I’m delighted to welcome Allie Cresswell with a guest post…Why Write a Prequel?
The House in the Hollow is a prequel to Tall Chimneys. Following publication of that book there was something of a clamour from readers to know what happened next. Without giving too much away there certainly were threads I could have pursued concerning the descendants of the main character and the house itself. Perhaps I will, one day.
It was not the future of that ruined old house that occupied my imagination, though, but its past. Why had it been built in such a sequestered location, and by whom? Who else had lived within its grey old walls? My heroine in Tall Chimneys was Evelyn, last in the line of Talbots. But what were the origins of that family? These are the questions which nagged me.
In some respects writing a prequel is much harder than writing a sequel. With a sequel you know your start point; what has gone before forms a foundation, but from there you can go almost anywhere. Not so with a prequel. Here, your end-point is fixed. For instance, my family tree must move towards a male Talbot living in Yorkshire with seven children in 1910. Also, certain details I have described about the house—that it is Jacobean in origin, has been added to by two wings at some point in its history and had chimneys that did not draw until they were made taller—must still be true, however inconvenient. Whereas writing a novel or a sequel is like knitting together a fabric from a multitude of threads, for a prequel the author must unravel, separating out those threads to see where their origins might be.
In The House in the Hollow I have established the Talbot family from its humble origins to comparable wealth and prosperity, although, by 1910, it is beginning to ebb away. I have not quite—yet—explained the location of the house in the strange combe but I have again found it oddly influential in the life of another Talbot daughter. This book covers the period of the Napoleonic War, 1803 – 1815, a period I am steeped in through my love of Jane Austen and from writing my Highbury Trilogy—also a prequel—inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma.
The house connects these stories, intriguing me above all other considerations. The two books stand alone. But this week only, they are both on sale for bargain prices, so why not treat yourself to both?
About the Book
The Talbots are wealthy. But their wealth is from ‘trade’. With neither ancient lineage nor title, they struggle for entrance into elite Regency society. Finally, aided by an impecunious viscount, they gain access to the drawing rooms of England’s most illustrious houses.
Once established in le bon ton, Mrs Talbot intends her daughter Jocelyn to marry well, to eliminate the stain of the family’s ignoble beginnings. But the young men Jocelyn meets are vacuous, seeing Jocelyn as merely a brood mare with a great deal of money. Only Lieutenant Barnaby Willow sees the real Jocelyn, but he must go to Europe to fight the French. The hypocrisy of fashionable society repulses Jocelyn—beneath the courtly manners and studied elegance she finds tittle-tattle, deceit, dissipation and vice.
Jocelyn stumbles upon and then is embroiled in a sordid scandal which will mean utter disgrace for the Talbot family. Humiliated and dishonoured, she is sent to a remote house hidden in a hollow of the Yorkshire moors. There, separated from family, friends and any hope of hearing about the lieutenant’s fate, she must build her own life—and her own social order—anew.