So That’s Who You Are, Clara Benson

Loyal readers may remember a post I did a couple of years ago about a crime novel I read supposedly by a Clara Benson, a Victorian women whose manuscripts were discovered and published after her death. The story didn’t add up to me, and for some reason I remembered the affair today and did some poking around to see if she had been exposed yet.

In a sense she has, in that she is now publishing the books as the modern young woman she actually is, but there is no mention of the duplicity on her Facebook page or website that I can find, other than comments from fans saying they are glad she isn’t dead. Hmmm…

Maybe she would prefer that everyone quietly forgot it ever happened. She seems to have become quite successful, so she obviously had to come clean. In order to capitalise on her success she had to write more books, and the idea of a never-ending supply line of ‘rediscovered’ manuscripts would have become increasingly preposterous.

It was cleverly done but it was a con, and as I said at the time I felt defrauded in that I believed I had been sold something under false pretences. It’s one thing to write a book in the style of a past era and even as if the author is from that era. I enjoy that sort of book. But it’s quite another to create blurb and publicity material maintaining and perpetuating the hoax with the intention of gulling the general public.

I normally put up links and pictures up of books and authors I write about, but in this case I would be helping to promote the perpetrator of a deceitful bit of marketing, so instead here’s a picture of a cute chimp.

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Now look, WordPress…

Some of you will be aware that I’m involved in an ongoing battle with WordPress regarding the way it intercepts my fan mail as spam. I can only apologise to the sender of this:

Its like you learn my thoughts! You appear to know so much approximately this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
I think that you just can do with some p.c. to drive the message house a bit, but instead of that, this is excellent
blog. A great read. I’ll definitely be back.

That, WordPress, is going straight into the blurb for my next book! In the meantime I’m going to get some p.c. to drive the message house a bit.



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Meet the Artist

I mentioned Kay de Garay in a post before Christmas. She is the talented artist who came up with the wonderful cover of my new book The Ghosts of Blackbottle Rock and saved me from a fate worse than stock library pictures.

After protracted negotiations between our agents and legal people, I managed to secure an interview with Kay.

It must have come as something of a surprise to be approached by a random stranger in a café to provide the artwork for a book cover!

Yes, it was a bit out of the blue!

Was it a straightforward task, or was there anything challenging about it?

Well, whenever you’re working to someone else’s brief your main concern is making sure you both understand each other’s expectations. Luckily, the photos I’d sourced of Cornish coastal towns for inspiration were exactly what you had envisaged. In fact, one of them was a location you’d actually visited, so I felt confident I was on the right track. We’d also discussed other book cover artists that you liked, which gave me a good direction to head in with my own style. The cover needed to hint at the spooky atmosphere of the story, as well as introducing the three main characters. I wanted it to have a dynamic composition that draws the eye in and hopefully engages and encourages the viewer to pick up the book.


You have written a very striking and original book of your own. What’s the story behind that, and have you any plans to follow it up with another?

The Mischievous Magpie is an illustrated short story about a magpie with the extraordinary power to sniff out precious jewels using her enchanted beak, which unfortunately lands her in some trouble! It’s available on Kindle here. It came about simply as a challenge to myself to have the courage to put something out there into the world. I love writing and illustrating stories that have a magical element to them, so I do have other projects in the making, all with a fantastical twist!

Tell me a bit about your art background and the kind of work you are drawn to.

I studied Fine Art at Uni and have always been most drawn to narrative artworks. This can range anywhere from the high drama of a Caravaggio, to the romanticism of the Pre-Raphaelites. However, being a lover of fairy tales and mythology, one of my biggest soft spots is for illustrators from the Golden Age of Illustration such as Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac & Kay Nielsen. As a fan of narrative art, I also hugely enjoy modern graphic novel artists, such as Dave McKean for his work on Neil Gaiman’s stories, Sana Takeda on Marjorie Liu’s Monstress and Tyler Crook’s work on Harrow County.


The Mischievous Magpie


Is there a particular medium you prefer working in?

I prefer to work in mixed media with watercolours, pencils, pastels and ink.

What are your artistic dreams and goals?

I want what every creative person wants – to be able to be creative all day, every day and get paid vast sums of money for it! 


The Ghosts of Blackbottle Rock is of course a children’s novel. What books or type of books did you most enjoy reading as a child? Do any particularly stand out in your memory?

My book choices as a child were very much fantasy adventures. I loved the escapism and freedom of journeying through fantastical worlds with magical creatures and characters. My favourite was Children of Magic Moon by Wolfgang Hohlbein. I also loved anything by Roald Dahl, especially Matilda and his poetry collections Dirty Beasts and Revolting Rhymes.

If you could travel back in time to illustrate the cover for any book, children’s or adults’, what would it be?!

It would have to be Alice in Wonderland! It would be so much fun to play on all the surreal story elements, not just for the cover, but for the whole book!

Thanks very much, Kay, and good luck with your future projects!

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Just down the aisle from the vanishing cream…


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I can see the problem here…

It’s clearly an American lift (okay – elevator)



















In England the last line would, of course, be ‘Groundth Floor’.

(Courtesy Analytical Grammar.)

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Merry Christmas

To all in the Land of Blog!

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Sorry for the delay in posting…

But I had to rush off to my local bed shop






It turned out to be a trip full of disappointment and frustration, although I must say there was no need for the saleswoman to be so abrupt. She wasn’t my type anyway.

(Courtesy Analytical Grammar)

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