The Fair, Laudenum and Passion, to me, is all about freedom and casting off strict Victorian social expectations, and is filled with everything I love about the era. Ettie goes with her arrogant husband to the fair, where they accidentally separate and she finds herself in a room with the sword swallower and other carnival performers as they drink laudenum. First off, I am obsessed with circuses, carnivals, and the underbelly of Victorian life so I couldn’t wait to write about it. By involving herself with these things Ettie discovers who she really is and her life changes, and as her creator I felt like I was setting her free, which I loved.
It’s a similar thing for Helena in A Stimulating Cure. She’s constrained by expectations that she should do as her husband says and not have the strange urges she’s having, that any wish to be free must be some sort of illness. Again it’s a particular point of interest to me, Victorian medicine, particularly the innocence with which ‘hysteria cures’ were deployed. Did the doctor really have no idea what they were doing? It’s hard to believe that the idea of massaging someone’s privates wouldn’t lead to suspicion that it was an erotic act, so I wanted to explore the idea that perhaps it was known, but it wouldn’t do to talk about these things.
Beyond The Bedroom And Into The Night comes from my love of gothic horror. It’s heavily inspired by Dracula and stories like it, though with a more feminine angle. Rather than focus purely on the men looking after her we see events from Amelia’s point of view and feel her shock and fear when morals begin to slip from her consciousness. Again I wanted to set my main character free and she does this in shocking ways. I wanted her animal urges to take over her logic.
Live Performance at the Grand Guignol is again inspired by gothic horror, but this time I wanted to look at real situations rather than supernatural. The Grand Guignol was a style of theatre popular until after the second world war. It was mostly shown in a little theatre in Paris, but other places attempted to emulate it. It showed shocking and gory plays, the kind of stories the audience would have read about in Penny Dreadfuls. As well as showing vast amounts of blood and body parts and frightening the viewers, it was common knowledge that theatre-goers would often become aroused. Whether the fear sent hearts racing enough to excite them or the theatre became a known spot for philanderers in unclear, and perhaps it was a bit of both. Either way, maids told of finding evidence of sexual activity the morning after.
The main character of the story is an actress, a profession which was looked down on at the time, which is another fascinating example of attitudes changing as nowadays it’s one of the most sought after positions you can get. I was interested in showing a character who’d perhaps experienced enough to make her a little world weary, but again I enjoy exploring that part of them that finds passion irresistible. To me it shows that, no matter the era or the social rules a character lives by, we’re all the same underneath.