In 1824, a young man buttons up his redcoat and goes to war. Amidst the blood and devastation, he discovers a magical power which can save memory from the ravages of time.
1867 and a woman, living above a watch shop, meets two men who will change her life forever. As she ventures further into a world of séance and mysticism, she must decide whether to trust her own eyes.
In the present day, a rebellious artist finds herself photographing stillbirths for a living. At Little Angels, it’s not about what you can take from a picture, but what you can give.
The story of three lives, spanning the history of photography and our relationship with mortality.
Secure the shadow, ere the substance fades.
MY INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR
- When did you know that you wanted to be an author?
It wasn’t really a conscious decision.
I think I first understood the power of stories as a young girl, travelling with my dad on the train. We used to go to London a lot and needed things to pass the time. I was quite into Fighting Fantasy and we’d make up stories around that. One time, I was reading him a vampire story I’d written in pencil on lined paper. The train pulled into a station and the man next to us stood up. He was dressed in a heavy coat and wide-brimmed hat. As he was getting off the train, he turned back and said, ‘I really wish I could hear the end of that.’
For a child to hold that much power over an adult was rather a thrill. I’d always loved books, but I think that’s when I first realised I could also tell stories.
Flashforward a couple of decades, and I was sitting in my house in Rwanda with no books, no radio and no TV. Partly out of boredom, I decided to try writing a novel, just to see if I could make the word count.
It turned out I could, and the piece was shortlisted for the Luke Bitmead Bursary for New Writers in 2009. A real boost of confidence for a fledgling writer.
I’ve been scribbling ever since.
- What inspired you to write this book?
As with most stories, inspiration converged on me from a couple of directions.
I used to run a consultancy in the UK, helping small non-profits to register with the Charity Commission. One day, I got a call from a group who wanted to register a British branch of an American charity with a very long name. It was quite an unusual name, and when I asked what they did, the answer was rather unexpected.
They were a group of volunteer photographers who go into hospitals to photograph stillborn babies, so that their families have something to remember them by. They did exactly what Little Angels does in the book. Only, in the book, Little Angels is a business, whereas they work free of charge.
I didn’t really think that much about it until a few years later when I met up with an old school friend for a drink. Somehow, the conversation drifted onto another friend of ours who kept a picture of their stillborn child on the bookshelf at home. My friend was a bit disturbed by this, but all I kept thinking was, ‘that seems so natural.’ When you’ve been through the same things as any other mother: pregnancy, morning sickness, childbirth… why shouldn’t you have the right to talk about it? Why is it expected that these things be hidden away?
Those two conversations set me off along that journey to explore our relationship with photography and death.
- If you could sell this book in one sentence what would it be?
The history of photography and our relationship with mortality.
- What are you up to next?
I’m currently working with a fantastic cast of actors to create the audiobook for my epic The Children of Lir, which came out last year, whilst also attempting to self-record the audiobook for The Tangled Forest, which is a trilogy of dark fairy tales. I must admit, I’m not enjoying that as much. Given that I wrote the book, I thought it would be a lot easier to read out loud, but the voices in your head don’t always come out of your mouth. In between all that, I’m doing some light research for my next novel, set in ancient Akkad.
- Who is your biggest inspiration?
I don’t think any one person takes that accolade. Inspiration comes from so many different places, and different places at different times. At the moment I’m really enjoying Korean movies, they have some great mythology, and listening to a lot of audiobooks on ancient history and general fiction.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marion Grace Woolley is known for dark historical fiction including Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran and The Children of Lir. She balances writing with her work in international development and her hobby as a piano tuner. Marion currently lives in Rwanda.
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