The process of writing a book can throw up all sorts of unexpected opportunities, many of which are not about writing the actual book. Being asked to write an article for TIME magazine on why a nation was so easily fooled by two girls and their fairy photographs, and what we might learn from the events today, was certainly unexpected, and more than a little daunting. “You mean, actual TIME magazine?” was my exact response. Isn’t it funny how we long for these opportunities and yet, when they happen, Imposter Syndrome rears its ugly head and we’re not entirely sure we’re entitled to write an article for TIME magazine, or a book, for that matter.
Whenever I talk about the Cottingley fairies hoax, there are glimmers of recognition. “Weren’t the photographs fake?” “Didn’t Arthur Conan Doyle have something to do with that?” (Yes, he did). People are intrigued by how the girls faked their fairy photographs, and why they let people believe for so long. These were the questions I wanted to explore in writing The Cottingley Secret, and why I spent months researching the events and tapping into a long-held interest in the hoax. Of course I could write a piece for TIME. I’ve know about the Cottingley fairies since I was a young girl. I’d researched the subject. I’d written 100,000 words about the subject. It was time for TIME.
My article, ‘Fairies and Fake News‘, came together over a few days of intense writing. As ever, I showed early drafts to a few trusted friends/family who gave really helpful input before I sent it back to my publicist. A few anxious teeth-gnashing days later, I heard that the editor at TIME loved it (rejoice!), and only had a few editorial notes. The article was published on TIME.com on Tuesday, to coincide with publication day in the USA, and my writing wings stretched a little further because of it.
I suppose it is no real coincidence that one of the themes in THE COTTINGLEY SECRET is about the power of hope and belief, in ourselves as much as in anything else.
So, here it is. ‘Fairies and Fake News’, my piece on one of the greatest hoaxes of the 20th century. I hope you enjoy reading it, and discovering the true story behind the book.
THE COTTINGLEY SECRET re-imagines the events of the famous Cottingley fairies hoax of a century ago. It is available now in North America, and will be published in Ireland (and the UK in ebook) on 7th September.