Reading has been a pleasure and passion since my childhood and over the years, I have lapped up fiction and non-fiction, fantasy and sci-fi, biographies and short story collections. My overflowing bookshelves can attest to a book-buying habit which could do with a measure of restraint. As a child, when I wasn’t reading, I was writing. I created a heroine in purple armour called Prunella the Purple Knightess whose adventures alongside her companion, a magic talking egg, filled my school exercise books, accompanied by my own colourful illustrations.
As the years went by, this youthful confidence in my writing somehow eluded me, and the thought of writing a novel seemed preposterous, arrogant even. I studied English at university and whilst I was reading more than ever, my writing began to dwindle. Then, in 2018, having resigned myself to an office job after leaving my career as an actor and theatre director, I found myself craving an output for my creativity. On impulse, I signed up for a writing course at my local bookshop, Bookseller Crow in Crystal Palace, London, and I was instantly hooked. After penning a few tentative short stories, the seed of what would become my debut novel, Daughter of the Shipwreck, dropped into my mind, and I immediately applied to do a Masters in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway.
The Masters was wonderful; a chance to practice and hone my writing, to share my work with my fellow students for their feedback and constructive criticism, and to be guided by experienced tutors and writers. It was a challenging time too as I juggled the Masters with working full-time in yet another office job. Having assignments and deadlines and word counts to meet, meant that I spent every spare minute either reading or writing – or thinking about writing.
Over the year of the course, I developed my initial idea for a novel into something fuller and more realised. I threw myself into researching the Georgian period in London where the story is set, getting lost down research rabbit-holes on everything from dinner party menus to prison-ship food, from the frivolity of women’s hairstyles to the horrors of the British slave-trade. When my main character popped into my mind one day, that was the real turning point. Mercy is a young Black woman in Georgian London; she began as a minor character but quickly made it clear to me that hers was the story I should be telling!
After much research and several drafts it was time to be brave and to send my novel out into the world. It wasn’t long before I had signed up with Northbank Talent Management, working with the brilliant agent Hannah Weatherill, who helped me to craft the novel into better shape. Next stop was to send the novel out to publishers and I was delighted when the book was picked up by Bookouture, working under the expert eye of editor, Therese Keating.
If it hadn’t been for that six week course in a tiny bookshop, I don’t think I would have written Daughter of the Shipwreck, and I certainly wouldn’t be embarking on the exciting journey of being a professional writer. I am very grateful for the confidence it gave me, and for reigniting that childhood passion for the written word.
(c) Lora Davies
About Daughter of the Shipwreck:
He kicked and struggled as his sister was carried out through the shallow water to one of the boats. The distance between them seemed to stretch out and out. There was nothing he could do. He cried out to her, his voice hoarse with tears, ‘I will find you! I promise!’
London, 1820: Nineteen-year-old Mercy, the orphaned daughter of an African prince, has come to live with the well-to-do Dr Stephens and his wife, Catherine, a passionate campaigner for the abolition of slavery.
Mercy throws herself into Catherine’s work, eager to help until – at an exhibition that has all of London talking – one particular painting makes a disturbing impression on her, conjuring vivid images of creaking wood and the screams of drowning people. Its effect on Dr Stephens is even stronger – a connection that seems almost personal.
Meanwhile, Mat, a young black sailor, scours the city in search of the men who kidnapped his sister many years before. When his path crosses with Mercy’s and he realises the girl he has been mourning is alive, it sets events in motion that will destroy everything Mercy thought was true about her old life – and her new one.
But as the names on Mat’s list are found dead, one after the other, the newly reunited siblings face a new danger. Someone is silencing all witnesses to the horrors of their past – and they could be next. But Mercy has had enough of secrets. She will have justice – no matter what the cost.
An utterly gripping and powerful novel about family, secrets, identity, and risking everything to be true to yourself. If you liked The Foundling, The Miniaturist or Amy Snow, you will love Daughter of the Shipwreck.
Order your copy online here.