As any reader of my Dulcie Schwartz mysteries must have figured out, I love a good Gothic – the weirder and scarier, the better! Well, I first heard of Laura Purcell from a publicist. Was I interested in reviewing her upcoming The Poison Thread, described as a Victorian Gothic? Well, no, I didn’t have the space and no editor had assigned it – but I’d try to work it into my summer preview. Then that went awry (turns out, the assignment wasn’t for a preview exactly) and it didn’t even end up making the version that I’ve shared with Lesa Holstine’s blog. But by then I had an actual advance copy of the book. And one night I picked it up and stayed up way too late. Yes, it’s that good – spooky and scary and just good fun! And so when the publicist reached out again, I said, “No, but….” So here’s an author I’ve never met, but I’m proud to introduce her to you here anyway!
How does a book start for you?
It’s a strange process and a bit different each time. I tend to see an interesting object or hear an anecdote that I think would work well in a book. Then I try to develop it, and often end up linking it with other story ideas to make a fully formed plot. The next step is to flesh out potential characters and conflict. In the end, if I think the basic outline could work I discuss it with my agent to get her opinion before I start writing.
Who in your latest book has surprised you most – and why?
The character of Dorothea surprised me as in my original conception of the story, she started off in a very minor role. I promoted her to ‘framing device’ but then she took on a real life of her own and ended up hijacking the finale.
When and/or where is your latest book set and is there a story behind that setting?
THE POISON THREAD is set during the 1840s in a fictional city called Oakgate. I chose this period as my main character is a dressmaker, and this was about the time that the terrible working conditions for dressmakers began to become exposed in public. I also liked the fashion of the 1840s, which helped when I had to describe lots of clothing.
What are you working on now?
I’ve already written another book called BONE CHINA, which is releasing in the UK this September. It’s about a Georgian-era doctor who sets up a seaside colony to try and cure tuberculosis, but his experiments are thwarted by superstition and tales of fairies. I’m currently writing the next book, THE SHAPE OF DARKNESS, which features a silhouette artist and a child spirit-medium.
Which question didn’t I ask you that I should have?
I have a lot of stories about the research for THE POISON THREAD. I actually took classes to learn how to make a corded corset, went through a period of writing wearing a corset, and taught myself the pseudo-science of phrenology with a porcelain bust.
Laura Purcell is the author of The Silent Companions. She worked in local government, the financial industry and a bookshop before becoming a full-time writer. She lives in Colchester, the oldest recorded town in England, with her husband and pet guinea pigs. Fascinated by the darker side of royal history, Laura has also written two historical fiction novels about the Hanoverian dynasty.