On the book tour for Evie Grace’s new book called ‘The Lace Maiden’, Evie talks about she wrote about fact and fiction in her story.
As a writer it’s all too easy to be sucked into doing hours of research because it’s so fascinating, but what do you do with all those amazing snippets of information? When I was writing The Lace Maiden, I was sorely tempted to include them all, but then Louisa’s story would have read as a series of facts and dates, like an academic history book. I had to rein in my enthusiasm and plan how to weave fact and fiction together.
Fact can be defined as something that is perceived to be true, rather than being the actual truth. When I was researching the history of England’s smugglers in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, I was aware that the information I read wasn’t often written as it happened, the facts having been altered over the years by the telling and retelling of real events. Therefore, some of the sources I was looking at were probably fictional, something feigned or a product of the writer’s imagination.
My interest in Deal – the town in which I set The Lace Maiden – and the smugglers who ran contraband from France to the Kent coast was piqued by the story of the Aldington gang who came to the fore in the 1820s. Some accounts of smuggling romanticised the bravery and enterprise of the men and women who ran goods while others told what I think is a more accurate tale of threats, skulduggery and violence.
I was keen to link Louisa’s story in The Lace Maiden with the Aldington gang, but I didn’t for two reasons.
Firstly, they were just too unpleasant – they hid the bodies of their adversaries in wells, for example, and murdered Revenue officers. There was no way I could feel any respect or empathy for them, and I wouldn’t have enjoyed writing about them – I hope my readers feel the same!
Secondly, having read more about Deal and how its fortunes rose during the Napoleonic Wars, I decided this was a more exciting era in which to set The Lace Maiden. Involved in shipbuilding and equipping the naval fleet, Deal was a thriving port and army town.
Many people moved in, the population expanding rapidly. The bootmakers, ropemakers, market gardeners, chandlers and provisioners flourished. The smugglers found lucrative work in smuggling illegal imports of cognac, lace and silks from France to England and taking escaped French prisoners of war and gold in the opposite direction across the Channel. After Napoleon was defeated, trade dropped off and the people of Deal suffered greatly from an economic depression with many families becoming dependent on the poorhouse to save themselves from starvation.
When writing about Deal, I chose to use some real places, some of which can still be found today on a stroll through the town, but I also added fictional ones when the story required them. For example, the Three Kings on the seafront where Nelson once stayed is now the Royal Hotel, but there is no evidence that a building in Walmer that was once known as the Rattling Cat was ever an inn. I liked the name so much though that I turned it into one and moved it into Deal.
I’ve had a lot of fun weaving fact and fiction into The Lace Maiden, and still have plenty of information to use in the next book in the series, The Gold Maiden.
You can ‘The Lace Maiden’ from Amazon