As a writer of historical fiction for children the past intrigues me. It is what makes us who we are; it shapes our future and gives us a road map to tentatively follow as we move into the future.
If I could step into my imaginary DeLorean time machine right now the year I would return to would be 1848. I would travel back to the murky realms of Victorian London, to the time when the four main characters in my novel Ginny, Theo, Archie and Millie lived.
The first thing I would do is walk along the banks of the river Thames, and wait hesitantly to see which shadowy figure would emerge from the dense fog.
Would it be Badblood, the cruel ringmaster and proprietor of Badblood’s Circus? or Ginny the girl with a little bird called blue living inside of her?
Then I would pick up a copy of The Illustrated London News and read all about the Cholera Epidemic that was rampant at the time. I would finish the day off with a trip to the circus to witness the horrors that awaited the characters in my novel first hand.
This fascination that I have with the creepy Victorians; stems from my childhood. I grew up as an only child in a large Victorian House in the North-West of England. As a child I would sneak up the stairs to the attic with my favourite Victorian novel gripped in my hand. I devoured children’s literature everyday until eventually the fictional characters and stories of the crumbling Victorian Era became so entrenched in my imagination that I knew I had to write my own children’s novel set in the past.
When I am writing a historical novel I don’t have the luxury of a time machine, therefore, I have to use my imagination to fill in the blanks.
Research is an important part of the process, and it is something that I enjoy. I have been known to spend hours in the library sifting through history books and newspaper articles. Part of my research involves reading works of fiction that were written at the time that my novel was set. For the Victorian Era I read books by authors such as Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll.
One of my favourite Children’s Books set in the Victorian Era is “The Little Princess” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It tells the tale of Sara Crewe, an intelligent and resourceful girl who lives like a princess. Her world is turned upside down when her devoted father dies and she is forced to live a life of poverty in a tiny attic room.
Despite the challenges that she faces, Sara remains resilient, hopeful and benevolent. A Little Princess moved me on so many levels as a child. It taught me that it is possible to overcome adversity and Burnett’s portrayal of Sara Crewe as a girl trying to navigate a world over which she has no control is still as relevant to children today as it was when it was first published. The Little Princess is a hopeful book and I have re-read it many times over the years and I feel a real connection with this classic work of Children’s Literature.
I wrote my debut novel “The Ghosts of Magnificent Children” when I was completing an MA in Creative Writing in UCD. It is set in the past and I hope you have as much fun reading it and I did writing it.
About Caroline Busher:
Caroline Busher is an award winning writer and curator for Wexford Literary Festival; she graduated with a First Class Honours MA in Creative Writing from UCD and is represented by Trace Literary Agency- USA. Her first book “The Ghosts of Magnificent Children” (Poolbeg Press) is out now. You can learn more about Caroline here: www.carolinebusher.wordpress.com
About The Ghosts of Magnificent Children:
The year is 1848. It is a time when magic and ghosts exist.
Four Magnificent Children are captured by Badblood’s Circus. Theo can look into your eyes and reveal your secret thoughts, which come out of his mouth like a swarm of bees.
Ginny has a bird called Blue living inside her. Her ribs are woven together to form a birdcage. Blue perches on a swing made from one of her ribs.
And the Thought-reading Twins, Archie and Millie Luxbridge, have an extraordinary ability to read each other’s minds.
They become stars of the circus but are unaware that Badblood has a dark and secret plan.
One hundred years later the children’s ghosts appear on an island off the coast of Ireland where a boy called Rua befriends them. Rua discovers that a terrible fate awaits them and, in a desperate race against time, he struggles to learn how they may be saved.