As all fans of E.F.Benson know, Mrs Emmeline Lucas, by a process of Italianisation, was universally known as “la Lucia” or simply “Lucia”.
I’ve previously written two short novellas featuring Lucia and her rival, Elizabeth Mapp, for the social leadership of Tilling, but I decided that it was time that some of her earlier adventures made their way into print.
Herewith, I present to you the introduction of La Lucia, which will be available in print and ebook formats from November 1 (make a note in your diaries).
This is the third Mapp and Lucia pastiche that I have produced – and it has taken me longer to write it than it took to write the other two, partly because it does in fact contain more words, and partly because of personal family matters.
There is another reason why this particular book took longer to produce – it was more difficult to write.
Writing a prequel is in many ways more tricky than writing a sequel. Characters are already defined in the originals, and though in a sequel it is possible to develop a character and add changes to the previously written personality, it is not as easy to write a character radically different to the original who will then magically metamorphise into something different when he or she makes his first appearance in the original. Briefly, characters in a prequel must be truer to the originals than in a sequel.
In the case of Lucia stories, writing about Riseholme is more difficult than writing about Tilling. The setting and characters are not as sharply drawn – after all, Riseholme and its inhabitants appear in the entirety of only one book (Queen Lucia) and almost in passing in two more (Lucia in London and Mapp and Lucia). By contrast, Tilling society has over three entire books devoted to it. There is therefore less ore available from which a writer may extract the gold, though the quality of the gold is equal to that which my be mined from Tilling.
However, the absence of Elizabeth Mapp-Flint (née Mapp) does deprive the writer of a rich lode of material. I found, however, that Mrs Jane Weston can be channelled relatively easily, and that her long rambling discourses were quite easy for me to write. Perhaps I was copying my maternal grandmother’s style of conversation, which in many ways echoed that of Mrs Weston.
Writing light social comedies in the time of a pandemic-induced recession might seem to some to be inappropriate, or even somewhat heartless. However, it appears that the first two offerings filled a need for more Tilling stories than E.F.Benson originally produced, and according to most readers who gave their opinion, I hit several nails on the head in terms of setting, characterisation, and plotting. I am delighted to have given so much pleasure to so many through these books.
I trust that this slice of Riseholme life can do the same in its bringing to life of several events that were mentioned in the original books, but were never described in the detail that they deserve.
So, I bid you au reservoir, until the next time.