Recently I shared the cover reveal for The Rebel Suffragette by Beverley Adams, which tells the story of women’s equality campaigner Edith Rigby. Published by Pen and Sword, and due to be released on 30th September, this is Beverley’s first book and I am delighted to be hosting a Q&A with her today!
Beverley is one of my favourite people on book Twitter and it is so exciting that she is becoming a published author. Without further ado, let us get straight on to our discussion!
1. Hi Beverley. First of all, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be a published author?
I was born in Preston, Lancashire, and I am a writer, reviewer and an avid reader. My love of reading led me to do an English literature degree quickly followed by a Masters. I had just graduated with a Masters in English and I thought to myself how much I enjoyed the research and writing aspect of the dissertation, which was on the Bronte sisters, and I wanted to continue that.
I have always been academic and even considered doing a PhD but I got chatting to a friend about Edith and she suggested that I write a book about her and her life as a suffragette. At that point I had no idea how I would go about approaching a publisher and I tweeted as much, but within a short space of time I was contacted by a fellow writer with the details of her publisher. She explained what kind of things they were looking for and helped me put together a book proposal, and before I knew it I had a contract!
2. You have a deep interest in your local history. What was it that inspired you to write a book about Edith Rigby?
I have always been interested in the suffragettes and the Votes for Women campaign and when I discovered that Preston had it’s very own suffragette I was hooked. I went on a couple of Edith Rigby themed walks around the city and what I found out made me want to delve further into her life. What I discovered was a determined, fearless, and independent woman who was willing to fight for what she felt women deserved, not just the vote, but better working conditions and a say on how their lives were run.
Despite being from the upper classes of society Edith was all for the working woman and I really admired her determination to do what was right. I was also intrigued to find out she was the first ever woman to ride a bike through the streets of Preston! She was a wonderful character with an amazing life story and I really wanted to tell that story.
3. By all accounts, Edith was a very progressive individual who empowered other women in ways that went beyond the suffragist movement. How would you describe her legacy? Do you find her story inspiring?
I find her incredibly inspiring. She faced a lot of resentment from people particularly during her suffragette years, they would spit at her and cross the street in order to avoid her but she never let things like that stop her from following the right course. She was a determined lady and yes, she got in to a few scrapes in the process of it all but she never shied away from the challenge.
She was the daughter of one of the town’s most eminent doctors so she knew a certain level of privilege but she was brought up among her father’s patients in the poorer parts of town which made her understand that not everyone had a warm and comfortable bed to sleep in and toys to play with, and she wanted to help those people as much as she could. Even as a small child she saved up her pocket money to buy small gifts for the local children which she gave out to them on Christmas morning. She remained a kind and thoughtful, if a little eccentric, woman all her life.
4. Are there any particularly interesting facts about Edith that you came across while writing the book?
Edith was a tad eccentric and her life is full of great stories and titbits of information of the things she got up to. I loved the story of her being the first woman to ride a bicycle in Preston and the fact that it scandalised the people of Preston, no less so her Sunday school teacher who was mightily disappointed in her!
But I think my favourite story is when she went to a rally in Manchester one Easter Monday, she sat patiently listening to the MP but when she could stand it no longer she stood up and pelted him with black puddings, you can’t get more Lancashire than that! But on a serious note she packed so much into her life that it is full of great stories. Edith would never back down, if she felt she was right and the cause was just she would fight, I like that about her, that is the Preston determination in her.
5. Recently we have seen a surge of books and films about women whose stories have been either forgotten or left untold until now. Personally I have loved discovering them all! What do you think it is in particular that makes them so powerful?
I think it is because women were so suppressed that many of their stories were buried with them, but now women’s voices are stronger and more powerful and more readily heard. I am very passionate about this and I have made it my focus to bring the stories of these women back into the conscience of today.
My next book is about Ada Lovelace who is credited as being the world’s first computer programmer. If I say that name to people many have no idea who she is, but she was someone of historical significance and she, like many others, deserve to have their stories told so that they can be celebrated.
6. How much research went into writing this book? Can you share any of your techniques?
The information about Edith is very sparse and a lot of my information came from a book that her niece wrote a good few years ago about her life. I also went on local walking tours that were themed around Edith and I pestered the lovely folk at the Lancashire Archives for details about her and her family.
One good thing about writing about a local figure is that I can go and see where she was born, where she got married and where she lived so I felt in a way like I knew her because at the end of the day she was a Preston girl just like me and it was wonderful to be able to walk the same streets that she did. So in a way the research for this book was much more tangible than it is for Ada Lovelace.
7. Are there any books you have enjoyed recently and would recommend to others?
I am a lover of crime fiction so recently I have really enjoyed The Appeal by Janice Hallett and True Crime Story by Joseph Knox. I also enjoy reading Louise Candlish and Lisa Jewell.As well as crime I do love historical fiction, reading history books was my first reading love and I have really enjoyed The Six Wives series by Alison Weir. There are so many wonderful writers out there producing some cracking books that it is difficult to pick out just a few.
What I love most about Beverley’s answers, and it really shines through, is the closeness she feels to her local area. That must have made investigating Edith’s story and the Lancashire suffragist movement as a whole hugely rewarding. It was also wonderful to learn how she managed to obtain a publisher – it shows that a seemingly random or ruminative tweet can go such a long way!
As for Edith herself, she does seem to have been quite a character! The line about her throwing black puddings at an MP is something I found rather amusing, and despite having been born into a privileged background she clearly fought hard for social justice and equality, in the campaign for women’s suffrage and beyond.
What did you think of Beverley’s answers? Did you find it fascinating to find out more about her experience of becoming a published author? Have you any thoughts on Edith Rigby? Let me know in the comments!
Happy reading 🙂
The Rebel Suffragette is available to pre-order now!