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Created: 20th October, 2021

What inspired you to write The Runaways of Haddington Hall?

I’ve always loved reading about life in Victorian times (my grandmother was born in 1887!) One of the books I read explained how some Victorians set up charities to make money for themselves, rather than helping poor people - and I thought, wow!! That’s shocking! but it would be a great idea for a story… 

 

How would you suggest primary teachers use this book? 

1. Perhaps to compare conditions for children in Victorian times with conditions today… and also the comparison between Minnie’s life and Edith’s. There are a lot of clues hidden in the story! 

2. Do some research on mangles… and washing! Many people in Victorian times had no facilities to wash their own clothes, and there were a lot of women who earned their living like Minnie's Mam. There are some amazing advertisements for mangles, just like the one that Minnie used. There were no washing machines, or soap powders… it was incredibly hard work.

3. Philanthropy was massively important in 1887, as there was no benefit system… just the workhouse for those who had nothing. 

So… who were the philanthropists? Why did people become philanthropists? (The real ones!!! Not the cheats…) 

4. The workhouse. Molly ‘comes from the workhouse’ … what were they like? 

5. Peg and Molly used to work in an old clothes shop. There was a huge trade in re-used clothes, and everything else as well… have a look at Victorian recycling! They were brilliant at it. (See Noddy Boffin in Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend) 

6. Obadiah Marpike was in Bath when he conned Lady Lavingley out of her money… have a look at Bath, and why people went there. Why was it a good place to find people - especially rich single women - to cheat? 

Want any more ideas? I’ve probably got far too many!!! 

 

What motivated you to begin a career in writing?

I’ve always loved stories! But I never thought of being a writer. I was completely grown up with four daughters before I wrote my first book… and that was because I met a wonderful author called Diana Hendry, who came to hear me telling stories. (I was an actor and a story teller.) She asked me why I didn’t ever write my stories down, and that was the beginning of it…  

 

What are the major influences in your work and how do you decide on your subjects?

Oh lawks! I’ve no idea! I suppose Charles Dickens is a major influence… I read his books over and over. And my lovely dad, who read me stories every night at bedtime. 

Subject? They kind of find me, if that doesn’t sound too airy fairy. I read a lot of non-fiction, and sometimes something jumps out at me - like the lives of Victorian washerwomen. 

 

Which books had a lasting impact on you as a child and why?

Hans Christian Andersen, and all the fairy and folk tales that my dad read me. I loved imaginary worlds, probably because I grew up in the 1950s and life was pretty boring. I especially loved illustrated books; Arthur Rackham, Edward Ardizzone, Charles Robinson, Vera Bock, Denys Watkins-Pitchford - those pictures made a huge impact on me. I think that’s why I work in illustration now! 

 

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Find out more about Vivian's book, The Runaways of Haddington Hall. 

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