Wednesday, 15 October 2014

True or false?

Regency-inspired YA fantasy fiction True Haven ... now on the other side of the Atlantic. True!

The Regency era was a time of extremes. The rich were almost obscenely rich, while the poor led a desperate existence, living from hand to mouth.

The excesses of the rich are legend, the tone set by the Prince Regent himself, who took up the reins of power  from 1811 to 1820 after his father was legally declared mad. The future George IV was known for his lavish spending, gambling, womanising and toping. At one point, he had debts of a staggering £650,000. It’s still a tidy sum today, so the mind boggles.

Read more here.

Friday, 3 October 2014

How well do you know the Regency era?

To mark the launch of True Haven, a Regency-inspired fantasy adventure, welcome to ....


How well do you know the Regency era?  

Just to set the record straight ... I understand that the Regency era is generally acknowledged to be between 1811-1820 when the “Prince Regent” took up the reins of power after his father was legally declared mad. 
Actually, some of these topics are more generally Georgian, but I hope I’ll be forgiven. It's not a contest, just a bit of fun. Scroll down for the answers.

1. Lots of Georges in the Georgian era. And one Herbert. True or false?

2. It was a time of change. The Agrarian Revolution, for instance. True or false?

3. The average lifespan in the Regency era was between 19 and 26 depending on where you lived. True or false?
4. It was an era of colonisation. Captain Bligh claimed for Britain the islands of New Zealand and the eastern coast of Australia. True or false?

5. Revolution was in the air. The American War of Independence, the French Revolution ... Napoleon was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo (near Bruges) in 1815. Vrai ou faux?

6. George IV, the eldest son of George III. Born in 1762, he was known for his lavish spending, gambling, womanising and drinking. By 1795 he had debts of £50,000. True or false?

7. Human suffering was rife. London’s hospital for the insane – Bedlam – attracted queues of gawping sightseers, eager to watch the behaviour of inmates afflicted with mental illnesses. True or false?

8. At the start of the Georgian eras, transport was in a dreadful state, but things improved by the time George IV took over. By then,  the stagecoach journey from London to Edinburgh took just two days, compared to nearly two months only half a century before. True or false?

9. Many crimes were punishable by death. Over 200 separate capital offences included murder, rape and treason, as well as lesser offences such as poaching, burglary and criminal damage. True or false?

10. With the burgeoning population, food was far from plentiful and suppliers tended to boost their supplies, often adding toxic ingredients such as red lead, acorns and ground bones. True or false?

Here are the answers:

1. False, although Hugh Laurie depicted the Prince Regent as a bit of a Herbert.
2. False. It was the Agricultural Revolution.
3. Horrifyingly true. Science might have been enlightened, but medicine was not. Surgery was barbaric and some apothecaries still “bled” the sick and infirm and prescribed evil concoctions such as cobwebs or snail tea.
4. False. It was Captain Cook.
5. Waterloo is in present-day Belgium, 15km south of Brussels.
6. False. The sum was a staggering £650,000. In an effort to persuade Parliament to pay off his debts, George agreed to marry his cousin, Caroline of Brunswick. After the birth of a daughter, Princess Charlotte, on 7th January 1796, the couple lived apart.
7. True.
8. False. It was actually two weeks.
9. True, although many people charged as such were either let off or received a lesser sentence.
10. True, I’m afraid. With gay abandon, they would bulk it up, add colours and taste and disguise rotting meat and fish. Mustard powder might be a blend of flour and turmeric, while tea might be coloured with copper or black lead. Some fishmongers would paint fish gills with red lead to make them look fresher. Nothing was what it seemed.

How did you fare?

By Pamela Kelt 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

A matter of perspective

Even when I was little, I was short. By this I mean, shorter than just about everyone else. Children are vicious little beasts and teased me constantly. My pet hate was to be shoved to the front of photographed groups – even in the senior sixth form (and Deputy Head Girl, to boot) I was seated with the ‘ickle’ first years. They also called me ‘snitch’. I explained that it should really be ‘titch’ as snitch meant something quite different. That went down like a hot air balloon out of gas.

