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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Somnambulist by Essie Fox

It was strange how my novel came about. I’d been thinking of something quite different when one hot summer evening I went along to a performance at Wilton’s music hall – a dilapidated venue in London’s East End still open for public events today.
That performance – Handel’s Acis and Galatea is a baroque and beautiful operetta that tells of unrequited love and results in tragedy for all. It went on to become the plot around which my own Victorian story unfolded, even using sections of the libretto to head up individual chapters.
That venue – Wilton’s hall is built at the back of a bar, an intimate rectangular theatre full of arched niches that used to hold mirrors, and a high vaulted ceiling from which there once hung a glorious crystal chandelier. The balcony is supported by elegant brass barley twist pillars that glint and flash when reflecting the lights. And while gazing at those cold metal posts I felt my mind spinning through spirals of time, imaging Wilton’s in its prime, almost able to hear the popping of corks, the raucous laughter, the music hall songs. There wasn’t a moment of doubt in my mind that this was where my novel would start.
The next morning I woke with three distinct characters in mind. I really don’t know where they came from. It was almost as if they’d simply been waiting for me to bang the knocker on their door – which fronted a grand Victorian house in Tredegar Square in East London, not that far at all from Wilton’s hall. And inside was a dark-haired young woman called Phoebe who lived with her mother, Maud, a strictly religious widow who campaigned for all theatres and bars to be closed. Their home was shared with Cissy, Maud’s much younger, more glamorous sister who once had a singing career on the stage to which she was about to return, performing as Galatea at Wilton’s music hall – a performance that Phoebe goes to watch – and what Phoebe sees and does that night heralds change for the lives of all three of them.
If you read The Somnambulist I hope you will share the excitement I felt that first night when I visited Wilton’s hall, and I hope you will share my affection and fears for my heroine, Phoebe Turner as she gradually wakes from long years of deception and opens her eyes to the tragic truth that has haunted her life since the day she was born.
For more information on Wilton’s music hall, see Essie’s blog, The Virtual Victorian


Alis said...

Sounds very intriguing, Essie - and where do those ideas come from? Weird isn't it - but just as well they do come otherwise none of us would be writing novels...

The Virtual Victorian said...

It is almost like being possessed isn't channeling other character and ending up living in their world for as long as the novel takes to write - and it's better than any tv drama for me, especially as I get to plan what happens next!