Wednesday, 27 February 2013

I Missed the Auction


After spending over a year reading books, letters and newspaper articles about the infamous Mary Ann Cotton and basically being haunted by that picture I"m disappointed I couldn't get to the auction in Leyburn, North Yorkshire to see her last desperate letters from prison auctioned off.
Not that I wanted to buy them.  I've already read most of them.  I wanted to see who was interested in these sad mementos of a tragic life.
The Old Execution Yard
A Yorkshire dealer bought the letters for 2200 pounds.  A fortune compared to the insurance payments of 30 pounds here and 8 pounds there that Cotton collected on the death of several husbands and numerous children.
I don't pass judgement on her in my novel, Unnatural.  The Victorian press did a good job of that already.  In fact she's not the main character.  I was more interested in how the people at the time reacted to her crimes.
Durham Prison: the original building
  Maybe she didn't commit all the murders or maybe she did poison every last one of those 22-24 people (including her mother).
But I can say I did come to some kind of understanding of her motives.
She was born just around the corner from my grandmother's street close to my uncle and auntie's house.
That's what originally drew me to the story.
Funny thing is it hasn't left me. Sometimes I still wake up at night  expecting to turn over and see a small figure standing at the foot of my bed.
She has a black bonnet tied under her chin with a ribbon, a checkered shawl round her shoulders, black hair parted in the centre of her pale forehead, a slack mouth and blank, expressionless eyes.

Link to auction info:

http://www.darlingtonandstocktontimes.co.uk/news/10255753.Killer_s_letters_prove_a_saleroom_hit/?ref=mmsp

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Three Forgotten Feminists

Yes - and one of them is a guy!
Mary Wollstonecraft
Over a hundred years before Gloria Steinem, Germaine Greer and Simone de Beauvoir three brave intellectuals swept aside the objections of all the stodgy chauvinists running 18th and 19th century England and insisted that women should enjoy equality with men. I reference them all in my new novel, Unnatural.  Who were they?


MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT (1759-1797)
 Writer, philosopher and advocate of women’s rights.  Mother of the famous Mary Shelly (author of Frankenstein)  After a rough family life with a violent father she founded a school, became a high-ranking and respected intellectual, penned A Vindication of the Rights of Women, among many other books and essays, and ridiculed the image of the “trivial sexualized female – obsessed with appearance and living an empty, self gratifying life with male admiration as its only purpose.”

Read more about her 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/wollstonecraft_01.shtml


Harriet Martineau
HARRIET MARTINEAU (1802-1876)

Credited with being the first female sociologist.  She wrote many books and pamphlets that made economic and sociological theories understandable for everyone and campaigned for the rights of slaves, servants, women and children.


JOHN STUART MILL (1806-1873)

a British philosopher, political economist and civil servant

"... [T]he legal subordination of one sex to another — is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a system of perfect equality, admitting no power and privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other.”

John Stuart Mill
Used his position as Member of Parliament to advocate for votes for women, a very controversial stance at the time.  In his famous essay, The Subjection of Women he states,  “the wife's position under the common law of England is worse than that-of slaves in the laws of many countries.”
Hmmh - have things changed that much!!??

Read his essay here: 

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/mill/john_stuart/m645s/


Monday, 25 February 2013

Unnatural, a novel by Marjorie DeLuca








The womb is an animal, which longs to generate children.  When it remains barren too long after puberty, it is distressed and sorely disturbed, and straying about in the body and cutting off the passages of breath, it impedes respiration and brings the sufferer into the extremest anguish and provokes all manner of disease besides.
Mary Ann Cotton, serial poisoner
Plato


Unnatural is the story of two women; one who longs to have a child and the other accused of murdering twelve of her children and stepchildren as well as several husbands.

Clara Blackstone is a childless woman in 1872, a time when a married woman was expected to be a wife and mother.  A traumatic miscarriage causes her to suffer a breakdown which sends her to the madhouse.  Afterwards Clara lives on a knife-edge, afraid that any show of hysteria or nerves will result in a return to the horrors of the asylum since her controlling husband, Henry’s major concern is that she should be a perfectly submissive wife and mother.

When they move north to Durham City for a fresh start they encounter a wild mob gathered to witness the incarceration of accused serial poisoner Mary Ann Cotton. 

Set in 1873, UNNATURAL tells the story of Clara’s gradual awakening to her sexuality, her subjection as a woman, and her horror and fascination with Cotton, a woman who outraged middle class Victorian society which labelled her a cold, calculating and promiscuous killer and caused a sensation in the newspapers of the day when she gave birth to a daughter in prison.

Based on real newspaper accounts about the actual incarceration and trial of Mary Ann Cotton, this compelling novel blends fact and fiction to tell a powerful and moving story about human lust and desire, the nature of madness, the oppressive conditions endured by middle and working class women in Victorian England and the extent of male outrage when women stepped outside their prescribed social spheres.

Durham City


The Writer's Life




  •  "Ass in chair" - at least eight hours a day in front of a laptop filling the pages
  •  2 walks to take the dog out and mentally sort out story details
  • Reading, reading, reading
  • Researching, researching, researching
  • Travel and photography
  • Lots of greens, fish and figs
  • Limited and selective shopping (shoes especially)
  • Great movies, greater TV series
The Rewards:
  • Transportation to other worlds
  • Many imaginary friends
  • Multiple romances with perfect male characters
  • Time travel
  • Eternal Life
  • An Out of Body Experience
Now you know the reality, welcome to my story world!