It’s not hard to see why I adored fantasy stories mingling little and large. It probably all began with The Borrowers by Mary Norton. I loved the fearless Arrietty Clock, and was enthralled by a tiny and resourceful heroine who had as much impact as a ‘giant’. Then there was Gulliver’s Travels and it's cleverness. And who can forget Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland ... ? Oh, how I longed for a magic potion to make me tall. Tall people are in charge, right?

Viagens_de_Gulliver_023Back in the real world, I finally retaliated, discovering as most of us do, that bullies are dolts and that a well-placed word (or preferably insult) will work wonders. Just because you’re five feet one and three-quarter inches doesn’t mean you’re insignificant, does it?

This sounds all well and good, but in all honesty, I still struggle. People of all ages can be so patronising. It doesn’t help that I feel as if I’m shrinking, because the rest of the population is getting taller, which I feel is a bit unfair.

It’s extraordinary how often I have to ask for someone to reach for goods in supermarkets. Do they want me to buy the stuff or not?It’s a conundrum. I have to imagine what it’s like to be tall. Most tall people I know were once shorter, so why is it so hard for them to empathise?

Ah well, at least I don’t bump my head on beams and I never struggle with lack of leg-room on planes. I digress.

gianthandsI came up with True Haven, a Regency-inspired YA fantasy (out on 3 October on Crooked Cat). The book has a strange beginning, in that it started as a dream about a world within a world. I daren’t give too much away, but I came up with a story that explored what happens when differently proportioned worlds collide.

When I started, I never imagined how complicated things could get. Yes, it’s fantasy, on a crazy scale, but it still has to be pseudo-plausible. I spent hours looking up the relative proportions of humans, animals, buildings and even insects, before drawing all manner of weird diagrams to make sure it all worked.

The heroine is Miss Claramina Dart. She’s ‘Mina’ for short, as it were, and small for her age, but she is no minor, being the linchpin of the whole, fantastical tale. This Miss Dart is resilient, full of ingenuity and determination.

 One of my favourite Shakespearian quotations sums her up: “Though she be but little, she is fierce!” I wish she’d been in my class at school. She would have stuck up for me. Her travelling companion is named Max, of course, and at first they don’t see eye to eye (on so many levels).

Mina’s growth, literally and figuratively, is a huge part of True Haven. Her actual size correlates with the more intangible parts of her development.

 For example, when she’s dwarfed by the normal world, after a few moments of reorientation, she must adjust speedily or face certain doom. The sudden transition serves to reveal her inner strengths. (I only realised this when my editor, Bella Book, suggested as much.)


Toying with the concepts of different-sized beings inhabiting the same world was quite a challenge. It’s an intriguing vehicle to explore all manner of concepts in (I hope) a humorous and exciting fashion. Best of all, it’s mind-boggling fun because for once, I was the giant puppeteer in charge.

I knew I’d get my own back one day.

By Pamela Kelt

Alice by Tenniel
Gulliver under the microscope
Jack and the Beanstalk - chased by the giant

All about True Haven ...

I was lucky enough to be assigned the talented and enthusiastic Bella Book as my editor for True Haven (out on Friday). She recently put me on the spot with some challenging questions on the book and the writing process.

With such an apt name, she should have been a character in the story.

You can read the interview on the True Haven blog if you have a moment ...

By Pamela Kelt

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Regency inspiration

 True Haven ...

… is a period fantasy adventure story set in a Regency-style world where a lively young seamstress escapes from a grim workhouse in the beautiful but deadly city of True Haven.

Meet Claramina Dart, a young seamstress. She thinks of herself as a tailor's apprentice, however.

Independent, smart, questioning ... she adapts quickly to circumstances and uses her wits to survive.

She lives in Mudwells. Overcrowded, foul-smelling, corrupt. But it's home.

‘Mina' has to take care of a young assistant, Barley Spindle. But then he is unfairly arrested and she steps in to save him.

Find out more on the companion website. Well, it's more of a blog, but there you are ...