Woman on Ward 13 (The Iris Lowe Mystery Series) | The Convenient Woman Collection
Tell us about your latest book.
Woman on Ward 13 is a gothic, historical mystery. It’s also a time-slip novel in that one main storyline is set in 1900 and the other in 1956.
The earlier narrative follows Katy Owen, a working-class young woman who has just recently found employment as an attendant to the insane in a private madhouse. She is assigned the sole care of a wealthy ‘lunatic’, Persephone Leverton, who has been in the madhouse for 30 years. Mrs Leverton is said to be melancholic and delusional, but Katy soon starts questioning whether her notions of murder might hold any truth.
In 1956, psychiatric nurse, Iris Lowe, works on Smedley Hospital’s infamous Ward 13. It’s where the elderly, chronic patients have been left and forgotten. But when one woman receives her first visitor in over 50 years, it leads to a hidden diary and over a century’s worth of secrets that Iris needs to uncover.
What's your writing process?
It tends to vary with each novel. Some ideas have come from nowhere, just an image or a line of dialogue I made up, whilst others have been inspired by something I’ve read – usually, true, historical crime.
I imagine the plot before character, although the two are intricately linked. I like books with plot – I want something going on. And then I start expanding on the main protagonist, e.g. if X happened, what kind of person would that make her? How would she react? Why did she do X in the first place?
There is always a beginning and end when I start writing, with a vague idea of what needs to happen in between. The ending usually changes in some way as I work through, and sometimes things happen which I wasn’t expecting. The murky middle is the hardest and most soul-destroying part, where the plot holes surface and you wonder if it will ever be redeemable. It’s momentary euphoria to type ‘The End’ on the first draft. Then the dreaded editing begins!
As for a typical writing day, I usually get a couple of thousand words done in the morning/early afternoon, which leaves time for reading, research, or marketing for the rest of the day. I don’t work in the evening because I’m a terrible night-person – I’m in bed by nine and asleep by five past.
Are there themes you like to explore in your books?
Undoubtedly there is feminism in my books. The inequality between the sexes was so huge that it would be difficult to write any book set in historical Britain without depicting it in some way. I tend to show how women have been abused by a patriarchal society, and either how they have suffered or how they have fought back in whatever way possible.
I adore anything gothic – that ominous sense which reigns over every detail. There is beauty in the gothic too, which is sensual and alluring and dangerous all at the same time. I like to play with these gothic themes.
Surprisingly, a theme which seems to crop up in all of my books is motherhood. I say surprisingly because I don’t set out with this theme intentionally. Becoming a mother, or not, is significant for many of my protagonists.
Madness is also a recurring theme, or at least, the idea of madness. What makes one person insane and another not? How has this label been wielded and for what purpose? What does it take to push someone over the edge? Is it madness, or is it guilt?
Do you listen to music while you write?
No, I have to have quiet. Anything with words in it is too much of a distraction. Sometimes, I listen to classical music to drown out other noise, but that’s a last resort.
What's your favorite genre to read?
Gothic and historical fiction. I tend to read that the most now because that is what I write, but I loved it before too. I enjoy any era, although Victorian is my most preferred. Sometimes I need to take a break from all the dark stuff, and I love a feel-good romantic comedy.
What are you reading right now?
I have just finished a non-fiction book all about Broadmoor in the Victorian era. It was partly for research and partly for inspiration. I would love to feature the hospital in some way in a future novel. It was fascinating and full of useful information for writers.
Now I have just finished the first draft of my work-in-progress, I want to take some time off from writing and read as many novels as I can. I have treated myself to several new books, but now I’ve got to pick one to start with. I might choose Barbara Erskine’s The Ghost Tree, which I bought mainly because I keep seeing it in the top 100 of all of my Amazon categories!
What's the next project and when can we expect it?
Iris Lowe Mysteries Book 2, as yet untitled, is in the ‘leave it in a drawer and forget about it’ stage. The first draft is complete, and while I’m ‘forgetting it’ my trusted reader is going over it to see if it works.
Again, it’s a time-slip, historical fiction novel with psychiatric nurse, Iris Lowe, as one of the protagonists. It features a quaint Shropshire village, a country manor, a ghostly spirit, and a serial killer.
It’s been the hardest book I’ve ever written and is the longest too. I have a feeling the editing is going to be a nightmare. As such, I haven’t got a definite release date yet. I’m aiming for spring 2021.
Delphine Woods writes dark historical fiction, where people are rarely who they seem. She has a deep love for the Victorian period, and for women who are prepared to fight back in any way they can. She lives amidst the rolling hills of Shropshire and dreams of a life filled with far-stretching views and open fires, where she can toast her feet as she flicks through the pages of a gothic mystery or a gripping thriller. Discover her other books on her website or Amazon page, and get two free historical novellas when you join her newsletter.