It’s my pleasure today to welcome Suzie Hull with a guest post, part of the blog tour organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
Over to you, Suzie…
Hello Cathy and thank you so much for this opportunity to be on your blog and share with you and your readers a little something about my new book Far Across The Ocean. I thought your readers might be interested to learn a little about the family that my main character Clara, comes from, and why I chose them and the background of Bradford, the mill, and the Madagascar connection.
I come from a very long line of Quakers, (although I’m not one myself), but it’s a background that from a social history point of view I find fascinating. Quakers are excellent at keeping records, so within the family we have several books that trace this family line way back to the 1600’s in Yorkshire, in particular to Thornton-le-Dale where they owned a Corn mill and a Tannery.
Thornton-le-Dale is an incredibly beautiful small village between Pickering and Scarborough, and the family lived there for many years. My dad even remembers falling in the stream as a small boy just after the war! It was a village I loved going back to as a child as my Great Aunt still lived there. In my novel, I have used the name Thornton, as a nod to this small village.
At some point some of the family moved to Bradford and during the mid-late 1800’s they owned a Worsted mill in the Manningham area. Worsted is a high-quality type of wool yarn. Being Quakers, they, along with many other prominent Quaker families in the area did a lot for their employees and the local population; opening schools, hospitals, and building housing. The family mills were said to have such a high standard of welfare for the employees, they were sometimes referred to as the Lady Mills.
Sir Titus Salt was a very famous Quaker, well known for his philanthropy lived not far from my Manningham family. Salts Mill is at Saltaire, Bradford and was built in 1853. Saltaire is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the whole area is of architectural and historic interest.
Bradford was well known for its mills, including Worsted mills, but also silk. Mr Lister, who I referred to in the novel when he donated silk for Clara’s wedding dress, once owned the largest silk mill in Europe. It was through this silk that I was able to weave in my hero of Xavier Mourain, who was a silk merchant. I created this character who would provide raw silk to Clara’s uncle for their haberdashery side of the business. I imagined that they would weave silk ribbons for ladies dresses, bonnets and underwear, and also trimmings for furnishings, like silk tassels and silk cord to add onto cushions and soft furnishings.
The warehouse that I used as a setting for Xavier and his fellow traders in Port Said, Egypt is again fictional, although I researched how they stored rolls of silk and carpets to protect them from water damage whilst they were transporting them.
So Bradford seems a fairly normal setting for the novel due to my family links there, but why did I choose Madagascar? Whilst I was reading through one of the books on our family tree I noticed that some distant relatives had been on the island in the late 1800’s as missionaries. They and other relatives had lived for many years. Once I read up on the turbulent history of that time, I knew I had the foreign setting for my story. I wanted a time and a situation where a small child could disappear and be virtually impossible to be identified again. I was able to read the memoirs of one of the extended family members and was able to piece together a background of the wildlife, landscape and culture of the Malagasy people.
France had invaded the island in 1894 after the queen, Ranavalona III had refused to accept the offer of a protectorate. My fictional Haycroft family, (Clara, her sister Rose, and her parents Emily and Arthur) had to flee the island after an uprising against the French occurred in late 1895. I also used a shipwreck of a real boat, but it had occurred some 10 years before my setting.
I hope you found this little snapshot of the background to Far Across The Ocean interesting, and please do get in touch if you liked the book.
Thank you again to Cathy for hosting me, and to Rachel Gilbey for organising my blog tour. If you enjoy WW1 historical romance then you might also enjoy my first novel, In This Foreign Land, set in Cairo and London.
Thanks so much for this, Suzie.
Don’t miss the next achingly romantic read from Suzie Hull, winner of the RNA Joan Hessayon award 2022
December 1913. Clara Thornton won’t allow being jilted at the altar to squash her spirit. Against the wishes of her aunt and uncle, Clara decides to travel to Madagascar to learn more about the tragic shipwreck that took the lives of her missionary family, and marked her forever.
Clara is escorted abroad by Xavier Mourain, a handsome young merchant who works with her uncle. The two of them start off on the wrong foot, but Clara can’t help but be drawn to the mysterious Frenchman who helps her unravel the mystery that has always haunted her. But as their love blossoms, war begins. And the world will never be the same again.
For Clara, all the answers seem to lie far across the ocean. But some of them might be closer than she thinks…
Purchase Link – https://mybook.to/FarAcrossOcean
Award winning author Suzie Hull lives in Northern Ireland with her family and numerous rescue cats. As a child she dreamt of being a ballet dancer but instead trained as a Montessori Nursery teacher and has spent the last thirty years working with children in a variety of settings. Suzie has always had an enduring passion for reading and history. Suzie HulI won the RNA Joan Hessayon Award 2022 with her debut novel, In This Foreign Land.
Social Media Links – twitter @ https://twitter.com/SuzieHull1