I write Victorian sagas set in Kent because that is where my family came from and where I was born, but I also have strong ties to Devon where I was brought up. My memories of Kent include throwing pebbles into the river Stour in Canterbury, eating ice cream and flying kites at Tankerton on the coast, and walking around Dover Castle, taking in some of its history.
I like to think that I brush up quite well for author and publishing events, but I am happier running around in jeans and a T-shirt. I would have hated to have been constrained by the rib-crushing corsets and heavy skirts of the Victorian era, although I would have loved some French red silk boots and an extravagant bonnet.
I have an affinity with orchards, perhaps inherited from my grandfather who managed a fruit farm in Kent. My pride and joy is a cherry tree, grown in a pot.
Because of my love of the countryside, the wildlife and plants, I’m in the middle of moving to a very peaceful and remote part of Devon with ancient woodland, rivers and rough grazing.
Researching the Victorian period is one of my great pleasures. Only the other day, I went to an amazing seafood restaurant on the south Devon coast to try winkles, something my heroines would have eaten. I’m not sure how much I appreciated them though, taking the brown door off the entrance to the shell, then spearing the soft rubbery flesh and pulling it out. Being a pescatarian has given me the excuse not to try Mock Turtle soup or brawn, made from calves’ and pigs’ heads respectively.
My favourite place for writing is on a long train journey. I take a pen and paper and scribble down any thoughts and ideas that I have.
My ambition is to live off grid, being self-sufficient and reducing waste. I used to make wine from elderflowers which was quite successful, tasting light and floral. Parsnip wine was sweet, almost like sherry, but I had to pour the potato version away. My Victorian heroines are very resourceful, making jam, repairing their clothes rather than buying new ones and growing their own fruit and vegetables, keeping chickens and even a pig or two.
Not content with writing sagas, I did throw myself into a teaching role for a while. When I was studying for a postgraduate Certificate in Education, I was reminded that writing fiction is much more fun than creating essays.
I like to collect antiques and household items relating to the nineteenth century. It’s much easier to describe something like a longcase clock, a brass inkwell or a Victorian doll’s pram if you have one at home.
My favourite books of the moment are volumes on etiquette and Victorian slang. A ‘bad hat’ is a disreputable fellow and ‘collie shangles’ are quarrels. When I’m writing, I have to decide which examples of slang to use and which to leave out. The language can add to the sense of time and place in a book, but it needs to be self-explanatory so as not to interrupt the flow of the story.
A Place to Call Home by Evie Grace is published by Arrow Books (Paperback, £5.99)