My Inspiration for The Fortunes of Olivia Richmond by Louise Davidson

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The Fortunes of Olivia Richmond by Louise Davidson

By Louise Davidson

Louise Davidson is a gothic novelist, and her debut novel The Fortunes of Olivia Richmond was inspired by National Trust Property Sunnycroft House in Shropshire. The two story redbrick Victorian Villa provided the inspiration for Mistcoate House, which Louise sets deep in the Norfolk wilds, and surrounded on all sides by deep woods, it’s the setting for a story about tarot, fortune telling and speaking to the dead – the perfect Halloween Read!

When a Monster Calls…

I have always been interested in fear.

It probably has something to do with growing up in ‘90s Belfast. My childhood spanned the various ceasefires and the Good Friday Agreement that marked the end of the Troubles but it was not exactly peaceful. My parents had grown up through the worst of the conflict, so I inherited their habits of not mentioning my background when out in public. When visiting my grandparents, we drove past looming murals of masked men toting guns and sat, watching riots and bomb scares the news. Then the adults would have dark, low-voiced conversations over tea.

By the time I was in my final years of primary school, I was writing whenever – and on whatever – I could. This was what led me to finding a stack of paper in my grandmother’s house, detailing my grandfather’s experiences in the police during the height of the Troubles. It was harrowing reading, not meant for a child, and I got two pages in before I hurriedly shoved the papers back into the cupboard. Looking back, I realise that as a child, I was probably a little afraid all the time. 

My father’s older sister loomed large in our family lore due to the quiet mystery that surrounded her. Pat is an intuitive who receives messages from the dead and was the first person to show me how to read Tarot cards. I would call my family sceptical of most things but even my pragmatic grandparents agreed that Pat was able to do things they couldn’t understand. They didn’t know how but she could. And so that became part of the background of my young life as well. 

It was perhaps natural that I would then become interested in history. After all, I was surrounded by history all the time. By Secondary School, I was fascinated by the Victorians, seeing in them the beginnings of the modern world I inhabited. Belfast is a very Victorian city and so many of our great monsters come from the 19th Century. By A Level, I was writing ghost stories and considering how one would go about setting a story in the past. I visited country houses, had my tea leaves read by a housekeeper in a castle in Fermanagh and after I moved to London, I set out to visit all the city’s museums.

When I started teaching, my desire to know the context of the books meant I was fully immersed in the gothic. I needed to know – what was the cultural significance of the witches in Macbeth? Would you count Frankenstein’s monster as the first zombie? Which scarier: that Mr Hyde was a monster or just a human being? I used my knowledge of the 19th Century to explore Frankenstein, The Bloody Chamber, Dickens and Stevenson. 

Then I had the idea.

Usually, when I get an idea for a book, it is like a movie trailer playing in my head. I see snatches of scenes, hear dialogue, think of music that would set the tone for the piece. With The Fortunes of Olivia Richmond, it was very similar. I imagined a pale young woman looking out through French windows towards a sweeping, overgrown lawn, and the dark woods beyond. The questions flooded in. Who was this girl? What was waiting for her in the woods? I had been considering Spiritualism in the Victorian era. With the rise in popularity of seances and tarot readings, it was not unusual to see middle class Victorians drift to the working-class areas of East London and the edges of the city centre to attend seances where they could potentially see a ghost – or rather, a young woman dressed up to resemble a spirit. Of course, it was all an act but what if it wasn’t? What if it was real and occurring in a middle-class family, vying for respectability? What if, like my nine-year-old self holding my grandfather’s notepad, this pale girl knew more than she should and didn’t know what to do with it? What would happen to her? Were the adults around her safe? What did this girl have to fear?

And from this, The Fortunes of Olivia Richmond was born.

(c) Louise Davidson

About The Fortunes of Olivia Richmond:
The Fortunes of Olivia Richmond by Louise Davidson

After a terrible tragedy, governess Julia Pearlie finds herself with no job, home, or references. When she’s offered a position as companion to Miss Olivia Richmond, her luck appears to be turning. But Mistcoate House is full of secrets.

Olivia has a sinister reputation. The locals call her the Mistcoate Witch, thanks to her tarot readings, and her insistence that she can speak to the dead. Her father, Dr Richmond, believes this to be girlish fantasy and is looking to Julia to put a stop to it.

Determined to prove herself and shake off her own murky history, Julia sets to work trying to help Olivia become a proper young lady. However, as she becomes a fixture at Mistcoate, it is soon clear that there may be more to Olivia’s stories than Dr Richmond would have Julia believe – not least because somehow, Olivia seems to know something of the darkness that Julia desperately hoped she had left behind.

As the danger grows, and the winter chill wraps around the dark woods surrounding Mistcoate, Julia will have to fight to uncover the truth, escape her past – and save herself. Original and engrossing, this chilling Victorian Gothic ghost story is an outstanding piece of storytelling, perfect for fans of Sarah Perry, Erin Morgenstern and Jessie Burton.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Louise Davidson was born in Belfast and has always worked in the creative arts in some capacity – from assistant to theatre directors to teaching scriptwriting classes in prisons to teaching English and drama to A-Level students. Growing up in Northern Ireland backgrounded by the Troubles led to a fascination with history, and this combined with her love of all things gothic inspired her to write her first book, a dark Victorian thriller set in a neglected and isolated mansion. Louise lives in London with her husband and step-son, and in her spare time is working on fulfilling her ambition to visit every museum in the city. The Fortunes of Olivia Richmond is her debut novel.

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