BackStory: Five Questions with Joyce Bingham

Victorian jet mourning jewellery

BackStory: Five Questions with Joyce Bingham
Author of The Inheritance

What inspired you to write ‘The Inheritance’?

I was given a prompt to write about entering a room at a ghost story workshop. I found I was writing about a woman wearing jet jewellery, so she was bereaved, a widow, and what she could possibly be expecting from his will. Jet jewellery was fresh in my mind due to going to Whitby, and that of course made her Victorian, following the fashion of the day to wear jet when bereaved. What kind of relationship did she have with her husband and where and when would his ghost appear?

Who are your favourite historical fiction writers and why?

As a teenager I read Jean Plaidy’s books from the local library, and that whetted my appetite for historical fiction. Recently there have been a number of authors writing about women in history, and I have been enthralled by their books. Pat Barker and Madeline Miller have brought women into the centre of the story, even the every day details are so fascinating. I think I will be re-reading their book for many years. I also read Kate Somerscale, her passion for history with her meticulous research makes her books a must for anyone writing historical stories.

Were there any interesting facts, details, or turns of phrase that didn’t quite make the final piece?

There was a lot about jet jewellery and Queen Victoria and how she influenced fashion for widows. The narrator’s possible connection to the tanning industry, a past she was ashamed of, and had hidden for years was explored in the original draft. This information helped me write the story, but was superfluous for the reader and the details were lost in further edits.

How much research did you do while writing and editing this piece? Did you discover anything that surprised you?

I’d been to Whitby Museum and the Whitby Jet Museum and found the Victorian jet overly ornate and so large, they seemed to weigh down the person wearing them. I did check up on the dates the story would have been likely to have been set in and used the information I had scribbled down in my notebook after the visits to the museums, although not much got past the edit stage. I wanted to bring in the suggestion that the narrator had a different past, one in which tanning was involved, so I did some internet research on this too.

What is your favourite part of the writing process? Your least favourite?

I like thinking of ideas over a few days and then spending some time putting them together with research. I do try to research at specific times as otherwise, I tend to fall down a rabbit hole on the internet. The cooling off period when a story needs to mature can be frustrating especially if there is a deadline looming. Although I never look forward to editing, once I start it is very satisfying.

Joyce Bingham is a Scottish writer who enjoys writing short fiction with pieces published by VirtualZine, Funny Pearls and Free Flash Fiction. She lives in the North of England where she makes up stories and tells tall tales. @JoyceBingham10

Photograph via Hayden Peters, Art of Mourning.