Preston, 1888: as the century draws to a close, the prostitute murders in London have made young Lydia Ketch's 'trade' a political issue. Lydia, the tough but optimistic daughter of a former workhouse inmate, has spent a year working in the 'introduction house' of Kathleen Tanner, a job that has given her an income few others could match. When Lydia meets Henry Shadwell, a young surgeon with a passionate interest in biology, the two develop an instant - and non-professional - bond. And Henry soon enlists Lydia's help in his underground sidelines; first as a model for pornographic photography; then as an assistant in procuring corpses for medical experimentation. With the dangers of her own line of work becoming clearer by the day, and her newfound delight in her own sexuality burgeoning, Lydia becomes disillusioned with her life as a prostitute. And it soon become clear that her trade - and Henry's - are even more dangerous than either had imagined.
Trades of the Flesh is a gripping novel about the body and its desires, from a precocious voice in historical fiction.
Top: UK paperback edition (Macmillan New Writing). Bottom: US paperback (Tor Forge).
Molly was fifteen when she began working with the dead...
It is 1856 and Spiritualism is at the height of its popularity. Molly Pinner has left behind her childhood in the Preston slums and inherited her late aunt Florrie's mantle as Preston's most successful medium. It soon becomes clear that her aunt was something far more cunning than a magnet for the spirits of the dead, but Molly puts aside her qualms and takes well to her new trade.
Molly's relationship with her oldest friend, Jenny, is jeopardized when she begins a passionate affair with local businessman William Hamilton. Before she knows it, Molly finds herself married to a man she cannot love, and pregnant with a child she does not want. In desperation, she makes a decision that will cast her relationship with William in a completely new light.
Trapped and traumatized, and longing to regain her friendship with Jenny, Molly is about to receive a blow that will turn her life upside down. It seems Aunt Florrie lied about more than just her ability to commune with the dead: a truth hidden for years is about to emerge, and it will threaten not only Molly's livelihood, but her very life.
Cover the Mirrors is a dark and zesty historical novel of distorted truths and suppressed Victorian desires.
"Lush and evocative: a spellbinding debut" (Kim Wilkins)
Top: UK paperback edition (Pan). Bottom: UK first edition hardback (Macmillan New Writing, now rare!).
I'm not completely sure where my Victoriana fixation comes from, but I can't see it going away any time soon. I was born blonde, but decided aged 18 that I have a better sense of what suits me than Mother Nature. I'm collecting tattoos, and my tattoos are the most personal pieces of art I can think of after my own writing. I can't wear uncomfortable shoes or high necklines, but am quite happy tightlaced into a corset. I don't feel right without nail varnish (even badly chipped is preferable to none), perfume and a pile of jewellery. I became a vegetarian aged ten and am now a vegan. The rest of my family are omnivores, as (of course) are all but a tiny minority of my characters. For those who like to categorise people, I'm a Scorpio, an INTJ, an Enneagram Type 4 and a True Neutral. Harry Potter fans may prefer to know that online sorting hat tests are undecided as to whether to put me in Ravenclaw or Slytherin, but Slytherin's in the lead if I recall correctly. (Please note that these methods of categorising people are not ones I necessarily follow in any meaningful sense.) I have a parrot who likes to swear at people in the cutesiest voice imaginable. I tend to creep people out by knowing macabre facts, such as being able to point out that someone in a film shouldn't die quickly as a result of short-drop or hoist hanging. Since I was a kid, I've been drawn to characters that are generally perceived as scary (like Gollum in The Hobbit/LOTR), but clowns scare the hell out of me. I can't understand people who don't reread books they've enjoyed (do they only listen to a song, watch a film or look at a painting once, too?), and I catalogue my own library on my computer. I enjoy redrafting and editing. I can never tell what sorts of things people find interesting about one another, therefore I loathe writing these sorts of bios about myself.