I’m delighted in this Halloween week to be welcoming this brilliant author of ghost stories. Jennifer C Wilson has joined me to discuss the themes of her amazing historical novels…
Hi Jo, and thanks for inviting me onto your blog today.
If I’m honest (and I probably should be), I’ve always felt a bit of a fraud when it comes to themes. You read so much about what the theme of a certain book is, or what issues it’s addressing, and then, with the Kindred Spirits series, I’ve found myself thinking “but it doesn’t have any themes, it’s just a gaggle of ghosts having fun in various locations.” But then I started thinking about that gaggle of ghosts in a bit more detail, and realised, there’s actually quite a few themes going on. Finding peace for one, with so many of my ghostly cast seeking their ‘white light’, and finding eternal peace from whatever has been troubling them. I cannot go telling you who finds their white light in each book now, can I, but suffice to say that those who do have gone through a journey to get there, whether it be reconciling themselves to a fact, or reaching that time in life when enough is enough.
At a wider level too, the concepts of friendship, family and loyalty are strong across each of the books. After all, in Westminster Abbey, the setting for the third in the series, half of the residents are related, being the burial location for so many of our royalty and nobility down the centuries. Such family bonds have certainly made for interesting writing, especially when, thanks to untimely deaths (always an occupational hazard where medieval royalty is concerned!), ages can become muddled. Writing about George Plantagenet, the 1st Duke of Clarence, and his relationship with his daughter, Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury, was a particularly interesting challenge, given that he was executed aged 28, whereas she died (also executed, perhaps the cruellest act of the tyrant Henry VIII) when she was 67. And yet, he is still her father, and given that she was five when he was killed, she must have had memories of him, however fleeting. I’d like to think that the relationship would still stand strong, as I’ve described it, and that for all his trouble-making and conspiracy-theorising, he did still love his children (his son was another Tudor victim, also executed in the vicinity).
As for the relationships within Westminster Abbey, like I say above, they’re complicated, but also give scope for that great fictional outlet of ‘what if?’ One woman stood at the heart of it for me: Elizabeth I. And alongside her, two women who I knew she would have tremendously complex relationships with, both close kin – her half-sister, Mary I, and her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots. Our Scottish heroine never met either of the others in life, but what writer would give up the chance to throw those three into a room, and see what happened? Will family or ambition win out? The rest of the Abbey’s ghosts hope family, assigning various close kin to try and resolve matters, but will they be successful? (You’ll have to read the book to find out!).
Family hasn’t featured so much in my upcoming release, Kindred Spirits: York, due early 2019, but there, I suppose I’ve been looking at the family we choose, rather than the family we’re given: our friends. And that can be just as complex!
So thanks for the challenge Jo, I really enjoyed thinking about this one.
Jennifer C. Wilson is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots on childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant since graduating. Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east of England reignited her pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since.
In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and has been working on a number of projects since, including co-hosting the North Tyneside Writers’ Circle. Her Kindred Spirits novels are published by Crooked Cat Books and her timeslip novella The Last Plantagenet? by Ocelot Press.
Jennifer’s books can be found on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07BL431WX
Head over there quickly, as the Halloween Crooked Cat sale is now on – loads of fantastic books for only 99p/99c each. If you’ve fancied reading some of the books discussed in the Thursday Themes series, now is your chance to grab a bargain (or even several).
And a sneaky plug for The Brotherhood, which is also in the sale at only 99p/99c for the Kindle edition: