Into the Author’s Mind
These texts are the start of an evolving series which offers an imaginative venture into an author’s mind as she or he embarks upon a major work of fiction. The texts are not biographical, although the biographical material has been carefully researched; on the other hand, the books are not literary critical, although they do seek to offer potential insights into the creative workings of the minds of the profiled authors.
In 2016 I was living not so very far from Grassington which hosts a Dickensian Festival each year at Christmas time. I had already started writing The Boy with Four Hats for my neighbours’ daughter – partly because she had enjoyed the musical Oliver! and partly because she found it difficult to create and construct a story. The Boy with Four Hats suggests a way in which Dickens just might have come to write Oliver Twist and the Four Hats represent what I see as the four main stages of the writing process.
Shortly after the publication of Hats, I moved to the beautiful hamlet of Wycoller. From the little study window where I do most of my writing, I can see Wycoller Hall, which was the possible inspiration for Ferndean Manor in Jane Eyre. I knew that Charlotte Brontë had visited Wycoller on at least one of her walks because it is recorded in her journals and decided to take the three contrasting bridges across Wycoller Beck as points of focus for Charlotte as she contemplated some of the central issues of Jane Eyre. The result was Wycoller’s Bridges.
Given that 2018 was the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Emily Brontë, it didn’t take me long to start work on Top Withins. The Brontë Parsonage at Haworth and the ruin of Top Withins (a possible inspiration for Wuthering Heights) are just a few miles from my house and there has been no shortage of reading material about the Brontës since Charlotte’s anniversary in 2016. Top Withins has been more of a challenge than the other books, mainly because Emily was so inward, but I have aimed to capture something of her self-perception and preoccupations, looking at how these might have inspired some aspects of Wuthering Heights.
2020 will be the two hundredth anniversary of Anne Brontë’s birth and it is my intention to complete the triptych, putting all three Brontë books in a presentation pack.
After this, I have plans to write something about Thomas Hardy and Far From the Madding Crowd. This was the first novel to capture my imagination and Dorset is a county I love and where I started my teaching career at The Woodroffe School in 1972. It is also where I first met Nicola.