian period that you find so fascinating?
I find all history fascinating! All those funny little quirks. Maybe Seventeenth Century even more so than Victorian.
Can you tell us what you're working on next?
I have just started a book about a milkmaid whose sweetheart disappears, leaving her with his little sister to look after. She goes to London to look for him and...but I haven't quite decided what happens next, just that it all goes horribly wrong. It is set in 1813, which is Regency, and also involves the "hulks" or prison ships, which were moored in the River Thames.