The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola.
Set in London in 1837, Anna Mazzola’s THE UNSEEING is the story of Sarah Gale, a seamstress and mother, sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown on the eve of her wedding. Perfect for any reader of Sarah Waters or Antonia Hodgson.
‘A twisting tale of family secrets and unacknowledged desires. Intricately plotted and extremely convincing in its evocation of the everyday realities of 1830s London, this is a fine first novel’ – The Sunday Times
After Sarah petitions for mercy, Edmund Fleetwood is appointed to investigate and consider whether justice has been done. Idealistic, but struggling with his own demons, Edmund is determined to seek out the truth. Yet Sarah refuses to help him, neither lying nor adding anything to the evidence gathered in court. Edmund knows she’s hiding something, but needs to discover just why she’s maintaining her silence. For how can it be that someone would willingly go to their own death?
*For my review see Blog Archives
Q) Your novel is a Victorian era, story of Sarah Gale who is locked up in goal set to hang for murder. The novel is based on a true story, how important was this to you as the author?
A) It was the case that began the book, so to that extent it was very important, but I didn’t start with the idea that I had to write a novel based on a true story. I was just looking around for ideas for a short story, and came across a paragraph on the Edgware Road murder in a book I was reading – The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. I became interested in the case and in the woman accused of helping to conceal the murder – Sarah Gale – because she said almost nothing to counter the claims made against her. I wrote the short story and realised it was more than just a short story. Many years and plenty of wrong turns later, it’s a novel.
Q) You are also a Lawyer by profession and this added considerable depth to the themes of justice and guilt by association. Did you always intend to write a novel that reference the legal system?
A) No, not at all. I guess it’s not very surprising that I was drawn to a story that has injustice and women’s rights at its heart, but I certainly didn’t set out with the idea that I would write about the legal system. In fact, part of the joy of writing was that it was so different from my day job (sorry, lawyers!).
Q) The novel is of the Victorian era; what is your research process? Do you research as you write?
A) I confess I didn’t have much of a process for The Unseeing. I read a huge amount – about the crime itself, about 19th century London, criminal justice, Newgate, women’s rights, prisoner’s rights. I realised I only needed a fraction of it to write the novel that I ultimately wrote. With book 2 (also set in the 19th century, but on the Isle of Skye), I did some broad research and then sketched out the plot. After that, I worked out what I needed to research to fill in the gaps. That seemed to work better, or at least faster. I’m now onto researching novel 3 and, again, I’m trying to be quite organised about it, as I know that otherwise I could happily research for years and never actually produce a novel.
Q) What are your favourite reads and recommendations?
A) So many. Sarah Waters, Toni Morrison, Jane Harris, Margaret Atwood, Patricia Highsmith, Graham Greene. My favourite recent reads have been Little Deaths by Emma Flint and See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt. I’m thrilled to be on a panel with both of them at Waterstones in May where we will talk about bad girls in crime. I’m currently reading The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon, about 1950s Britain. It’s brilliant.
Q) Your website is one of the best I have seen. It’s amazing and I hope readers check it out! There is a wealth of brilliant praise nominated for Book Noir’s book of the year, Love reading panel’s Debut of the month and Crime Squads ‘Fresh blood’ pick. What has been your favourite experience since being published?
A) Thanks very much. The website was designed by the wonderful Faith Tilleray, so I can’t take the credit for that.
My publication highlight has been the support I’ve received from readers and bloggers. I’ve been really touched by the effort people make to get in contact to let me know they’ve enjoyed The Unseeing, by speaking to me at an event, or messaging me on social media, or reviewing on Amazon, for example. I’ve attended several book groups and it’s wonderful to realise that people have been really thinking about your writing and what you’ve tried to achieve. Publication isn’t always an easy experience and it makes a difference when people make the effort to let you know they enjoyed your book.
Q) What’s next for you in your writing career?
A) My second novel will be published by Headline in May 2018. It’s about a young woman who goes to work for a collector of folklore on Skye in 1857 and finds that a young girl has gone missing, supposedly taken by spirits known as The Sluagh. I’m currently working on an idea for a third novel, this time set in the 1950s, and I’m also writing some short stories. My son has instructed me to write mystery stories for children because books for grownups are boring, apparently. So I’ll be keeping busy.
*Huge thanks to Anna Mazzola for taking part in this Q&A.
Anna’s website: http://annamazzola.com/