Today our guest is Rachel Roberts author of The Medea Complex which I reviewed yesterday on the blog. Here is the link to my review. http://wp.me/p2Eu3u-4op
Let’s find out more about Rachel and her writing.
1) Where is your home town?
I was born in Liverpool, and grew up in Merseyside. I now live in Malta, EU.
2) How long have you been writing?
I’ve only been writing since my son was born, as he was the inspiration behind The Medea Complex. But I’ve been reading my whole life, and have wanted to write a book for much longer!
3) How long did it take to research the material for The Medea Complex?
Just under a year to gather the majority of it, and then further research as the book developed and came to life. All in all, about 18 months.
4) Can you tell readers the history of Bethlem Lunatic Asylum?
Bethlem Lunatic Asylum, or as we now refer to it “Bethlem Royal Hospital” is the worlds oldest, and most infamous psychiatric hospital. Records can be traced to its foundation in 1247 during the reign of Henry III, when it was first opened as a means of collecting alms to support the Crusader Church, and linking England with the Holy Land. Scholars argue that it’s first use as an insane asylum occurred as early as 1377. The word ‘Bedlam’ – meaning madness, actually comes from its earlier given nickname, assigned to the hospital sometime in the fourteenth century. From the end of the sixteenth century until the mid nineteenth century, people were able to pay to ‘poke sticks’ at the inmates, and ‘laugh at one knocking his head against a post’; both as a means of entertainment and as a cautionary tale to people against bad morals and vice.
It has been featured in many seventeenth and eighteenth century plays and more recently, in books, television series, movies, and even ‘fly on the wall’ documentaries. People have long held a curiosity about those who hide behind it’s walls, even to this day.
5) Was Doctor George Savage considered a leader in psychiatry at the time?
This is of great debate. Dr George Savage was ‘ahead of his time’ in a way, and many of his opinions and research at the time was opposed by another alienist or two. Dr Savage was against the use of chemical restraint: ‘chemical cosh’, as he referred to it: dosing inmates on morphine and other drugs as a means of sedation. He preferred to use physical restraint when necessary, which was in direct opposition with both Dr Bucknill and Henry Maudeley’s opinions on the treatment of the insane. In fact, during my research, there are newspaper articles in the 19th century ‘Lancet’ where these doctors publically demean one another’s techniques! Dr Savage was knighted in 1912, so someone somewhere thought he was doing something right. His research and opinions can be found in the publically available book, ‘Insanity and Allied Neuroses’ (this can be found in archive.com
, and the Gutenberg project). His character in my novel was heavily influenced by his works, and indeed many of his notes regarding Anne come directly from this book.
6) Anne was an unusual women because she read many books, why did the Doctor disapprove?
Women in the nineteenth century were not encouraged to read. Indeed, this was believed to be detrimental to their health, and in itself could directly cause insanity. Women were ‘weak’ creatures, of no significant consequence…delicate, and easily offended. To educate themselves beyond the home was anathema to the men at the time. To fill their heads with stories and knowledge…why, god knows what might happen to their brain! Women were wives, they were mothers. They were to play the piano, and sit, and look pretty. They were to agree with the men around them. In everything they were, in fact, viewed almost as a lesser species. When Dr Savage learnt of Anne’s passion for reading, this, of course (in his 19th century mind) led him to believe that this was a direct cause to her insanity. (Though of course, if you read on….).
7) Tell us more about the history of Anne’s Lady’s Maid, Beatrix.
Ah. Beatrix was found by Anne’s mother during one of her trips to France. Beatrix was in a terrible state, and Anne’s mother took pity upon the woman dying in the road. When she saved her, and took her on, Beatrix’s’ sense of obligation, loyalty, and love for her saviour transferred to Anne. Having lost her own child, she believed that she owed Anne’s mother. When Anne’s mother died, suddenly, there was a motherless child, and a childless mother. Beatrix therefore created a bond that was as strong, if not more so, than that between a natural mother and her child. She would do anything to protect the daughter of the woman who saved her, and in turn, of the child she came, over the years to view as her own. Although she did not agree with Anne, nor of what she did, she was simply in too deep to turn her back or sway her allegiance. She desperately did not want to be alone.
8) The Medea Complex is a complicated tale, I wonder if there was not an alternative way to rid the family of Stanbury?
I wondered this too! But ultimately, no. In the Victorian Era, if a man and wife divorced, any child born of that union would be put in the full custody of the father. Combined with the male entail that secured Asquith Manor, there was no other way to dispose of Stanbury. If she had run away with the child, her family was too well known for this to not have attracted the attention of the police and newspapers. When (for there was no if in my mind, only a when) she was found, the child would be taken away from her as Stanbury commenced divorce proceedings. As mentioned in the novel, women COULD divorce men at that time…but it was very difficult to do so, and Anne would have had to PROVE cruelty, incest, and affair, etc. And still, as previously mentioned, she would run a very high risk indeed of her baby being given to Stanbury, without access! If they killed Stanbury, again, that was too much of a risk: She would have hung, and in that way too, she would have lost her baby. If a grown man suddenly disappears, people start asking questions. So how else could she have done it? She can’t run away from him, she can’t kill him. She certainly can’t ask him nicely not to take her baby away from her (though anyone who has read The Medea Complex, will learn that if she had indeed spoken to him, the outcome would have been very different). Though there is a part in the novel where Stanbury is warned. Did she think that if he thought there was no longer a baby, and no possibility of a baby (to secure his hold on the Manor) that he would go away? Why doesn’t he? Is it because he loved her, and she didn’t realise…or because he was hell bent on getting what he believed was rightfully his, by any means possible? Was she being kind here, and trying to give him an ‘out’? We see his behaviour after her release!
Ultimately The Medea Complex is a tale of miscommunication, two people who want something very very badly, laws that contributed to the story (because come on, it would never be necessary to do what she did in the 21st century!), and then…just to make you wonder…was Anne, in fact, just not a very nice person? Or was she a mother simply desperate to do anything it took to stay with her baby? At the end she clearly says that the death of Stanbury was not her intent, yet the reader knows by this point…she was not stupid. She certainly knew how to do her research. Did she say this simply to appease Beatrix’s’ conscience? Did she know what the outcome would be all along, and if so, why did she do it? Did she feel such hatred for the man, and his plot, that his death was her vengeance? I like the way that this is open to interpretation. To be honest, I’m not even sure myself. Sometimes I like her character, and sometimes I hate her. Ultimately I don’t know who I feel the sorriest for in the end!
9) Are you working on your next book?
Yes. And it will be JUST as twisty, and dark (if not more so!)
10) Do you have an expected publication date for fans?
I’m going to say (ever so tentatively here)…June 2014. But fans can join my Facebook page
to stay right up to date with future developments, and of course, to message me! I love to discuss the novel, and anything else, with anyone!
Thanks Rachel and good luck with the new book.