I have loved writing this 19th century story and I knew that Highclere Castle has been used as background for many media productions, but Downton Abbey is the longest running series and gives an “upstairs downstairs” view of the fictional household of that era. It has been mooted that the cast loved all the trappings of the drama and thought it very much like a “soap opera with attitude.”
Did you know when making the series they built the attic rooms and kitchen separately at Ealing, just outside of London? The actors said they were always petrified of dropping things or knocking vases over when they were filming at Highclere, but could relax more in the studios.
As in "Christmas Child" The large black cooking stove that held pride of place in the kitchen was made completely of wood, and a substance was put into the kettle and pots to make it look as if they were steaming while being stone cold.
The upstairs actors would have to change apparel three times in a day to create authenticity and the ladies would have to wear real corsets. When the cast were seated at table for meals, the scenes took up to twelve hours to shoot, which could have done nothing for their digestion!
Hair and make-up research was taken from Paris fashions, a soft, fluid period in history when the young aristocracy would follow their favourites much like celebrity is emulated today. Face powders and perfume were high on the list and the actors would be made-up in a way that suited their unique bone structure and the on-set lighting. (As "Christmas Child" includes a sub-plot of Bohemian Paris society this research was vital - and enormously enjoyable!)
With all this in mind, I centred my research of "Christmas Child" on the late 19th century and gave a raft of opportunities to my spirited but unworldly heroine, thirteen-year-old Ettie O’Reilly. From birth as an orphan in London’s East End to her journey into adulthood and a very different society, I was surprised, saddened, uplifted and inspired as I wrote her story - and I sincerely hope “Christmas Child” will do the very same for you.
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Happy reading and much love as always,