Saturday, May 27, 2023

Q&A with Hannah Dolby




Hannah Dolby is the author of the new historical mystery novel No Life for a Lady. She works in the public relations field, and she lives in London.


Q: What inspired you to write No Life for a Lady, and how did you create your character Violet?


A: I knew I always wanted to write a novel set in the Victorian era (such a rich backdrop for stories!) but Violet was originally having quite a miserable, serious time - it was only when I realised I wanted her to have fun and overcome some of the restrictions placed on women in that time that she really came to life. 


Q: How did you research the novel, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: I love original books and magazines from the Victorian era, so I hunted down ones on everything from marriage advice to health cures. I read a lot about the history of Hastings & St Leonards and spent several weekends there walking the streets, checking old maps and soaking up the seaside atmosphere - once even staying in a Victorian-themed guest house!


I was surprised to discover that many of the ideas I came up with turned out to be true when I researched them, from the scandal of naked men bathing in the sea to the terrible advice women were given on their wedding nights.  


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: I worked with my publisher's to pin down the title and I absolutely love it - it symbolises how much my main character, Violet, is living life in her own way, navigating the challenges that women faced at the time with her own brand of verve and cheekiness. And as readers will find out, she definitely finds her own life, even if it's not one for a lady! 


Q: Did you know how the story would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I knew roughly where the story should go but it definitely evolved into something much better along the way. I love that process of adding layers and complexity. But it was only a year from getting my book deal to publication, so it's been a bit of a whirlwind!


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am... drum roll... working on the sequel! So this isn't the end of Violet's story, and I'm currently wrestling with a whole new roller-coaster of adventures for her. It's fun to take her story further and bring back some of the characters that people loved in the first book.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: If you haven't been, Hastings and St Leonards is well worth a visit - only an hour and a half from London and it overflows with history and life at every turn. As well as a three-mile seafront promenade, you have grand Victorian buildings designed by the same architect who built London Zoo, a Norman castle that dates back to 1067, narrow, winding streets crammed with Tudor houses... the possibilities are endless.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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