I am so excited to be taking part in the Blog Tour for Sharon Gosling’s The House Of Hidden Wonders.
I am a huge fan of Sharon’s writing, which has a dark and gritty edge to it that dances at the edge of peril whether in her middle grade writing such as this and the outstanding The Golden Butterfly or her YA writing such as Fir but with heart and the struggles of imperfect protagonists to fit into their world at the centre.
The historical factor of The House of Hidden Wonders is another draw to her writing and once again Sharon returns to the Victorian period, though this is a little earlier, but this time locates her tale in Edinburgh in a time where the Old and the New are juxtaposed quite harshly as the signs of progress, industry and Empire shoot up and smother the older city with little regard to the poorer communities struggling to hold their place.
Throughout the House of Hidden Wonders, Edinburgh itself feels like another character, a sentinel watching the action unfold amidst her streets and in the belly of her subterranean world, so I am delighted to be hosting a Guest Post from the author Sharon Gosling on the inspirations and reasons to set her tale in the Edinburgh of 1879.
Zinnie and her sisters live in the murky tunnels beneath Edinburgh’s Old Town. They keep out of the way of the authorities and remain undetected. Until, that is, rumours of a ghost bring unwanted visitors into the caverns they call home. Among them, a young Arthur Conan Doyle, keen to investigate, and MacDuff, the shady owner of Edinburgh’s newest attraction, the House of Wonders.
Caught up in a world of intrigue and adventure, Zinnie seeks answers. But how can she discover what secrets lie in the House of Wonders while also protecting the sisters she holds so dear?
The House of Hidden Wonders is set in Edinburgh in 1879, and lots of people have asked why I decided to set the story of Zinnie and her sisters there. I love Scotland in general (I live close to the border in Cumbria, and have genuinely been out for a pint of milk and ended up in Scotland by mistake before), but I particularly love the city of Edinburgh. I love the architecture, the contrast between the elegant straight lines of the new town and the higgledy-piggledy tangle of the old town (something I tried to get across in the book). I love the fact that there’s a castle right in the middle of it and an extinct volcano (Arthur’s Seat) only a mile or two from the town centre. I love that bits of it have been built over other bits so that there are secret underground places that it’s still possible to visit. It is a city full of stories, based on a history that goes back to before there were even books. It is a wonderful place, Edinburgh, and if I wasn’t going to set a story in Victorian London (because I’d already written quite a few of those already) I wanted to set one there.
Once I’d decided where I was going to set the book, I needed to decide exactly when it was going to be set. That’s when I began to do a little more research. I already knew that the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, had lived in Edinburgh and had studied medicine there, and I liked the idea of perhaps suggesting where some of his later fiction themes might have come from.
I read a little about Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and came across a reference to the Surgeon’s Hall Riots. This was an incident that happened in 1870, when a group of seven women who had been studying to become doctors at the Infirmary were violently prevented from sitting their anatomy exam by an angry mob who didn’t think women should be allowed to practice medicine.
One name stood out to me – a woman called Sophia Jex-Blake. Jex-Blake, I discovered, returned to Edinburgh in 1878 to open her practice, becoming the first woman doctor in Scotland. I decided I’d like to incorporate her as a character, and I liked the idea that it was possible Conan Doyle and Jex-Blake could have met as colleagues. In 1879 Conan Doyle was 20, and a student at the hospital. It was also the year he published his first story, The Mystery of Sasassa Valley – and that seemed to make the both the setting and the year all come together perfectly.
At this point I hadn’t discovered Mary King’s Close and the other underground Closes of the city yet… so to find out about them, you’ll just have to read The House of Hidden Wonders!
How wonderful! Don’t forget to check out the rest of the posts throughout the week to continue discovering more about The House of Hidden Wonders by Sharon Gosling!
Thank you so much to Charlie and Little Tiger Press for inviting me on the Blog Tour and making me a part of celebrating this amazing book! 💜
The House of Hidden Wonders by Sharon Gosling is published by Little Tiger Press and out now!!!