The Assembly Rooms and Fashion Museum at Bath

The second scene in The Flowers of Time has Jones and Edie meeting for the first time at Lady Nailsbourne’s ball, at her house in London. Jones is pretty far out of her comfort zone, poured in to a smart dress and corseted within an inch of her life. It’s 1780 and neither of them wear wigs-they had gone out fashion for ladies a few decades before-but they would probably have had hair pieces to bulk out their own hair and have lightly powdered them an off-white colour.

I dragged my family to Bath one day last year and we visited the Assembly Rooms and the Fashion Museum tucked in the basement of the building. I was looking for inspiration. I found various dresses that were definitely worthy of Edie and one or two that I could see Jones wearing.

I had already written the scene and I was really cheered to see virtually the dress I’d described for Edie on display. It’s the fourth one along in this montage, with a light pink gown over a contrasting petticoat. I can also see her in dress numbers one and three, puttering around painting. I can picture Jones in two and five, extremely uncomfortable and feeling very out of place. If you want to find out more about the different kinds of fashionable gowns for ladies at the time I recommend this post by Costumeholic.

We then found this working man’s frock coat from about 1790. It’s a little later than the story, but working men’s fashions wouldn’t have changed that much and I can see Jones comfortable in something like this as she travels around exploring and later as she does her science experiments.

Ordinary work-a-day clothes tend not to survive because they were worn ‘til they wore out and/or were ‘made over’ for other people and purposes, so this is very unusual. Clothes were incredibly high value and very expensive before the advent of factory production, so your average working class adult would probably only have two sets at a time.

I had a bit of a to-and-fro with my lovely editor about the use of bodies to describe the stays that Edie wears on her travels and in the end we decide to keep it. Working women who dressed by themselves without the help of a maid to lace them still wore a kind of corset called a pair of bodies. This was for practical reasons to support the back and bosom as well as to give them a bit of help with their figure and they generally laced up the front as well as the back. There is a fascinating reconstruction of an ordinary person getting herself dressed in the morning here on YouTube from Crows Eye Productions and I based Edie’s morning routine on this.

On our visit I also took some pictures of the Assembly Room itself. It has a sprung floor and my minions were happy to demonstrate.

It was quite chilly the day we went and it was difficult to imagine the room packed and sweaty; but with hundreds of candles and people it would soon have become unpleasantly warm.

We only live an hour away from Bath and there is so much to see, I thoroughly recommend a visit if you are in the area. It was wonderful to be able to pop up there and gather some more fuel for my story-mine.

thanks all round

And that’s the end of The Flowers of Time blogtour! Thank you so much to everyone who has hosted me, it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to visit. Here’s a recap of the topics and where you can find me:

Plus! All these lovely people came and talked to me over the last few days on intersecting topics:

It’s been a lot of fun and an immense privilege to host such a wonderful set of people and I’m so grateful that they took time out of their busy lives. Thank you!

PS. If you’d like to buy The Flowers of Time that would quite frankly make me extremely chuffed.

release day! The Flowers of Time

Today is the book-birthday of The Flowers of Time!

You can find the buy-link and read all about the book here…there’s an excerpt and a clip of me reading it.

Plus, to celebrate the launch I am off on a blog-tour over the next ten days. You can see the schedule below and the things I’ll be talking about.

I’m also hosting some lovely people here on own site to talk about magic, gender and journeys (not necessarily all at once!) in their own books. I’ll be putting a post up introducing them tomorrow.

Today though, I am over at Queer Sci-Fi, answering questions about my writing process. And other things. Because otherwise that would make for a short interview! Thank you so much to the QSF guys for hosting me.

Finally…scroll down to enter the Rafflecopter draw for a universal e-reader cover and a leather-bound notebook, not at all unlike the book in the story!

This week you can find me at:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

booktrailer: the flowers of time

I’m quite proud of this, actually!

The Flowers of Time has been a long time coming. I first started mulling the idea of writing about plant-collectors a couple of years ago when I read a newspaper article about Europeans stomping round the world in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries ‘discovering’ new plants. I knew I wanted Ella Fortune (from Lost in Time) to have her own book and it seemed like the kind of thing she might do in the 1920s after she’d finished being an ambulance driver in France and started a newspaper. Initially I thought this might be it.

However…when I started writing, the characters didn’t want to be in the twentieth century at all, they wanted to be in the 1780s. This was a completely new era for me and cost me a lot of research-time. I relied heavily on ‘Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India‘ by Shashi Tharoor for background, plus ‘She-Merchants, Buccaneers and Gentlewomen: British women in India 1600 – 1900‘ by Katie Hickman about women in India and ‘The Honourable Company: a History of the English East India Company‘ by John Keay. I recommend these three as giving a reasonable overview of the pre-British Empire period. I also did a lot of reading about the Victorian flower-painter Marianne North ‘A Vision Of Eden: The Life And Work Of Marianne North‘ and found ‘Among the Tibetans‘ by Isabella Bird illuminating.

So then. Having dealt with the change in time-period, I started out with Jones, who I knew was non-binary and Edie, who’s sexuality can best be described as ‘pragmatic’. And as their journey over the mountains progressed it became clear that Jones was probably demi/gray asexual, as well. And then the paranormal intruded, which I find it often does once I start writing. And by the time I got to the end, I was in a real twist about how they were going to get their happy ending and be able to come back to England as a couple and both be settled in their own skin.

Anyway. Here it is. I hope you enjoy it. You can buy it here.

the flowers of time

The Flowers of Time will be published by JMS Books at the end of February! Pre-order here! Or listen to me read an excerpt!

A non-binary explorer and a determined lady botanist make the long journey over the high Himalayan passes to Little Tibet, collecting flowers and exploring ruins on the way. Will Jones discover the root of the mysterious deaths of her parents? Will she confide in Edie and allow her to help in the quest? It’s a trip fraught with dangers for both of them, not least those of the heart.

Jones is determined to find out what caused the unexpected death of her father whilst they were exploring ancient ruins in the Himalayas. She’s never been interested in the idea of the marriage bed, but along with a stack of books and coded journals he’s left her with the promise she’ll travel back to England for the first time since childhood and try being the lady she’s never been.

Edie and her brother are leaving soon on a journey to the Himalayas to document and collect plants for the new Kew Gardens when she befriends Miss Jones in London. She’s never left England before and is delighted to learn that the lady will be returning to the mountains she calls home at the same time they are planning their travels. When they meet again in Srinagar, Edie is surprised to find that here the Miss Jones of the London salons is ‘just Jones’ the explorer, clad in breeches and boots and unconcerned with the proprieties Edie has been brought up to respect.

A non-binary explorer and a determined botanist make the long journey over the high mountain passes to Little Tibet, collecting flowers and exploring ruins on the way. Will Jones discover the root of the mysterious deaths of her parents? Will she confide in Edie and allow her to help in the quest? It’s a trip fraught with perils for both of them, not least those of the heart.