Most people are fascinated by a good costume drama and a “Downton Abbey” theme undoubtedly reflects my saga, 'Christmas Child'
I wanted to write a 19th century historical fiction novel that readers could enjoy all year round, despite a Christmas title. I found the inspiration in Highclere Castle which is used as background for many media productions. "Downton Abbey", the longest running series of all, gives us an “upstairs downstairs” view of the fictional household of that era. It's said that the cast loved all the trappings of a “soap opera with attitude.”
Did you know when making the series, the team built the attic rooms and kitchen separately at Ealing, just outside of London? The actors said they were petrified of dropping things or knocking vases over in the House, but could relax more in the studios.
A large black cooking range held pride of place in the kitchen. DA's stove and ovens were made completely of wood. A mystery substance was put into the kettle and pots to make them look as if they were steaming while being stone cold.
The upstairs actors would change apparel three times a day to create authenticity and the ladies wore real corsets. When the cast were seated at table for meals, the scenes took up to twelve hours to shoot. What a challenge for their digestion!
Hair and make-up was taken from Paris fashions, when the young aristocracy would follow their favourites much like celebrity today. Face powders and perfume were priority and the actors would be made-up in a way that suited their unique bone structure and on-set lighting. Uniquely, my sub-plot includes a theme of Bohemian Paris society! (This research was vital - and enormously enjoyable!)
With all this in mind, I welcomed my spirited but unworldly heroine, thirteen-year-old Ettie O’Reilly. From her humble birth as an East End orphan into womanhood, Ettie swept through the years - taking me with her.