The Locket and the Flintlock is almost here. Which is a wonderful feeling. I’m so excited. I am incredibly proud of this novel. Clearly, I liked my first two novels, Truths and Ghosts of Winter but there is just something about my third novel that makes it my favourite.
Perhaps I’m a better writer now than I was two years ago. I’ll leave that to the reader to judge. Certainly, practice makes perfect and the expert guidance of my wonderful editor, Ruth Sternglantz, has helped a lot. Instead of something to wrangle into shape, words have become a tool. A paintbrush with which to paint a world in whatever tones and hues I choose, to colour that world with emotion and life.
As a historical novel, it would be tempting, I suppose to paint this one in shades of sepia, or the yellow of an old manuscript. It is certainly lovely to see history in that sort of soft glow. But for me, it’s never been like that. I love The Locket and the Flintlock because even though I crafted a romantic tale of Regency England, it is vibrant. Not just because it is also an adventure story with action and danger, but because I can see the colours of the leaves on the trees, the mist of the characters’ breath in the night air, the glinting of the light on a stolen ruby necklace. Those details are so important to me when I write historical fiction. Not to make it more “accurate” but to make it more real. I want to remove the “otherness” of history. I want my readers to see it as I do. A colourful world, full of detail. Not faded and distant.
In The Locket and the Flintlock I am especially excited to invite my readers into my favourite period of history: The Regency. That period in British history where the King was declared insane and the fat, indulgent Prince Regent reigned in his stead. The time of Jane Austen and Romanticism. Also the time of the Napoleonic Wars, the Industrial Revolution, rapid urbanisation and enclosure, of failed harvests, revolutionary poets, protest, a bloody penal system, and general unease. It’s a period which has always fascinated me and, in this novel, I wanted to bring together some of the aspects of it that make it such a wonderful time to explore. There is a gentlewoman who, on first appearances, could have walked out of a Jane Austen novel. But her world soon collides with the darker side of the Regency. Many are starving and turning to crime, risking the hangman’s noose in order to make a living. Workers are so dissatisfied with their treatment that they turn to machine-breaking in organised gangs, apparently swearing allegiance to a mysterious General Ludd who hides out in Sherwood Forest. The rules of civilised society still dictate that women often marry for money or social advancement. I wanted to lead my characters through this world and see how it affects them, and their developing love story.
I was also keenly aware that the Regency was a very fleeting period. Times would soon change. The Victorian era, arguably England’s greatest and most in/famous age, obscures the Regency from view in many histories of the nineteenth century. These years were the last years before photography and the window into the past it allows. The last years in which workers still laboured in their homes rather than factories. The last time it was feared Britain might have another revolution in the manner of the French. It was the last era that highway robbers still prowled the streets, before turnpikes and formal, organised policing wiped them out. The sense of time passing and things changing is something I wanted to capture in my writing too. A moment in time preserved forever, before things changed inexorably.
It will be up to my readers to tell me if I captured the essence of this period successfully. I’ve not loaded the novel with historical detail. I want you to feel the Regency, not read about it. I am so incredibly passionate about this time period, and in The Locket and the Flintlock I feel as though I’ve painted a colourful picture of it. I hope I have. It’s why I’m so especially proud of this book.
That, and because the overriding theme is all about freedom and making choices. I think a book captures a particular moment in its writer’s life. At the moment I’m all about freedom. When my characters gallop on horseback through the woodland…I can feel the wind in my hair with them.