Authors reveal the images that inspired 100,000 words

About the author...

Kirsty Ferry is from the North East of England and writes for award-winning romance publishers Choc Lit. She has also published other novels with a North East flavour, and written a dark, Gothic fairy-tale under the name of Cathryn Ramsay. Kirsty has had short stories and articles published in magazines such as The Weekly News, Peoples Friend and It’s Fate. Her day-job is based in a converted Georgian terrace; a building with its own eclectic collection of ghosts. This often makes for an interesting working environment.

My Rossetti Mysteries series for Choc Lit was inspired by a fascination with the Pre-Raphaelite artists and the work that they produced. Not only were they incredible artists, but their skills ranged across so many disciplines, including poetry and photography, and they were such amazing individuals that I couldn’t help but want to write about them. These artists include the likes of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais – if you Google them, you are bound to recognise the paintings that come up! When I was doing the research for my first book, Some Veil Did Fall, (that title is a line from the Rossetti poem Sudden Light, which is about reincarnation and past lives and soulmates – many of the premises in my novel) I bought a mountain of books and these are two particularly special ones. The one entitled The Pre-Raphaelites is a catalogue for a 1984 Tate Gallery, London, exhibition. In my second Rossetti Mystery novel, The Girl in the Painting, my modern-day heroine Cori has this very book. And very strange things happen to it. My third novel, The Girl in the Photograph, which is due out in spring 2017, was inspired by something I found inside this catalogue…

…And here it is. A newspaper clipping from 2003. I bought the book second hand from Amazon and when I opened it up, I found this article, neatly cut out and slipped between the pages. It tells the story of an unpublished Julia Margaret Cameron photograph from 1866 – the sitter was unknown but the style and everything else is pure, unadulterated Cameron; this photograph was found and published for the first time in that newspaper article before it went to a Cameron exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Julia Margaret Cameron was one of the most famous Pre-Raphaelite photographers, and often based her shots on Pre-Raphaelite paintings. I always intended my Rossetti series to be a trilogy, with each book linked to the others but as a standalone story as well. If you read them in order, you’ll find they are chronological, with each book set two or three years after the previous one. But they work on their own too, if you do happen to get them out of order! The first book covers poetry with our beautiful Rossetti poem; the second covers art, being based on a mystery surrounding the Millais painting of Ophelia, with Lizzie Siddal, Rossetti’s muse, lover and wife, as the model (or was she? Daisy, the Victorian heroine in my book may disagree), and the third novel covers photography, and has a thread dealing with a mystery surrounding what could be a Cameron photograph, depicting an unknown model, destined for an exhibition.

This is a picture from the Tate catalogue book. It’s a little pencil sketch of Lizzie Siddal by Rossetti. It’s a nice way of depicting how Rossetti loved to draw her, and quite rare as she’s fully facing the artist – which apparently didn’t happen often. I’ve tossed it into the mix as Lizzie was a huge inspiration for The Girl in the Painting.

This picture is from The Pre-Raphaelite Camera book. You can see how Julia Margaret Cameron has created a photograph based on another painting of Lizzie by Rossetti, which is how it all links into the Pre-Raphaelite/Rossetti concept of my series. Tragically, this painting was done after Lizzie died – but before you feel too sorry for old Dante, he painted quite a few copies of this picture and sold them all -if I could paraphrase him, he excused himself by blaming it all on ‘the lure of the lucre.’ I studied Lizzie and Rossetti’s relationship for my Master’s degree, and looked at how Lizzie was depicted as an object of adoration and the perfect Victorian woman – the first supermodel, in fact, and, through her work with the Pre-Raphaelites, how she became a celebrity. It all fed into my 

writing and inspired the novels. These people are such an interesting, fascinating set of characters, perhaps they don’t need an enormous amount of fictionalising as their stories are incredible enough as they are!

I love these two paintings! I bought the postcards at my local art gallery, The Laing, in Newcastle upon Tyne. We are lucky enough to have a few Pre-Raphaelite paintings in there (including Holman Hunt’s Isabella and the Pot of Basil and a couple of Rossettis amongst others), but we also have these stunning works of art by Dame Laura Knight and Harold Knight. Laura did On the Beach (1909) and her husband did In the Spring (1908). These paintings inspired part of The Girl in the Photograph as it’s set on the coast in summertime and the historical part is set in Edwardian times. Laura and Harold were part of the famous Newlyn group of artists and also came to Staithes in North Yorkshire, where the book is set, as part of the Staithes Group of Artists. The Staithes Group was breaking up around 1905 when part of the book is set, and my own photographer, Julian, comes to record it all before it fades away. The Knights were a perfect link and Lorelei, my Edwardian heroine, has a foothold in both Staithes and Newlyn – and, of course, she knew the Knights!

Thank you, Kirsty, for the insight into your writing world!