1/ Gypsies don’t form ‘gangs’ as such – they have large families which are very closely knitted together, even if living in different parts of the country.  Family is a very important word in the gypsy community.

Jessie Keane by Alexander James

Jessie Keane by Alexander James

2/ Gypsies mark every major life event in a spectacular fashion – weddings are massive affairs with hugely elaborate wedding dresses fashioned for the brides; christenings are days-long parties; and funerals are decorative in the extreme, with plumed horses pulling hearses, vast and elaborate headstones and drink-fuelled wakes.

3/ Gypsy domestic life is what most ordinary people would think of as old-fashioned. When gypsies marry, it is accepted that the man will buy the new caravan for their married life together, and will earn money to support his family. Meanwhile, the woman will keep house, cook, clean, raise the children.

4/ There are good and bad people in all walks of society, and I think it sad that casual racism against travellers and gypsies seems to be - as Trevor Phillips, once chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality said – ‘the last respectable form of racism.’

5/ Speaking of good and bad, my new book Fearless highlights this – that Josh Flynn our Romany bare-knuckle boxer hero is basically a good man led astray by powerful forces, and our heroine Claire is a decent woman abused by a wicked one.

6/ Gordi is the Romany name for a house-dweller.

7/ Pikey is a derogatory term for a gypsy.

8/ Most gypsies these days don’t live in wagons, pick fruit and potatoes or rob people or put spells on them, and most of them aren’t romantic free spirits either. It would be nice to get away from these old and misguided beliefs. As a person of Romany extraction myself, I live in a house and earn my living as a writer (although I read the tarot and I do have a circle of standing stones in my orchard…)

9/ I suppose everyone’s idea of a ‘gypsy gang’ is typified by Peaky Blinders, the series on the TV. I watch it myself, and some of the scenes are accurate (the gypsy burial, burning the wagon and the person’s belongings with him, for example) while some are simply masterpieces of invention. But fiction always takes a pinch of reality and blends it into the whole.

10/ And finally …

I think there is something very cool about being Romany – almost mystical. And the courage and determination of gypsy women has proved a great inspiration to me while writing Fearless.