I’m delighted to be on tour today hosting Georgina Clarke in my hot seat.
Georgina is chatting to us about her inspiration for debut novel Death and the Harlot, how her protagonist surprised her, the scene she enjoyed writing the most and more. Enjoy!
A gripping historical crime debut from an exciting new voice.
‘It’s strange, the way fortune deals her hand.’
The year is 1759 and London is shrouded in a cloak of fear. With the constables at the mercy of highwaymen, it’s a perilous time to work the already dangerous streets of Soho. Lizzie Hardwicke makes her living as a prostitute, somewhat protected from the fray as one of Mrs Farley’s girls. But then one of her wealthy customers is found brutally murdered… and Lizzie was the last person to see him alive.
Constable William Davenport has no hard evidence against Lizzie but his presence and questions make life increasingly difficult. Desperate to be rid of him and prove her innocence Lizzie turns amateur detective, determined to find the true killer, whatever the cost.
Yet as the body count rises Lizzie realises that, just like her, everyone has a secret they will do almost anything to keep buried…
Death and the Harlot by Georgina Clarke is published by Canelo (13th May 2019) and is available in digital format.
Hi Georgina, welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
I’ve always loved historical fiction, and especially crime fiction, but I’ve struggled to find historical crime with a female protagonist. I’d been reading about London in the eighteenth century and began to imagine a young woman investigating a crime. I knew she would have to be a prostitute – in order to mix freely between high and low status people.
Was there anything about your protagonist that surprised you?
She’s much more daring than I am. This is great – it means I can put her in all sorts of situations and yet remain quite safe myself! It’s also helpful to a crime writer if your protagonist is a bit of a risk-taker.
What scene did you enjoy writing the most Georgina?
The opening chapter. I’ve edited quite a lot of the story, but this chapter has remained largely the same. To me, it sums up Lizzie Hardwicke: you get her biting wit, her playfulness, her intelligence and a hint at her past. And the first line still makes me laugh.
… and the hardest
Probably the one where she allows herself to think about her past. It was hard to get the tone right. She does not see herself as a victim – although we would think that’s what she is. She’s a woman of her time and believes that she is the architect of her own misfortune. That’s quite hard to relate to as a twenty-first-century writer; it took a bit of effort on my part.
Does your novel tackle a social barrier?
Although it’s not a novel about the sex trade, Lizzie’s work does play a significant part in the story. Writing in the first person allowed me to be non-judgemental and unsentimental about it: it’s just her job. I could examine the different strands of prostitution from her perspective: she is alive to the dangers that the street girls face, for example, as well as to the hypocrisy of men who condemn prostitutes at the same time as making use of them. There’s also something about how the women look out for one another – even if they are rivals.
Did you do any research? What resources did you use?
Yes. I have a PhD in history, so it was natural to begin in a library! I read a lot of general history of the period, as the mid-eighteenth century was new to me. Then I read about prostitution in the period, about clothing, food, criminals, magistrates … I looked at a lot of Hogarth paintings as well, as they’re great social commentary. I have put a short reading list at the end of the novel, just in case it inspires readers to go and investigate for themselves.
Do you have a most creative time of day?
I’m an evening person. It’s lucky that I am, as the only real opportunity I have to put fingers to keyboard is around 8.30-10.30pm. It’s easier now my son is older, but when I first started writing it was impossible to concentrate when, at any minute, I could be interrupted by ‘MUM!!”
Do you have a favourite place you go to for inspiration or a favourite activity?
I run. It gets me outside and it keeps me fit. I find that it is also great for thinking through plot points. The problem is that sometimes, inspiration hits me so hard that I have to stop running! If this happens, I walk, musing about what has just come into my head. This is fine, but the pacer on my sports watch becomes unhappy!
Finally, if your novel is part of a series, what is in the future?
Yes! Happily, DEATH AND THE HARLOT is book one of a series. The second book is coming out in August. I won’t give the title away, as Canelo will be revealing it very soon. Lizzie is back, she’s working undercover for Mr Fielding. There’s lots of blood. And her relationship with William Davenport begins to develop a little …which has been great fun to write. I’m currently working on a third book. I have no idea how many I’ll write, but ideas do keep emerging. Lots of books, I hope.
Wishing you success with all your writing projects. Thank you for being my guest.
Georgina Clarke has a degree in theology and a PhD in history but has only recently started to combine her love of the past with a desire to write stories. Her Lizzie Hardwicke series is set in the mid-eighteenth century, an underrated and often neglected period, but one that is rich in possibility for a crime novelist.
She enjoys running along the banks of the River Severn and is sometimes to be found competing in half marathons. In quieter moments, she also enjoys dressmaking.
She lives in Worcester with her husband and son, and two extremely lively kittens.
Don’t forget to check out the other hosts on tour.