Q & A with Loretta Proctor

I am so happy to welcome Author, Loretta Proctor. After having read 'The Crimson Bed' I contacted Loretta to ask her if she would answer some questions I had about her writing and her novels, especially 'The Crimson Bed'. Loretta happily agreed and here is our Q & A. You will find a link to her main website for more information at the end of this post. Thank you so much Loretta for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope you all enjoy reading this Q & A,

About the Author
Loretta Proctor won prizes for stories and plays in the 1970’s and published some of her poetry in magazines. She then put writing aside for many years due to family and other commitments. Now retired and back to writing novels, her first book, The Long Shadow (Dec 2005), is set in Greece and explores the theme of dual nationality. Loretta is herself Anglo-Greek, so this is a story very close to her heart. She was able to produce it in time to put into her ageing mother’s hands.

A lifelong fascination with Pre-Raphaelite artworks led to The Crimson Bed (March 2010), a novel set in Victorian London. Her new novel, Middle Watch, is based partly on a friend’s real life story, which captured Loretta’s imagination. The setting for this story is amongst the lighthouses and the lighthouse keepers who manned them; stormy seas and stormy passions.

Loretta lives with her husband in the Malverns, a unique and lovely area of England, and is proud to be a distant relation of the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning..

Where did the idea to write The Crimson Bed come from?

We have many wonderful old houses in the UK that are open to the public. I was going round one with my husband when I spotted a beautiful piano that had been decorated by William Morris, one of the later members of the Pre-Raphaelite group. I’ve always loved the paintings and philosophies of the Pre-Raphs so this piano and all it stood for, an ideal of beauty and elegance in the home, inspired me to write a story about these amazing painters and craftsmen. I was also inspired by reading the novel Fingersmith by Sara Waters which is set in the Victorian era. I wanted to have a go at it too!

For me, Ellie’s voice shapes the book. She is compelling and unique. But what came to you first, Ellie as a character or was it the premise of the book? Was it difficult for you to develop her voice?

Ellie was always there in a way; an embodiment of the Pre-Raphaelite muse. The artists looked on these women as anima figures, ideal beings and neglected often to understand the real woman beneath. I wanted to flesh out these ladies, show they were real and human. However, originally I began the story with Frederic, his artistic hopes and leanings. The idea came later of Frederic seeing a painting and falling in love with the beautiful, ideal face, a theme I’ve explored before. Interestingly enough I later discovered that this actually did take place and one of the Pre-Raph followers did just that. Once Ellie came into the equation, her voice came with ease.

Was it something intentional on your part to mention real Pre-Raphaelite painters and include related poetry and paintings throughout The Crimson Bed? Especially with the male friendship between Frederick Ashton Thorpe and Henry Winstone?

Oh, yes, it was intentional.. I began intending to write about Frederick Thorpe and Rossetti and their mistresses to follow the theme of the painting ‘How they met themselves’, Rossetti’s strange ‘doppelganger’ picture which he painted on his honeymoon. I saw this picture in a Jungian light as the meeting of higher and lower selves, a ‘quaternio’. Somehow this plot line didn’t quite work out and I was advised to leave out Rossetti as a character, as his story with Lizzie Siddal is so well known. I therefore based Henry Winstone on him instead and Tippy, a quite different person to Lizzie Siddal, became Henry’s muse. This did make the writing flow a lot better as I was no longer constrained by real people and events. But in some ways, I regret that I didn’t write about Rossetti himself. Frederic was not based on any particular painter of that era; perhaps a composite of several of them.

I know your next book Middle Watch is quite different to The Crimson Bed and is out now. Can you speak a little about it? I can’t wait to read it.

This story is set in the 1950’s to 60’s. Bridie O’Neill is an orphan rescued by her father’s best friend, Joe, who fosters her. However, she is never fully accepted by his wife whom she calls Mean Millie. Millie and her younger son, Andy, make Bridie’s life a misery. Joe leaves the Navy and his unhappy marriage taking young Bridie with him. He becomes a lighthouse keeper and Bridie, who loves the wildness of the cliffs and seas and the lonely places where the lighthouse folk live, feels free and happy. She falls in love with the son of a keeper and all seems blissful…but then along comes her elder, handsome foster brother, Jim, who has always been fascinated by Bridie and wants to possess her. A regular snake in the Garden of Eden! From there the story intensifies into a thrilling climax on the lonely Yorkshire coasts amongst the crashing waves of the sea…

What are you working on next or are you taking a writing break?

I’m already three quarters of the way through a sequel to my first novel ‘The Long Shadow’ which was set in Greece in WW1. The sequel is called ‘Dying Phoenix’ and will carry the story forward in Greece to the era of the Colonels who took over the country in 1967. I’ve put it aside just for a while in order to concentrate on marketing ‘Middle Watch’ but mean to go over to Greece later this year and do some research. Yes, seriously! No lazing on sunny beaches, I promise!

For more information about Loretta Proctor

Please feel free to leave any questions or comments,


Maggie P. said…
What a great Q&A Kimberly.
I am not familiar with Loretta Proctor but I will definitely read The Crimson Bed and look for her other novels. I really liked reading this, very interesting questions and answers.
Gary said…
Wonderful Q&A. I've read The Crimson Bed and really enjoyed the Pre-Raph parallels. Who doesn't love the Victorian era anyway! Thanks for this, really interesting answers!
gigglinggirl said…
Well done Q&A! I have to read The Crimson Bed. Especially if the Pre-Raphaelites are included. I really liked reading this Kimberly.
Kimberly Eve said…
Thanks so much Maggie, Gary and gigglinggirl for visiting and taking the time to read and comment on this Q&A. I really appreciate it! I hope you all enjoy Loretta Proctor's novels!
Anonymous said…
Well done! Got a real flavor of the author and her works. gigigirl
Kimberly Eve said…
Thanks gigigirl for stopping by and commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed it!