I’ve invited historical novelist Marilyn Pemberton onto my Friday Reads blog today to tell us about her debut fictional novel, The Jewel Garden. This is Marilyn’s second book, she has previously had a non-fiction book published on Mary de Morgan, whose life this book is based on..
It was a time when women were starting to rebel against Victorian conventions and to strive for their independence. This is a story of Hannah Russell’s physical, emotional and artistic journey from the back streets of the East End of London to the noisy souks and sandy wastes of Egypt; from the labyrinthine canals of Venice to the lonely corridors of Russell Hall in Kent. Hannah thinks she has found love with Mary De Morgan, a writer of fairy tales and one of William Morris’s circle of friends. But where there is devotion there can also be deceit and where there is hope there also dwells despair.
Meet the Author
Marilyn Pemberton has always worked in IT and is still a full-time project manager. However, at the age of 40 she decided she wanted to exercise the right side of her brain and so commenced a part-time BA in English literature. This progressed to an MA and then to a PhD on the utopian & dystopian aspects of Victorian fairy tales. After giving a paper at a conference she was approached by a publisher who suggested she gather together some lesser known fairy tales and as a result Enchanted Ideologies: A Collection of Rediscovered Nineteenth-Century English Moral Fairy Tales was published by The True Bill Press in 2010.
During her research Marilyn “discovered” Mary De Morgan, a Victorian writer of fairy tales, amongst many other things. She became somewhat obsessed with De Morgan and as she wanted to share her research she wrote Out of the Shadows: The Life and Works of Mary De Morgan, which was published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing in 2012. Despite her intensive research there were still many gaps in her knowledge and because she just could not let De Morgan, or the act of writing, go she decided to write a fictional novel based on De Morgan’s life – the result being The Jewel Garden.
I asked Marilyn to tell us a bit more about herself
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
No. I was always quite good at writing at school but when it came to choosing a career I went down the road lined with computers. It was having finished my PhD in my early fifties that I wrote a biography and after that I realised that I loved the act of writing and didn’t want to stop. Up until this time I had always written academic texts and I really didn’t know if I could write anything imaginative, so I joined Ann Evans’ writing group and the rest, as they say, is history.
A good move. Ann is a very talented writer and writing tutor, so you are in professional hands there. 🙂
Has any author inspired you?
I have been reading since the year dot so it is difficult to pinpoint one author, but if I had to choose I would have to say someone like George MacDonald (another Victorian who wrote the most marvellous mystical tales) or Margaret Atwood.
What do you like writing most?
I love writing my novel because I love to immerse myself in the world I am writing about. The novel I am writing now is also historical; I enjoy doing research and finding out strange and interesting things about life in earlier times. However, since going to Ann Evans’s writing group I have also discovered a love of writing poetry and short stories – but if I could only write one, it would be a novel every time.
Do you have a special place for writing?
Yes. I live in a Victorian terraced house and I have turned what we used to call the “box” room at the book into a study. It overlooks the countryside (if you look out at a slight angle).
Are you a pantster or a plotter?
Definitely a plotter.
Is your writing ever inspired by your family or real life incidents?
Definitely my novels are triggered by real life events and many of my poems and short stories are based on events or feelings I have experienced.
What are you writing at the moment?
Another historical novel. A few years ago I was listening to Radio 3 and heard someone say that in the past they, whoever they were, used to buy a young boy from a poor Italian family, castrate him and train him to sing in cathedral choirs, because the voice of a castrato was meant to be sublimely beautiful. I thought this would make a fabulous story and am now writing a purely fictional account of two cousins, one of whom is a success and the other who isn’t. It will be a story of their relationship with each other and with others, of love, jealousy, deceit and a few murders along the way.
It sounds fascinating, Marilyn.
What inspired you to write this book?
Hearing something on Radio 3.
What time of the day do you write best?
Weekends. I am not someone who catches ten minutes here, and ten minutes there. I am better if I can sit down knowing I have the whole day ahead of me. Preferably the whole weekend.
What are your hobbies?
Long-distance walking. I have done a lot of “writing” in my head as I have tramped across fields and clambered over stiles.
What advice would you give to other writers?
I doubt if I can say anything that hasn’t been said before but the best thing I ever did was join a writing group. If you are lucky you will find a group of people who will support and encourage you, provide valuable feedback, give you ideas, give you a boost or bring you down to earth when you need it.
You can find out more about Marilyn here:
Twitter – mapemberton54 https://twitter.com/mapemberton54
Blog – writingtokeepsane.wordpress.com
Bring a little sunshine into your life with one of my sassy, feel good romances. From Amazon and other book stories. Only 99p on Kindle. All books available in print too.