The Duke’s Shadow, an historical fiction, by Louise Charles launches today. I’ve known Louise through an online writers’ group, Writers Abroad, for several years and I’ve had a chance to get sneak peaks at the novel as it evolved. So I’m delighted it is finally out there for everyone to read and I’ve invited Louise to Ascroft, eh? to tell us a bit about the book on its launch day.
Welcome Louise. Now, as you know I don’t hang about, I tend to jump in with both feet – so let’s get started.
Tell Us About Your Novel.
ONE MAN, William Kenilworth, a young Victorian aristocrat, was never born to be the Duke of Romsey. When his older brother, Henry dies in a freak racing accident, William inherits a legacy and title he has not been groomed for nor wants. TWO LIVES… Bullied by his domineering mother and rejected by love, William falls into a deep depression. His saviour is his sister, Lottie, who helps him to create a second identity as Reuben Chambers, a London business man. SHADOWS FROM THE PAST… As Reuben, he finds true happiness which helps him to fulfil his duties as William, heir to the Dukedom. But a secret from the past threatens his family and the delicate balance he has created for his double identity. Can he continue to keep his two lives separate?
What prompted you to write about this historical event?
It wasn’t an historical event as such, but I read a snippet in Bill Bryson’s book ‘Notes from a Small Island’ about the ‘mad’ 5th Duke of Portland who it was alleged, lived a double life. This was the inspiration behind the book.
How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?
More loosely. I moved the time from early Victorian to mid Victorian just as there was big cultural change in outlook. However, I have tried to replicate this time as closely as possible.
What research did you do for this book?
As I live in Italy, it’s much harder to access traditional methods of research like a library or museums. However access to the internet has changed the way we do most things and I sourced a lot of information from there, keeping references and notes that I could refer back to. For instance I needed to be clear about how the system of marriage worked at that time as it was quite important to the plot line.
Do you use a mixture of historic figures and invented characters in the novel. Which is more difficult to write? Which to you prefer to write and why?
The main character is very loosely based on the snippet I read initially but all the characters are fictional. As this is my first novel, at the moment it is all difficult to write! But I think I prefer to invent characters and paint them in my own words rather than paint what people expect to see in an historic figure. That may change…
In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?
I tried to bring about the historical setting in a subtle way, based on my own reading preferences. I am taken in by novels that naturally create the setting without spelling it out, so I can fill in the gaps. So the style of dress at the time was important, modes of travel and to a lesser extent, language.
I don’t give a history lesson but hopefully scattered a consistent setting throughout.
There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other. And, if so, why?
I don’t think I particularly have a preference, at the moment. I have drafted three other historical based novels, and two have female leads. It was certainly hard to find images of male characters for the cover of The Duke’s Shadow that represented the novel!
Thanks for answering my questions, Louise. I’m intrigued and looking forward to reading the book.
About Louise Charles: She writes fiction, in the short and long form. She has had short stories published in Peoples Friend, My Weekly, Anthologies and several online ezines and fiction sites. She is now dedicating her pen, ink and paper to her novels, four of which are in varying states of completion. ‘The Duke’s Shadow‘ is her debut novel and it will be self published on 1st March 2014. Louise also created the online writing group for expat writers, Writers Abroad, where she finds support and advice on her writing from all over the world. The group has published an annual Anthology for the past four years and all profits have been donated to book charities.