Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Brook Cottage Books is thrilled to have Lucienne Boyce on the blog talking about her new book, To the Fair Land.

Chasing Myths in the Age of Sail



To The Fair Land combines my love of eighteenth-century literature and history, and my fascination with mythical lands. I’ve been reading the literature of the period for many years. When I did my MA with the Open University in 2006 it was the eighteenth century I specialised in.


Added to that, I’ve always been attracted to tales of mythical lands – the island of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Charlotte Perkin Gilman’s Herland, Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, William Morris’s Wondrous Isles, C S Lewis’s Narnia, El Dorado, Camelot...all the dystopias and utopias that mankind has dreamed of for centuries. 

What was striking about the eighteenth century – the great age of exploration – was the way such myths underpinned the rational, scientific quest for knowledge. It was the search for an entirely invented continent that prompted the voyages of Captain Cook and other great navigators. 

Since the time of Pythagoras, people had believed in the existence of the Great Southern Continent which they thought lay in the southern hemisphere. It had to exist, they argued, to balance out the world. No one had ever seen it, but that didn’t stop them drawing maps of it –hydrographer Alexander Dalrymple produced a map of the Continent in 1769. Captain Cook was sceptical, and it was he who demonstrated once and for all that the Continent does not exist.


But in 1772, when the events at the heart of To The Fair Land take place, Cook’s second voyage had only just begun and it was still possible to believe that there was a rich prize in the Pacific waiting to be claimed. So when Ben Dearlove, a struggling writer stuck in the Grub Street doldrums*, tries to find the anonymous author of a book about a voyage to the Great Southern Continent, he discovers that he’s not the only one on the trail. Before long he’s caught up in a web of intrigue and murder that leads all the way to the Lords of the Admiralty.

With so many elements to combine – voyages, murder, fantasy, elopement – the planning stage was crucial. It took a few goes before I had an outline I was happy with. I know some writers prefer not to work from outlines, but for me an outline comes naturally. I know where the story starts, where it ends, and vaguely how it gets there. If I didn’t, it wouldn’t be a story. But I don’t sketch out every detail: that would kill it stone dead.

Nor do I separate research and writing. Just as I am always writing something (if I’m not writing I get tetchy!), so I am always reading something of or about the period – newspapers, novels, plays, poetry, history. I live in Bristol, a wonderful city which has preserved much of its eighteenth-century architecture, and Bath is only a few miles away. I look at paintings and portraits, visit museums and houses, and share information with other writers. So “research” is not something special that I have to go out of my way to do.

I’ve been immersed in the eighteenth century for years now and I’m still there. The book I’m currently working on is about a Bow Street Runner who is also an amateur pugilist. He’s in Somerset investigating a murder amongst poachers…and I now know more about pheasants than I ever thought I would!

*Doldrums: part of the ocean where calms prevail; also used of someone who is miserable. (Glossary, To The Fair Land.)

About the Book
In 1789 struggling writer Ben Dearlove rescues a woman from a furious Covent Garden mob. The woman is ill and in her delirium cries out the name “Miranda”. Weeks later an anonymous novel about the voyage of the Miranda to the fabled Great Southern Continent causes a sensation. Ben decides to find the author everyone is talking about. He is sure the woman can help him – but she has disappeared.

It is soon clear that Ben is involved in something more dangerous than the search for a reclusive writer. Who is the woman and what is she running from? Who is following Ben? And what is the Admiralty trying to hide? Before he can discover the shocking truth Ben has to get out of prison, catch a thief, and bring a murderer to justice.

A gripping, thrilling mystery...the plot is complex, exciting, and has a high degree of suspense maintained right to the end. ( Sarah Cuthbertson, Historical Novel Society )



About the Author

Lucienne Boyce was brought up in the Midlands and now lives in Bristol with her husband and hundreds of books. With its exciting maritime heritage, Bristol is the setting for many of her stories. When she is not writing she is happiest walking around the historic city and the surrounding countryside gathering ideas and inspiration.

Find out more at lucienneboyce.com. 




One Response so far.

  1. Great book - lovely lady! Enjoyed the post, very interesting, thanks!

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