What’s In a Tale?
The Creation of Slave of Fortune
By Jay Lawrence
I’ll begin this blog post with a confession. Slave of Fortune was actually written in two sections and on two continents! I began the novella in January 2003, while staying with my long-time friend John (aka my co-author Harry Neptune) in Trinidad. The rather dark first chapters, set in the draconian confines of an English country house in the depths of winter, were typed as I sat in a sun-filled apartment with the trade winds billowing the curtains and tropical birds swooping by the balcony. In my imagination, I conjured up Lily, a Victorian housemaid, toiling away in a frigid scullery – a good exercise for a writer working in equatorial heat! The tale – like several of my stories – actually began life with a different title, Gilding Lily. Eventually, I settled on something less whimsical and it became Slave of Fortune. Anyway, the book was set aside for several years as life’s demands took over and was finally completed around 2006, considerably farther north in my adopted home of Canada.
So - confessions aside - what’s behind the story?
Firstly - my fascination for family history research and Victorian London. Some of my ancestors walked the same streets as Charles Dickens. Rather naughtily, I wrote some of them into the story as minor characters – I hope they’re not turning in their graves!
Freddie Bathurst’s Snake Pit, a risqué gentlemen’s club, was loosely inspired by a similar establishment mentioned in Michael Sadleir’s novel, Fanny by Gaslight. Memories of a BBC adaptation with naked girls posing for moustachio-ed gents helped fill in the details! Incidentally, for accurate depictions of the gritty squalor of the times, pea soup fogs and all, it’s hard to beat contemporary author Lee Jackson’s books. A Google search for “Victorian London” will bring up his website which is a treasure trove of information. And, of course, there is the incomparable Dickens.
One of the erotic themes in Slave of Fortune is tight-lacing. Although stringent corsetry was generally in fashion in the 1800s, there were some who chose to lace themselves down to the absolute minimum and it’s hard to believe there wasn’t a sexual element in such a practice. One of my characters, Lawrence, is a tight-lacing fetishist and Lily, the heroine of the tale, is introduced to the breathless pleasures of attaining a tiny waist. Always keen to truly get into the spirit of a book, I have written while wearing a corset – they are not at all uncomfortable if properly fitted and great for improving posture!
Finally, I’d like to mention that I really enjoy writing a chase sequence into a book. This was probably inspired by childhood reading (Enid Blyton!) and classic movies such as Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. Not set in Victorian times but a thrilling escapade.
So, there you have it – Cockney ancestry and kinky underclothes - cooked up on two continents with a really good chase thrown in for good measure! That’s Slave of Fortune.