Holly Webb visited Library Mice a year go to discuss her brand new heroines, Maisie Hitchins (published by Little Tiger Press) and Emily Feather (published by Scholastic) (you can read her guest post here and my reviews here). Holly has now published five adventures, the latest being The Case of the Secret Tunnel , with a sixth one, The Case of the Spilled Ink, due to be published in August. This series is great for newly independent readers thanks to the well-pitched text and Marion Lindsay’s illustrations which are dotted throughout.
In The Case of the Secret Tunnel, Maisie becomes embroiled in solving the mystery around an art smuggling plot. Maisie juggles her double life as detective and maid with good spirits and kindness but also determination. As well as being perfectly pitched sleuth fiction for early readers, the Victorian London setting means that this is also great historical fiction, sprinkled with lots of details about the era, from social etiquette of the time to more specific aspects of Victorian life. In The Case of the Secret Tunnel, descriptions of the London Underground in its infancy are particularly captivating. It gives an edge to an already very successful and appealing mystery series. A real gem for early readers.
Therefore I am delighted to welcome Holly to Library Mice again, this time to talk about how fun it is to write historical fiction:
The best bit about writing historical books …
by Holly Webb
You can dress up! One of my favourite parts about writing Maisie’s adventures has been describing the amazing clothes everyone wore. And then I realised that this gave me a perfect excuse for a costume. I’d always secretly envied other authors who could dress up as part of their events (most of my books are about animals and I wasn’t going to dress up as a puppy). Now I have a fabulous Victorian (ish) hat, covered in net and feathers. Funnily enough, it’s so huge, it actually gave me part of the plot for The Case of the Feathered Mask, where Maisie hides something in a hat!
You get to find out the oddest things. My latest Maisie book has meeting a gang of mudlarks – boys and girls who made their living searching the mud at the edge of the River Thames for whatever they could find – pieces of coal, bits of old rope, copper nails from ships. They even carried on in the depths of winter, among the lumps of ice in the river! Did you know that you can still mudlark today? The most common things to pick up are the stems from Tudor clay pipes, which used to be sold with tobacco in them and then thrown away! I really want to go and try it myself – must make sure to check the tide tables first, though!
You get to read lots of Victorian novels and call it research. I first thought about a Victorian detective because I discovered the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was about ten – I read all of them, and I was completely addicted. Maisie is a perfect excuse to read lots of books written at the time, and somehow that goes brilliantly with eating a lot of toast. Or perhaps muffins. I love Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, and The Secret Garden, and E. Nesbit’s The Treasure Seekers is fabulous too.
And the worst bit – the annoying details you can’t find anywhere. Mostly about toilets. No one in all the polite books written at the time ever mentions them!
Thank you so much Holly for a great post!