Today it's my pleasure to be handing over the reins of the blog to Evie Grace for the latest stop on her Half a Sixpence blog tour.
When I started writing Catherine’s story I wanted to convey a strong sense of how she would have lived, what she would have worn, used and eaten, so I set about looking at the different resources available to take me back into the nineteenth century.
There is a mass of information on the internet, of course, and I had to pick and choose which sources to use. I used books as well, finding some gems about local history. I visited Faversham and the surrounding area to experience the sights and smells of the older parts of the town, the creek and the brewery that would have been in existence when Catherine Rook was there.
I read through Victorian recipes and investigated Canterbury brawn or ‘headcheese’ made by boiling up a pig’s head and setting the meat in a jelly. I sampled caraway cake, and decided that even if I hadn’t been a vegetarian, I wouldn’t have touched consommé of game where the birds would have been hung until their feet dropped off.
To bring Catherine to life, I visited antique shops and auctions and took every opportunity to look at items that she would have used at home. I have felt the weight of a flat-iron, turned the handle on a mangle, and wound up a nineteenth-century longcase clock. I have gazed at pretty and sentimental paintings created by journeyman artists, objects that Catherine’s family might have been proud to have had on the walls of their farmhouse. I’ve studied old maps of Faversham and Canterbury, which showed me how much the places have changed since Catherine’s lifetime.
This might not have been the best idea I’ve ever had because many of these Victorian items have made their way into my home, and are beginning to clutter the house!
There are many useful ‘how-to’ videos on YouTube. From these I learned how hops are grown, and how Catherine’s father would know that when they began to break apart and rustle between his fingers that they were ready to pick. From BBC series, such as Victorian Bakers, I found out how the baker in Catherine’s village would make and sell his bread.
Are the facts I’ve gleaned from my research reliable? I can’t be one hundred per cent certain, but when in doubt I cross-reference with other sources as far as possible.
Of course, as a writer, it is easy to do too much research, especially with so much fascinating material available. Distracted by information about tattoos and growing pineapples in English country houses, I had to tear myself away and get down to writing Catherine’s story.
I hope you enjoy the result.
True love sometimes comes at a price
East Kent, 1830
Catherine Rook takes her peaceful life for granted. Her days are spent at the village school and lending a hand on her family’s farm. Life is run by the seasons, and there’s little time for worry.
But rural unrest begins sweeping through Kent, and when Pa Rook buys a threshing machine it brings turbulence and tragedy to Wanstall Farm. With the Rooks’ fortunes forever changed, Catherine must struggle to hold her family together.
She turns to her childhood companion, Matty Carter, for comfort, and finds more than friendship in his loving arms. But Matty has his own family to protect, and almost as quickly as their love blossomed their future begins to unravel.
With the threat of destitution nipping at her heels, Catherine must forge a way out of ruin...