FAQ Madame Guillotine

29 September 2011

The drawback of writing a book about Jack the Ripper is that I have become the sort of person who buys their books from the True Crime section of Waterstones.

Today, in lieu of anything more meaningful to say, I shall attempt to address the most frequently asked questions that abound on this blog. I’ll probably regret this about half way through when I say something horrific but never mind, I’m throwing my hat wildly into the ring on this one…

1. Are you an American? If so, why do you use pretentious British spelling?

No, I am not an American, although I know that about 60% of my readership is based in the States. The spelling is therefore incidental.

2. Where do you come from?

I have no idea! No, seriously, I don’t know. I have a Scottish father (and I use the word very loosely), was born in Scotland (in a miserable hell hole called Forres) and lived there (near Aberdeen, fact fans) until I was about eleven but I’ve never had so much as a trace of a Scottish accent and have never felt anything other than English so I THINK that’s what I am. When I recently filled in the census form it asked me what nationality I culturally identified with (or words to that effect) and I ticked ‘English’ and ‘European’ but not Scottish.

3. What happened between you and Simon H+++ at Colchester Sixth Form?

Ah well. It goes something like this. Names have been changed to protect the guilty but basically I was madly in love with Simon H+++ and I thought he liked me too and then one day he asked me if he could ASK ME A QUESTION so we hung about for a bit outside our form room NOT SAYING ANYTHING until finally he said ‘Oh it doesn’t matter’ and went inside. We barely spoke after that. I WANT TO KNOW WHAT SIMON H+++ WAS GOING TO ASK. He’s on Twitter and Facebook now and I also (don’t worry, I didn’t do anything terrible to get it) have his email address. I often have to forcibly prevent myself from drunkenly Tweeting him at 2am with ‘SIMON, WHAT WERE YOU GOING TO ASK ME? WHAT? WHAT? WHAT WAS IT? I NEED TO KNOW!’ Luckily, I’m too scared to even follow him, let alone apprehend him. He’s probably blocked me anyway…

4. Why don’t you get an agent and/or proper publisher?

I don’t want one. I mean, I admit that sometimes I feel harassed into submitting my stuff to agents but it’s half hearted and never ends happily because, frankly, I don’t see the point of them any more. Blood Sisters was supposed to be published by an imprint of Salt Publishing, which was a weird experience – I adore Jane, who edited my book but I came away feeling a bit glum about the rest of the shebang for reasons that I don’t feel able to discuss publicly.

5. When are you going to write a book about Jack the Ripper?

I AM WRITING IT RIGHT NOW, AT THE MOMENT. I am currently sitting at my desk in my very own study, surrounded by books about Monsieur Saucy Jacques and with a map of Whitechapel in 1891 blue tacked to the wall beside me. The book is currently a portmanteau affair with more than one narrative thread – there may even be a bit of romance and also a tiny bit of comedic relief half way through.

6. Is that your natural hair colour?

What, this? No, this is Special Effects Atomic Pink. It badly needs redoing so I’m going Cupcake Pink this weekend, whatever that means.

7. Why are you vegan?

Because the older I get, the more I find myself preferring animals to people.

8. What happened to your parents?

Um, well, they had me when they were sixteen and, rather gamely I think, got married just before I was born. However, to no one’s surprise they broke up a couple of months after I was born and my father vanished under a rock somewhere in Morayshire and my mother went off to London to become a nurse. My maternal grandparents rather begrudgingly took baby me in and I remained with them until I was able to escape. The interesting thing is that no one thought to tell me about any of this so I grew up thinking my mother was my sister, which was a bit Catherine Cookson.

9. Who do you think Jack the Ripper was?

I don’t have a scooby doo, me old sparrow. I’ve tried to explain my feelings here but for me, the fascinating thing about the Ripper murders is the victims and their lives, not their killer.

10. Do you think Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen were GETTING IT ON?

Gosh, no. I think Marie Antoinette was suffused with the sensibilities of her time, and was therefore desperate for romance, adoration and, I think, the bittersweet tang of unfulfilled love. Axel was able to provide all of this in abundance and in return got the kudos of being the Queen’s acknowledged admirer and, on occasion, hero. His sexual type seems to have been altogether more voluptuously experienced – sad to say, but I bet he fancied Madame du Barry something rotten.

11. Where would you recommend I visit in Paris?

Everything! No, not everything, but lots of things! I adore the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Conciergerie and Musée Carnavalet for starters. Also try and visit the Basilica at Saint Denis and the Chapelle Expiatoire. If you are into the French Revolution, then the cemetery at Picpus is unmissable.

12. Am I descended from Lady Jane Grey? My mum says that I am.

Er, no.

13. Are you a mummy blogger?

I am a mother and I have a blog. I don’t think I am a mummy blogger though, because I don’t actually talk about parenting very much, if at all. Well, unless you count my occasional posts on the Borgias, Tudors and Medici but you wouldn’t really want their take on potty training and weaning, would you?

14. Are you actually a prostitute?

No. Victorian Prostitute Re-enactment does not involve actual prostitution, just re-enactment.

15. Are you steampunk?

Definitely not. As someone once said, steampunk is what happened when goths discovered beige. I am happy to say that I have yet to discover the appeal of beige. I’m just a plain old common garden Fields of the Nephilim worshipping, Victorian Prostitute dressing goth.

16. When is your next book out?

Sometime before Christmas. It’s all edited and ready to roll and the lovely Lisa Falzon is working on the cover at the moment. It’s very exciting!

17. Why can’t I get your books as Proper Books?

Because, darling, I like self publishing but at the same time I don’t want to rip my readers off. I feel giddy with incredulous horror when I see the price of most self published paper books and just couldn’t justify trying to charge people so much money for my work.

18. Have you written a book?

Yes. Yes, I have – The Secret Diary of a Princess and Blood Sisters. You can get them both for Kindle from Amazon for far less than the price of a pint of GIN.

19. You get a lot of hits on your blog, how do I get as many hits as you?

If there is one thing I hate most about blogging, it is prescriptive posts about How To Blog so I shan’t be doing that. I don’t, to be honest, know how or why I have managed to accumulate so many readers (most of whom never say anything, oh woe) but if I ever work it out, I’ll let you know!

20. Why do you always write GIN in block capitals?

Because it is.

I think that will do for now. I hope you found it informative! It’s been very busy here this week – our youngest boy, Oscar turned three on Monday! Woo! Our house is now full of Playmobil glow in the dark ghost pirates, which is rather nice.

It’s my birthday in a couple of weeks time, which is obviously rather less thrilling. I think we might be going to Agatha Christie’s house near Torquay for the day, which will be nice. I feel heart poundingly anxious about the whole thing though as it has timed entry, which always makes me panic a bit – what if we drive for two hours to get there and then can’t get in? Doesn’t bear thinking of.

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