The Hares of Ladywell

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.

Harvest Hare by Nicky

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.

This one’s a tad chubby for a hare but I’m fond of him!

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!

Tiny hares, 2″x 2″ canvas

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

mybook.to/TheHouseatLadywell

mybook.to/ChristmasatLadywell

 

Writing and talking, what else?

First of all – the book. ‘The House at Ladywell’ now has a date, Tuesday, 14th November – which is when Crooked Cat Books will publish it simultaneously as an ebook and a paperback. This really, really exciting! It’s a contemporary romantic novel with historical interludes, quite a change for me! Here’s a taster…

‘A hare carved in stone and the scent of flowers in a house full of echoes – can Freya’s inheritance help her leave the past behind


And no, the house in the photo has nothing to do with my fictitious house apart from being a Tudor house in Hampshire (this one’s a pub that’s being revamped). My ‘real’ Tudor house is, like my characters, a patchwork of reality and fiction. And set in a different version of Romsey! Below is the Old Manor House in Romsey which is now a restaurant but which is about the right age for ‘my’ house.

Details of the cover and more info about the book and – most important of all – how to buy it! will be forthcoming in the early autumn. There are several running themes in this book: rowan trees, sacred springs, the scent of flowers, and hares – which have always fascinated me and which I paint occasionally. Here’s one I did earlier!

Secondly – the talk. Sunday, 16th July at the Romantic Novelists’ Association 2017 Conference at Harper Adams University, Telford, Shropshire.

The talk – From Kissing to Killing – is about changing over from writing romantic novels to writing murder mysteries and this is what the programme says about me! ‘Why do romantic novelists so often shine at writing mysteries? Having made the leap (more of a sidle) herself, Nicola Slade discusses what a cosy mystery actually is, some statistics about real-life murders and examples of fictional ones, and she also talks about other romantic novelists who’ve gone over to the dark side…’          One very well-known crime writer also wrote romantic novels under the name of Mary Westmacott – and if it’s good enough for Agatha, it’s certainly good enough for me!

 

 

Words & Pictures

First the words – the Large Print edition of A Crowded Coffin is published by Ulverscroft on Friday, 1st November 2013. It’s in a softback version and it would be very nice if you could ask your local library to order it in! 

And now a picture:

Layout 1

 

Now some more pictures – I belong to a local art group, Brushstrokes, and we’re getting quite well-known in Hampshire, which is great as we’ve only been together for seven years. We had a recent exhibition at Haskins Garden Centre in West End, Southampton, and it was a great success; so much so that we’ve been invited back next year.

I have a strange ‘thing’ about painting hares; it’s not a life-long obsession, I only started to paint them about 12 years ago – before that I tended to paint ducks! Anyway, I sold four pictures at the show, a fox and three hare pictures. Here are two of them:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and his chum:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

They’ve been bought as a Christmas present which is rather nice.

Can’t find a picture of the fox but this is the tiny hare (6″x6″)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So there we are – been an arty-farty time round here lately! And just to prove I can paint animals other than hares, here’s Arthur’s horse (so called because our friend Arthur took the photo when we were in France and now has the painting in his sitting-room!)Arthur's horse2