Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Bloomsbury Velvet Launch with Mary Hooper - 21st September 2011

Emma from Bloomsbury with Mary Hooper

A couple of weeks ago I was very excited to get the chance to go to the Bloomsbury offices and meet author Mary Hooper.  I loved her books Fallen Grace and Velvet (click on the links to read my reviews) so was looking forward to talking to her.  It was great to finally meet Emma at Bloomsbury - I've been talking to her via email for ages but it is always nice to actually have a proper face to face conversation.  Of course I always love the chance to get together with other bloggers too, a lot of them have become very good friends and we always have a blast together (usually while book shopping followed by gossiping over coffee and cakes before or after an event!).  This time we got to meet a couple of new faces, I've spoken to Raimy & Laura via twitter for ages but it was lovely to chat to them both in person & I hope we get to see them both again soon.

Mary has had an amazing writing career, she started writing short stories when she was in her 30's while at home with her small children just to give her something creative to.  She started selling the stories (and a serial called Pink Ladies about 2 female DJs) to magazines like Jackie & Blue Jeans, with 14 teen magazines available it was a good market and she was able to get plenty of work.  She got inspiration for a lot of her stories by reading through the problem pages.

When she decided that she'd like to try writing a book she gathered together a collection of her short stories and sent them to a publisher.  They were looking for an English equivalent to the Sweet Valley High series so Mary started work on the Heartlines books.  She said it was much easier to get a publishing contract when she first started writing than it is today and she was lucky to start writing at the right time.  The YA market dropped in the 80's so Mary started writing books for younger children, she mentioned that it is important to adjust your writing to fit the current market but she has always preferred writing for teens.  Mary was lucky to be one of the first authors to start writing for Bloomsbury's new teenage line about 17 / 18 years ago but she also continued writing younger books that were published by Walker.  She gradually dropped writing younger children's books when the teenage books started selling well.

Mary had always been interested in history but she didn't think she would be allowed to write that kind of story herself, she always thought that you had to have a history degree to write historical novels.  She found that she had started to run out of ideas for modern books though because she didn't want to get into writing hard hitting books about drug taking.  When her friend Celia Rees wrote her historical novel Witch Eyes Mary decided that she could have a go at writing one of her own.  She started by writing about the great plague and found she really enjoyed digging up interesting historical details.  Now she doesn't think she'll write anything else, she has so many ideas for stories set in different eras that she wants to continue with.

Picture of a medium showing her manifesting "ectoplasm"

Talking about Velvet Mary told us that she searched through old court records looking for fraudulent mediums to get ideas and a lot of things included in the book are based on true stories.  After searching for pictures of ectoplasm on google (click on the link to see more pictures) she couldn't believe that people were gullible enough to believe what they were seeing.  Mary was disgusted that the mediums managed to convince so many people to give them their property and personal belongings, some people gave away practically everything they owned to these con artists.  Someone asked Mary if she has any intention of writing more about baby farms (something she touches on briefly in Velvet) but she said that the subject was just too horrific to write a whole book about them.

Mary also told us a bit about the novel she is currently working, the main character is a milkmaid because she wanted to write something in a more rural setting.  She ends up being sent to the hulks which were prison ships on the Thames.  I didn't even realise we'd had prison ships so I'm really looking forward to finding out more about them.  She told us about the ships that would take prisoners over to populate Australia which was fascinating.  Although she wasn't allowed to include this in the book she found out that the sailors were allowed to select one of the female prisoners to keep them company on the journey (which would take at least a year to complete).  The women who were selected were treated better than the other prisoners and given better food and accommodation but it meant the ships were basically like floating brothels.  With no effective form of birth control available ships actually had to have baby clothes and cots on board for all the babies that would be born before the ship reached it's destination!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

While we were talking to Mary we were also treated to some delicious nibbles thanks to Bloomsbury.  There was a selection of lovely fruit and of course you couldn't celebrate the launch of Velvet without red velvet cupcakes (from The Hummingbird Bakery), most of the cakes were gone by the time I thought to take a picture but trust me they were amazing!  We were also given a fab goodie bag including some of Bloomsbury's upcoming titles that I'm looking forward to trying and a couple of Mary's books that she very kindly signed for us.

Here are a few more pictures that I took throughout the event:

I'd like to say a massive thank you to Emma and everyone else at Bloomsbury for arranging such a great event and to Mary for spending so much time chatting to us about her stories.  I'm really looking forward to working my way through her back list of historical titles so watch out for more reviews coming soon.

Who was there:
Emma - Bloomsbury
Mary Hooper - Website
Alice - The Reader Room
Becky - The Bookette
Casey & Hayley - Dark Readers
Sammee - I Want To Read That
Stephanie (I'm sorry but I didn't catch her blog name, if anyone knows it can you let me know in the comments please and I'll add it here)


  1. brilliant write up. The event was awesome and it was great to meet you!! :D

  2. I love the manifestation picture! Hilarious! You also have much better photos of me.

  3. excellent write up! awesome to meet all the cool bloggers like yourself.

  4. @ Raimy - it was such a great event wasn't it & I'm so glad I finally got to meet you :o)

    @ Viv - that manifestation picture really made me laugh, there are some hilarious ones if you do a google search! I'm glad you like the pics :o)

    @ SisterSpooky - thanks hun, it was so nice to meet you too - nothing beats getting to chat with other bloggers :o)



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