It was rather a special day yesterday for author Kirsty Ferry – a double publication day! The second in the Rossetti Mysteries series, The Girl in the Painting, was published in paperback by Choc Lit – I’m currently reading this one, thoroughly enjoying it, and I’ll publish my review in the next few days. But it was also e-book publication day for the third book the series, The Girl in the Photograph – another I plan to read, enjoy, and review in due course. And, just in case you were wondering about the first in the series, Some Veil Did Fall – you’ll find my review here.
Let’s take a closer look at The Girl in the Photograph…
What if the past was trying to teach you a lesson?
Staying alone in the shadow of an abandoned manor house in Yorkshire would be madness to some, but art enthusiast Lissy de Luca can’t wait. Lissy has her reasons for seeking isolation, and she wants to study the Staithes Group – an artists’ commune active at the turn of the twentieth century.
Lissy is fascinated by the imposing Sea Scarr Hall – but the deeper she delves, the stranger things get. A lonely figure patrols the cove at night, whilst a hidden painting leads to a chilling realisation. And then there’s the photograph of the girl; so beautiful she could be a mermaid … and so familiar.
As Lissy further immerses herself, she comes to an eerie conclusion: The occupants of Sea Scarr Hall are long gone, but they have a message for her – and they’re going to make sure she gets it.
And I’m delighted to welcome Kirsty to Being Anne to tell us more…
My latest book, The Girl in the Photograph, is upholding the Rossetti Mysteries tradition by being based on the North Yorkshire coast; but this time, I’ve moved away from Whitby. I haven’t gone very far though – I’ve headed ten miles up the coast to a little fishing village called Staithes, and I’ve passed a place called Runswick Bay, eight and a half miles en route.
Neither of these places might mean much to you, and you might just give them a cursory glance as you notice the stunning coastline and the quirky little cottages clustered together – but they actually had a huge influence on the art world. In 1894, a group of artists discovered that, thanks to the railways, they could travel around and set up colonies in hitherto ‘unexplored’ areas. And so the Staithes Group was established.
These artists were part of the English Impressionist movement and were influenced by French Impressionists, such as Monet, Cézanne and Renoir. In fact, a lot of the Staithes Group studied in Paris, although some of the artists came from more ‘local’ areas such as Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham. Until 1909, they exhibited together, first in Staithes, and later in Whitby. They also loved plein air painting, which basically means ‘fresh air’ or ‘outdoor’ painting, and as well as the French Impressionists they took influence from the Yorkshire Impressionists such as Henry Barlow Carter and George Weatherill – and from the more famous Newlyn group, who were from Cornwall.
The Newlyn link intrigued me as I had a tutor on one of my degree modules who brought to life Dame Laura Knight, an artist I had long admired and whose paintings I love – and Laura and her husband Harold were an integral part of the Newlyn Group; a very famous group of artists based in Newlyn, Cornwall. During my research for The Girl in the Photograph, I discovered that Laura and Harold had also had a studio in Runswick Bay (which is now rented out as a holiday home!) They used to walk to Staithes every day and paint, and then walk all the way back. So of course, Laura and Harold – and Newlyn – found a place in my book.
The early 1900s was a perfect era in which to base The Girl in the Photograph. The Rossetti Mysteries trilogy follows, chronologically, the lives of a particular set of characters. The Pre-Raphaelite art I incorporate in the stories also works chronologically. The first book touches on writing and poetry, then the second incorporates painting, and finally, the third book has a strong emphasis on photography. I chose to set part of The Girl in the Photograph in 1905, and because this was around about the time the Staithes Group was breaking up, I created a young, devilishly handsome photographer to come and record the last vestiges of the movement. Add to that a beautiful young woman, a talented artist in her own right, trapped in a violent marriage, whose deepest desire was to pose for the famous Pre-Raphaelite photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, and you have the beginnings of the historical side of the novel.
I’ve put some paintings and photographs in this blog post so you can get a flavour of them – but there are a few more in the book trailer I’m creating, so keep an eye out for that too! I’ve also been lucky enough to see some of these works of art close up. They are stunning. I have seen a lot of Laura’s work in the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle, and some of Harold’s. I’ve seen Julia Margaret Cameron’s work too, and a whole exhibition dedicated to the Staithes Group at the Pannett Gallery in Whitby. Pannett Art Gallery is the only place that has a permanent exhibition of the Staithes Group and it’s well worth paying the museum a visit if you get the chance!
Thank you Kirsty – what a wonderful post! I’ll definitely try to take in the Pannett Gallery on my next visit to Whitby.
About Kirsty Ferry
Kirsty is from the North East of England and won the English Heritage/Belsay Hall National Creative Writing competition in 2009 with the ghostly tale Enchantment. Her timeslip novel, Some Veil Did Fall, a paranormal romance set in Whitby, was published by Choc Lit in Autumn 2014. This was followed by another Choc Lit timeslip, The Girl in the Painting in February 2016 and The Girl in the Photograph in March 2017. The experience of signing Some Veil Did Fall in a quirky bookshop in the midst of Goth Weekend in Whitby, dressed as a recently undead person was one of the highlights of her writing career so far!
Kirsty’s day-job involves sharing a Georgian building with an eclectic collection of ghosts – which can sometimes prove rather interesting.