"The narrow alleys of pestilence and poverty run along the walls of the very richest in the land… in our current times, as the gap between rich and poor widens, there are many resonances across centuries to unearth.” Lucy Jago
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A Pox on this Plague!

A Pox on this Plague!

It’s 1349 in the Season of the Plague. The Black Death is scorching its path through England, leaving half the population dead in its wake. Folk suppose it’s a lethal miasma of foul airs. Or maybe it’s God’s punishment for human corruption. Or perhaps vagrants and money-lenders have been poisoning the wells. Medicine doesn’t help....
Fiction at work

Fiction at work

‘Workplace’ is a vague, literal term. It’s too broad to conjure an image, though it might summon a feeling. (For some: not here again, for others: here we go!). Nowadays my workplace is also my dinner table, the place where I wrapped Christmas presents I’m yet to give. But old, paused office life was fertile,...
Pictures behind the story

Pictures behind the story

All photographs are packed with stories. They surround us, littering our screens and walls with narrative and memory. Time embalmed. But for each of us, some images are packed fuller than others. Alighting upon a particular combination of light and shade, colour and form, a person we love(d), a fleeting delight – our attention is...
Mannequins and monsters

Mannequins and monsters

Edward Carey’s The Swallowed Man follows the adventures of Pinocchio’s creator Geppetto after he is stranded in the belly of a sea beast. As the woodcarver ekes out a frugal existence, living on his memories and imagination, the tale becomes a magical meditation on fatherly love, loss and regret, and the transformative power of creative...
Complicated and conflicted

Complicated and conflicted

One of the challenges I faced when writing People of Abandoned Character was the fact that the main protagonist was complicated – and a woman. I had a lot of feedback that she wasn’t likeable enough, but I was determined to keep her as flawed as she was. I think it’s a particular curse especially...
You and the story

You and the story

Second-person narration, in which the author uses the pronoun ‘you’ to seemingly address the reader and draw them into the story, can be a bit of a high-wire balancing act. Or, to apply an analogy more suited to my West Coast background (I’ve never tried any circus stunts, let alone a high-wire act), writing in...
The solace of the strange

The solace of the strange

As the threat of a global pandemic grew and when we finally went into lockdown, something happened to our dreams. Telephone conversations, social media posts, virtual meet-ups became places to express the strange effect the virus was having on our subconscious sleeping states. For a while, I’m having the weirdest dreams, seemed to be the...
Misfiring love

Misfiring love

I’m really not a big romance fan, but I have to admit I do love a bad romance. Here are some of the fictional relationships that have stayed with me since first encounters – some troubled, some problematic, and some downright bizarre – from my formative years up to more recent times.   Manhattan, written...
All in the mind

All in the mind

At the risk of sounding like valedictorian delivering a graduation speech, a ‘psychological thriller’ is defined on Wikipedia as a thriller “which emphasizes the unstable or delusional psychological states of its characters.” As definitions go, that’s good enough for me. In general, I just know a psychological thriller when I read one. Most whodunits, at...
Singular museums

Singular museums

This list comes out of writing Little, a novel about Madame Tussaud, whose waxworks on the Marylebone Road has always seemed to me a museum about one person. Marie Tussaud lived through the French Revolution, and many of the people she cast she actually knew. Her wax figures represent the different stations of her life:...