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Behind the Scenes


I love history and researching my family history, so I had the idea to put the two together. There is something about ruins and wrecks which also appeals to me. I had a ruined house (Rell Manor) and a ruined church (St Mary’s) in  A Girl’s Best Friend and decided to reuse them in Breathless.

I’d always been fascinated by shipwrecks, probably because I was brought up on the south coast of England and I’m descended from a long line of mariners and fishermen.

In my previous books I’d mentioned that my fictional villages of Calahurst and Port Rell had played a part in the Civil War, so I elaborated on that to create a historical backstory for Port Rell. The story of the smuggler came from an earlier novel which I had never finished.

The history of the Mary Eliza is loosely based on a real ship called the Swan, which sank off the Isle of Mull in 1653. The idea of a warship sinking with its looted cargo came from the true story of the siege of Dundee in 1651, when a fleet of 60 ships carrying looted treasure sank in the Tay Estuary during a violent storm. Although I expect my interest in wrecks really began with the raising of the Mary Rose, a Tudor warship which sank in 1545. As a child I remember watching on TV as her hull was finally brought to the surface after 437 years on the seabed.

I’m also fascinated by family history, and the way stories can become garbled as they are passed down through the generations. My grandfather used to love telling me tales about our seafaring ancestors, who had lived in the same Hampshire village for more than four hundred years. This gave me the idea for the character of Joseph Halfpenny, who is convinced he is descended from a notorious smuggler - even though he can’t actually prove it! Running alongside Lainey’s story I have included extracts from a journal written in 1695, which tells the story of this smuggler.

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Tales of Smugglers

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