Thanks for letting me chat on your blog today. I thought I’d just give a little bit of background as to what inspired The Girl in the Painting and how it turned into a novel from a short story.
It was originally called The Other Ophelia and started life as Young Adult short story about two teenagers who were recreating the famous Ophelia picture by Millais.
I had seen a picture of a lovely red-haired girl and someone said it reminded her of Lizzie Siddal. I didn’t know a lot about Lizzie, so I looked her up and was stunned by the information I found about her. Not only was she quite possibly the most famous Pre-Raphaelite model there was, but of course I’d seen her. I knew the Ophelia picture and had heard all about Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. I’d just never connected the dots, really. So that kind of started a small obsession with Lizzie.
There is a very famous story about Lizzie that catapulted her into notoriety: the fact that she posed for Millais in a tin bath, which was heated with candles to keep the water warm. Lizzie, hadn’t wanted to disturb Millais, so she lay there quite quietly until he thought to remember to see how his model was doing. By then, she had practically developed pneumonia and almost died. Millais had to foot the medical bills, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti who had by now fallen in love with her, decreed that she could model for nobody else, and had to be his muse and his muse alone.
So every other picture of Lizzie (that isn’t a self-portrait of course!) after that, is by Rossetti.
The short story I wrote was based on the idea that the tin bath somehow emerged out of obscurity, and the ghost of Rossetti didn’t like it, so the ghost turned on the young lad painting the re-creation and destroyed his picture. In actual fact, it wasn’t a very good story at all, but I quite liked the idea of something haunted in relation to Lizzie, and she felt like a character I could fictionalise and work with. I did a bit more digging and thought that her story would work quite well with another girl wanting the life that Lizzie had – a girl who was a bit of a fantasist and as far removed from a decorous young Victorian lady as you could really get – and Daisy Ashford waltzed into my mind.
Not only did she want to be friends with Lizzie, she had some sort of desperate obsession which made her want to be exactly like Lizzie – and The Girl in the Painting traces her journey as she does this.
When I began the novel, I knew that it would involve a time-slip and a haunting, which meant that I needed a modern-day heroine, and from that, red-headed Cori came into being. I needed a connection between the timelines, though, and a diary was a great one to go with.
By then, Some Veil Did Fall had been published and people were asking “what happens next?” – and seemed very anxious to find out.
Clearly, Jon and Becky had struck a chord with some of the readers and I saw a great way to link the books together by using a newspaper article Becky had written, about a diary Lissy had found. The diary was, of course, Daisy Ashford’s. And it came into Cori’s possession.
Suddenly, I had a whole new angle on it, and indulged myself in a lot more Lizzie research. I fictionalised Lizzie and Rossetti and Millais, and had a great deal of fun discovering Daisy’s world as she chased around London after the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, writing all her experiences down in her diary and more or less losing her own identity in the process.
Daisy was a wonderful character to explore, and I’m pleased I had the good fortune to ‘meet’ her in my book. The Girl in the Painting is a lot better than the original short story as well – I think my writing ‘grew up’ out of the YA world and I like my characters a whole lot better than those ones from the original story. I hope you do too, and that you want to continue the journey with The Girl in the Photograph; the third book in the Rossetti Mysteries series.
We leave Daisy behind for that one – but we do meet Lorelei, an Edwardian woman with her own demons to defeat. And we also catch up with Jon, Becky and the other characters from the modern world. It was lovely to see what had happened to them in the intervening time – it was as much a discovery for me as it will be for the readers!
EDITOR: Below is a synopsis of both books.
The Girl in the Painting
What if you thought you knew a secret that could change history?
Whilst standing engrossed in her favourite Pre-Raphaelite painting - Millais's Ophelia - Cori catches the eye of Tate gallery worker, Simon, who is immediately struck by her resemblance to the red-haired beauty in the famous artwork.
The attraction is mutual, but Cori has other things on her mind. She has recently acquired the diary of Daisy, a Victorian woman with a shocking secret. As Cori reads, it soon becomes apparent that Daisy will stop at nothing to be heard, even outside of the pages of her diary ...
Will Simon stick around when life becomes increasingly spooky for Cori, as she moves ever closer to uncovering the truth about Daisy's connection to the girl in her favourite painting?
The Girl in the Photograph
What if the past was trying to teach you a lesson?
Staying alone in the shadow of an abandoned manor house in Yorkshire would be madness to some, but art enthusiast Lissy de Luca can’t wait. Lissy has her reasons for seeking isolation, and she wants to study the Staithes Group – an artists’ commune active at the turn of the twentieth century.
Lissy is fascinated by the imposing Sea Scarr Hall – but the deeper she delves, the stranger things get. A lonely figure patrols the cove at night, whilst a hidden painting leads to a chilling realisation. And then there’s the photograph of the girl; so beautiful she could be a mermaid … and so familiar.
As Lissy further immerses herself, she comes to an eerie conclusion: The occupants of Sea Scarr Hall are long gone, but they have a message for her – and they’re going to make sure she gets it.
Buy The Girl in the Painting: www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/the-girl-in-the-painting/
Buy The Girl in the Photograph: www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/the-girl-in-the-photograph/
For more information on Kirsty Ferry, follow her on Twitter @kirsty_ferry