Dreaming of Another World is a new feature on my blog where I welcome a fellow writer or blogger on to talk about their hopes for the future, post Covid-19. During lockdown, I wondered whether other creatives felt like me – like another world was possible and could just be glimpsed once we were forced to stay still. I’ve had a great response and each week I will be publishing a post written by a guest – sharing their thoughts, feelings, experiences and hopes during this strange time. How have they coped during lockdown and has it changed their lives in any way or made them yearn for a different kind of world? Today please welcome author Misha Herwin, where she talks about how working on her children’s fantasy series The Adventures of Letty Parker, helped her escape into another world while this one ground to a halt.
Dreaming Another World – my thoughts and feelings re lockdown
Initially it seemed like no big deal. Three weeks, or maybe more, of having to stay at home had a certain appeal. I would miss seeing family and friends, but it wouldn’t be for long and think how much writing I could do. My brain whirled with plans to finish one book, then revisit a series I’d begun but never completed. Added to which there would be the “Dragonfire” books to reissue. I could hardly wait to get started.
Euphoria lasted maybe a week, maybe less. The first blow was not being able to visit Mum on Mothering Sunday. This was followed by a creeping sense of anxiety and unease that grew stronger as time passed, government directives became increasingly confusing and the death toll rose daily. Suddenly everything I had taken for granted was freighted with peril. The days passed in a miasma of getting little done yet feeling exhausted.
What saved my sanity was transporting myself into another world. An alternative time and place, an England where Queen Victoria is still on the throne and Bristol is a city of secrets.
Letty Parker is, at thirteen years old, an enterprising business woman who runs a detective agency, “Letty Parker and Associates; Mysteries solved and the Missing found.” Her associates include, Jebediah Hill the leader of a gang of pickpockets, Mango, Jeb’s sidekick, Hepzibah Harrington, who comes from a very respectable merchant family and Gabriel. Gabriel is half-human, half Nephilim. When Letty was a baby he saved her from drowning and being eaten by Barbary eels and now acts partly as a guardian angel, but one who is never sure of his role in life and is constantly trying to find where he belongs.
The city these disparate characters inhabit is based on a real place, but has many fantasy elements and it is these that transported me from the grim reality of lockdown to a place where I could wander the narrow twisted streets of old Bristol, peep through the window of a dusty apothecary’s shop, where skulls grin from the shelves and drying herbs hang from the ceiling, or wander down to the dockside and watch the sailing ships come in from the Indies with their cargoes of sugar, tobacco and slaves.
For not everything is right with Letty’s world. The evil trade is still practised, two rival gangs rule the streets and the Dark Ones have seized power in the city. The Dark Ones are ancient beings, the Nephilim, who living for centuries view humankind as having as little individual value as ants. Long term they want progress. Gabriel’s Aunt Venetia lights her house with electricity and has installed a telephone. His father the Count believes that science will ultimately prove to be of benefit to mankind and is prepared to go ahead with his plans for the city whatever the cost.
Letty in contrast believes in fairness and friendship. She risks her life to save the street children who were kidnapped by Mother Jenkins and to rescue Hepzibah from the clutches of the Dark Ones.
She is also prepared to face down the mysteries Bear. Half man, half beast, leader of one of the street gangs, he and his followers live in an underground cavern. To reach his lair, Letty has to use the iron cage that descends from the Downs through the cliffs at Hotwells.
Using real locations like the cliff railway, I can see exactly where my characters are, smell the river mud, and hear the gulls wheeling over the masts of the ships docked at tobacco wharf, taste the suppers of steak pie and rumbulin at the Llandogandcrow Inn, where Jeb and Mango meet.
Layers of story overlie reality and when I was free to visit, I would find myself in company with Letty and friends as I walked along the river, or the bus went past the Christmas Steps.
The world expanded with the third book, “Island of Fear” when Letty inadvertently finds herself setting sail for Jamaica. This story was inspired by the time we lived in Kingston at the end of the nineties and the tales told by Mrs Winn an old Maroon story teller. On a grey day I love being back on a hot tropical island, where hummingbirds flit among the bougainvillea, owls call in the rain forest, the sea is blue, the sand white and the nights are dark and mysterious.
I might not have to deal with pirates, cursed jewels, evil plantation managers, duppies and dark magic, like Letty does, but it takes me out of the present situation and reminds me of the time when I was living a life that was like nothing I could have imagined.
Building Letty’s world and inhabiting it has given me an escape route. It’s also been a challenge, as all writing is. There has been the research, although it’s a fantasy world it has to be grounded in time and place, especially as some of the characters actually exsisted. Brunel and his suspension bridge make an appearance as does Sarah Guppy one of my favourite Victorian inventors.
Then there is the editing and the days when the writing isn’t going well and I have to find ways to get back into the flow. This has happened less frequently as the months have gone by and my need to be back in a world where I am more or less in control has grown.
None of us can foresee what is going to happen next and looking back into the past is not always the healthiest option, so this is my way of staying sane.
Thank you so much to Misha joining the blog today and sharing her thoughts on lockdown. If you would like to know more about Misha and her books you can find her author bio and links below!
Misha Herwin was born in England of Polish parents. English was not her first language but once she learned to speak it, she has never stopped. At twelve she wrote and staged her first play in a theatre made from a cardboard box. Since then things have improved and her plays have been both performed in England and Jamaica, where she lived for a while. As Misha M Herwin she has written two novels “Picking up the Pieces” and “House of Shadows”, both published by Penkull Press. “Dragonfire” “Juggler of Shapes” and “Master of Trades” are her fantasy trilogy for kids. “City of Secrets” is her most recent book and is the first in a fantasy adventure series for children. Her stories for adult readers have appeared in a number of anthologies including “A Fairy’s Story,” in “Bitch Lit”, and “The Satan Stones” in “Ancient Wonders,” by Alchemy Press. Her latest “The Loop Line” is in “The Darkest Midnight in December”. Her children are grown up and she lives in Staffordshire England with her husband in a house with a dragon in the garden.
The Adventures of Letty Parker are available of Amazon, Apple and other outlets, including bookshops.
City of Secrets: Book One in the series “The Adventures of Letty Parker.” https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=city+of+Secrets+Misha+Herwin&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss
Bridge of Lies: Book Two https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Bridge+of+Lies+Misha+Herwin&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss