My last blog post was entitled: Licet esse beatis – It is permitted to be joyful. Well, I think we all know that joy is in considerable demand at the moment, so this post tells how the hares came to be such a vital – and joyful – part of The House at Ladywell and the seasonal sequel, Christmas at Ladywell.
The House at Ladywell combines my passion for history and for mystery. Back in the mid-1990s I wrote a book about a young woman who inherited a very old house in Hampshire and although it got some excellent rejections! I ended up shelving it. Every now and then I would think about it until, in 2015, I realised that the story was incomplete. Instead of a purely contemporary novel, I needed to tell the story of the very old house I’d dreamed up, which is how The House at Ladywell became a multi-timeline novel, combining a modern love story with several glimpses of the history of the house, as well as a few mysteries (because I can’t resist them).
I still had the twenty-year old early version of the story but I only used it as a reference while I re-wrote it completely. About a third of the way into the book, I decided I wasn’t happy with the viewpoint, so I tried writing in the first person, something I’d never done, but luckily the story came alive. So far so good. A month or so later it was clear that something else was lacking. I needed a running theme, something to connect past and present, and that’s when the hares of Ladywell turned up.
Tentatively, I introduced a hare into the Roman story and felt pleased with it, so from then on the hares of Ladywell became completely real to me and added new depths to the history of the ancient and modern aspects of the old house and its family. I explored the connection again in the follow-up novella, Christmas at Ladywell, and was pleased to expand the story of the hares.
But why hares in the first place? Because I’ve belonged to a local art workshop for years and one day, for no particular reason, decided to paint a hare! It worked so I painted more and sold them – including one at an open exhibition at the Southampton Art Gallery! Now, if I can’t think what to paint, I default to painting a hare, and the more I discovered about these strange and mystical animals the more I was hooked.
It’s been a delight to learn that readers also love the hares, as well as the hints of magic and myth that they bring to the story – and several kind readers have even given me ornamental hares, among them a sweet little metal hare who sits on my mantelpiece and a tiny silver hare in the shape of a lapel pin! Sadly, I’ve never seen a hare close up, only running rapidly in the opposite direction, but I do have my magical hares at Ladywell!
I hope everyone is coping with lockdown and isolation. We’re lucky enough to have a garden with a wood at the bottom so we have plenty to do and to see. Here’s hoping we all get through this testing time, and remember, even at times like this, it is still permitted (as often as possible) to be joyful! xx