I was born in Derby in 1971, the same year David Bowie released Hunky Dory. (This is not significant. I just happen to like Hunky Dory.) I studied English at the University of Leeds from 1991-4, majoring in medieval literature, road movies, Icelandic sagas and cheap red wine. One of these proved useful in my chosen career of publishing.
My first novel is called The Devil in the Marshalsea. It’s out in March 2014 in the UK and June 2014 in the US. I’m currently writing my author biography, which I have just finished.
THE LAST CONFESSION OF THOMAS HAWKINS
Spring, 1728. A young, well-dressed man is dragged through the streets of London to the gallows at Tyburn. The crowds jeer and curse as he passes, calling him a murderer. He tries to remain calm. His name is Tom Hawkins and he is innocent. Somehow he has to prove it, before the rope squeezes the life out of him.
It is, of course, all his own fault. He was happy with Kitty Sparks. Life was good. He should never have told the most dangerous criminal in London that he was ‘bored and looking for adventure’. He should never have offered to help Henrietta Howard, the king’s mistress, in her desperate struggles with a brutal husband. And most of all, he should never have trusted the witty, calculating Queen Caroline. She has promised him a royal pardon if he holds his tongue but then again, there is nothing more silent than a hanged man.
Based loosely on actual events, Antonia Hodgson’s new novel is both a sequel to The Devil in the Marshalsea and a standalone historical mystery. From the gilded cage of the Court to the wicked freedoms of the slums, it reveals a world both seductive and deadly. And it continues the rake’s progress of Tom Hawkins – assuming he can find a way to survive the noose…
Im afraid I’m yet to read this book, the curse of the prolific TBR book pile, but im very much looking forward to it…..Thank you for agreeing to this small Q&A session:
1) When I write a review I always like to give some background on the author, So who is Antonia Hodgson And why did she become a writer?
Reading was always a great passion of mine – my mum could never send me to my room as punishment as that was where I spent most of my time, surrounded by books. I grew up in a suburb of Derby, and there was a small village library at the bottom of my road. I would head down there every Saturday morning and select a new pile of books to take home. I’d often finished them by the end of the weekend. Then I’d read whatever my mum had taken out as well – usually Agatha Christie. And then I’d re-read favourite books such as Tales of Greek Heroes, or The Hobbit, or The Magic Faraway Tree. I’d read my sisters’ old Jackie annuals. Or my dad’s science fiction collection, authors such as Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov.
When I was small – up until I was about nine years old, I was very shy. Books were a sanctuary and an escape. But they also helped me to better understand and connect with the world. I’m not especially shy as a grown up, but I write for the same reasons. Plus – I enjoy it.
2) Why Historical Fiction? And why the early 1700’s London rather than the more explosive war time periods?(eg War with Spain is not far off)
I just happened to fall in love with the period. I was intrigued by the fact that it was neglected and so often misrepresented. Every moment of history is interesting for the people who live in it. I understand why writers are drawn to stories of war, or to glamorous monarchs like Henry VIII. I like reading about them.
But there are other stories – particularly if you’re focusing on lives beyond the court, the military, the government. London in the 1720s was a thrilling and dangerous place to live – with a population of 600,000 but no police force. There was a constitutional monarchy, pre-publication censorship had been abolished and (as one Swiss traveller complained), people valued their liberty over their religion. But it could also be a very cruel place – especially for the poor. Later generations thought the early Georgians were an absolute disgrace. That’s reason enough to get to know them.
3) Who are the writers that have influenced you most, from making you want to be a writer, through to style?
I don’t think individual writers made me want to become a writer – I think it was more that I loved inhabiting a whole range of fictional worlds. As for style, my novels are written in the first person, and I think it’s really important that Tom Hawkins’ voice is his own. But if we’re just talking about love and admiration rather than influence, my favourite authors include Dickens, Austen, Ursula K Le Guin, John Le Carre, Kazuo Ishiguro, Hilary Mantel, George R R Martin, Alan Moore. And then there are individual books that I just love to bits: Frankenstein, Catch 22, The Woman in White, Gormenghast, Cold Comfort Farm, The Name of the Rose, Neuromancer. To name just a few.
4) Tom Hawkins , what was the influence behind him as a main character?
I wrote a previous novel that didn’t really work, but had a small section set in the early 1700s. There was a character in it who was supposed to become a country parson, but who rebelled against his father’s wishes. He was quite a different character from Tom, but something about that situation stuck in my mind. One of the things that intrigues me about Tom is that he is still working out who he is and what he stands for. (When he’s sober enough to stand, that is.) He’s still young, and a lot remains uncertain.
5) The Devil in the Marshalsea contains more than a whiff of the atmospheric, a real sense of the time period, so barring a time machine stashed under the stairs where does the inspiration come from for the sights sounds and smells of the period?
Well, thank you! A lot of it comes from research, filtered through my imagination. For example, the Gaol Committee report into prisons (1729) is full of really upsetting descriptions of starving prisoners, dressed in rags, infested with lice. And sketches, too. The commissioners were absolutely horrified by what they discovered. We all know that sanitation was not perfect in the eighteenth century, so if people said the conditions were shocking… well, then they really were shocking.
Beyond that, it’s often a case of drawing on my own experience and comparing it to the contemporary sources. I think we all know what rotten meat smells like, for instance, or filthy, matted hair. I live in London – I’ve seen a rat before. There’s a line in chapter two of The Devil in the Marshalsea: ‘I was lying in a dank, deserted side passage that stank of piss and vomit and other fluids, as all such places do and no doubt always will to the end of time.’ Some things are not period-specific.
6) Book 2 in the bag, often classed as the tough one, especially following a successful one, what’s next
I’m writing my third book at the moment. It’s set in 1728 up in Yorkshire, around Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal. I don’t want to say anything more than that just for now. Spoilers!
7) If you had the choice of any other Genre to write in, what would it be and why?
I do love science fiction and fantasy, so I’d love to try something within the SFF genre one day, if the right idea/character came along. But I’m very happy where I am.
8) What / who do you read for fun?
Lots of non-fiction. I love books on psychology, like Susan Cain’s Quiet and The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz. Also – Lee Child! He’s such a fantastic storyteller and you always know you’re going to have a good time with his books. But saying that I read him for fun is not to suggest I don’t take him seriously as a writer. He makes something very difficult look ridiculously easy.
9) If you could invite any four people from throughout history or fictional writing to dinner, whom would it be and why?
Oh god, I’m a terrible cook. I’d probably poison them. They’re best off staying where they are.
10) Finally, the bit most authors would shy away from. You have a soap box and the publisher has asked you to stand outside Kings cross and pitch your latest book to the passers buy… what would your pitch be to make the public buy this book/ series?
I’d tell them it’s a historical crime series set in the filthy streets of eighteenth-century London, filled with vice, drink, gambling and murder. And then I’d fire my publishers for maki