Kirsty Ferry, whose latest book The Girl in the Photograph (the third book in her Rossetti Mysteries series) has just been published as an ebook, while the second book in the series, The Girl in the Painting is now out in paperback. I've had the privilege of reading an advance copy of this novel and I can highly recommend it - it's a wonderful time slip story!
Here's a Q & A with Kirsty to tell us a bit more about it:-
The books in this trilogy all feature Pre-Raphaelite or Victorian artists - what first drew them to your attention and have you studied them at uni (you are very knowledgeable about Victorian art)?
I think the thing that drew me to them initially was when I read about Dante Gabriel Rossetti digging up Lizzie Siddal's body and raiding her coffin to retrieve a book of poems he'd buried with her. I started researching a little bit more just out of morbid curiosity really, and the more I found out, the more fascinated I became. I wrote a short story called The Other Ophelia which was a YA ghost story where a young lad was recreating the famous Millais Ophelia painting and the ghost of Rossetti didn't like it. What actually happened in real life, is that Lizzie lay freezing in a bath of cold water while Millais painted her, and she became very ill - and the public turned her into a sort of Gothic, idealised, Victorian 'celebrity'. Beyond all that you have this overriding, quite dangerous, obsessive passion between her and Rossetti.
I filed the short story away for a few years, then pulled it out again when I decided to write The Girl in the Painting. I'd read some of Rossetti's poems by then, and was struck by Sudden Light, which is all about soulmates. Some Veil Did Fall was based on that poem, The Girl in the Painting was inspired by Lizzie and The Girl in the Photograph by Pre-Raphaelite photography - another art form that took the world by storm. I studied a little bit of art history during my degree but would love to take it further. Everything else was gleaned by good old-fashioned research and reading. You should see the pile of books I acquired!
I'm particularly fond of Millais' paintings, but also like other Victorian artists, especially Lord Leighton. Who is your favourite?
I love the Pre-Raphaelites of course, but some of Rossetti's work is quite wild and slapdash when you compare it with the perfection of Millais! I am also a huge fan of the Impressionists and could stare at Degas' ballerina pictures for hours. And John Singer Sargent did some fabulous work - but he was a little later, and more of an Edwardian artist, I suppose.
If you could own one painting from that era which one would you choose? (Not sure I could choose one as there are so many amazing ones!)
Ohhhh - what a choice! Can I just own the Tate Gallery? If pushed I'd have to say Millais Ophelia was up there, naturally, or I might have to expand the timeline slightly and go for Edward Robert Hughes Midsummer Eve, which is a gorgeous piece of 'fairy art' from about 1908. That's actually a really tough question! But do you know, Landseer's Dignity and Impudence would be wonderful - Google it. It's two dogs in a kennel and the little one is so cheeky!
This novel also deals with photography - did you have to do a lot of research about this? Have you tried it yourself?
I love old photographs and again did plenty of reading about the Pre-Raphaelite side of it, and especially about Julia Margaret Cameron for The Girl in the Photograph. Lorelei was a perfect heroine to team up with my Edwardian photographer - all she ever wanted to do was have a photograph taken of her. It's something we take for granted nowadays.
I also visited Lacock Abbey, which was the home of Henry Fox Talbot, an innovative Victorian photographer, and I saw the window which exists in the first photographic negative. At Lacock there were some astonishing statistics of the amount of pictures we take now to the amount they took then - it's very thought-provoking. I had a lovely camera when I was in my early twenties. Then my Dad dismantled it for some reason and I was left with a working light-meter and nothing else. He kindly held the meter up and demonstrated how it still worked, but that was no use to me at all! I've tinkered with things like Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro and have taken some really nice photographs unexpectedly; but again it's something I'd like to pursue further. Maybe one day!
Do you have any old photos you can share with us?
When I was researching photographic plates I fell in love with something on eBay from America - these original Edwardian glass photo plates. I have no idea who the people are, but had to buy them. I took them to work and one of the technicians scanned them into a machine for me and the pictures you see here are the result.
I've also got this lovely little one of my Grandma. I think it was a school photo, and it's tiny as you can see by the pencil I put next to it - I suspect she was just cut out of a group shot. She was born in 1909, so it's quite an old one. The original is all cracked and damaged, so I scanned it in and spent hours cleaning it up with Paint Shop Pro. Then I printed out a new copy for me and one for my mum. It really is one of my most precious possessions.
Many thanks, Kirsty! I love the old photos and photo plates, amazing what you can find on eBay. Happy publication for The Girl in the Photograph!
Kirsty is from the North East of England and won the English Heritage/Belsay Hall National Creative Writing competition in 2009 with the ghostly tale 'Enchantment'. Her timeslip novel, Some Veil Did Fall, a paranormal romance set in Whitby, was published by Choc Lit in Autumn 2014. This was followed by another Choc Lit timeslip, The Girl in the Painting in February 2016 and now The Girl in the Photograph (March 2017). The experience of signing 'Some Veil Did Fall' in a quirky bookshop in the midst of Goth Weekend in Whitby, dressed as a recently undead person, was one of the highlights of her writing career so far! Kirsty's day-job involves sharing a Georgian building with an eclectic collection of ghosts - which can sometimes prove rather interesting.
You can find out more about Kirsty and her work at www.rosethornpress.co.uk - catch her on her Facebook Author Page or follow her on Twitter @kirsty_ferry.
THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPH
What if the past was trying to teach you a lesson?
Staying alone in the shadow of an abandoned manor house in Yorkshire would be madness to some, but art enthusiast Lissy de Luca can't wait. Lissy has her reasons for seeking isolation, and she wants to study the Staithes Group - an artists' commune active at the turn of the twentieth century.
Lissy is fascinated by the imposing Sea Scarr Hall - but the deeper she delves, the stranger things get. A lonely figure patrols the cove at night, whilst a hidden painting leads to a chilling realisation. And then there's the photograph of the girl; so beautiful she could be a mermaid… and so familiar.
As Lissy further immerses herself, she comes to an eerie conclusion: The occupants of Sea Scarr Hall are long gone, but they have a message for her - and they're going to make sure she gets it.
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